Review of a Recent Release: ‘The Velvet Underground’ 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition (CD format)

The album in question. Definitely worth purchasing if you love the VU!

The album in question. Definitely worth purchasing if you love the VU!

Today I thought I would do a non-Beatley post (don’t worry — I’ll go back to my usual muses next post!) centering around the most recent re-release of one of my other favourite band’s four albums. And that band, you ask? Why, the Velvet Underground!

If you have never heard of the Velvet Underground, they are a highly influential band from 1960s New York. Whilst they were barely known at the time when the band was still together, they are now recognised as one of the most innovative bands ever (especially in the punk and indie genres). The band consisted of Lou Reed (vocals, guitar), John Cale (electric viola, piano, bass — among other things), Sterling Morrison (guitar) and Maureen Tucker (drums/percussion). John Cale — despite being one of the two founding members — was kicked out of the band by Lou Reed and replaced with Doug Yule.

The Velvet Underground is the Velvets’ penultimate album, preceded by the Andy Warhol-produced masterpiece The Velvet Underground and Nico (which featured German singer/musician/actress/model Nico on vocals for four tracks) and the protopunk White Light/White Heat, and followed by the more commercial Loaded. It was the band’s first group minus John Cale, and is particularly known for influencing indie bands in later years. Two of its better-known tracks include ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ and ‘Candy Says’.

This year, the album celebrates its 45th birthday. As with all the other Velvet Underground albums, The Velvet Underground was re-released on its 45th anniversary in both a ‘deluxe’  format (a double-disc CD with a booklet) and a super deluxe format (the very-expensive six-disc package with an actual book, also being available on vinyl). My mum and I were in JB Hi-Fi (the big entertainment shop in Australia — I don’t like the place nearly as much as I like the second-hand record stores and indie retailers littered around Adelaide, but if the place sells music, what is there — asides from cash — to lose?!) the other day and I discovered the deluxe CD hidden between a VU best-of and Loaded. It became one of the many CDs we have bought at that place within about a week… 😉

The two discs and booklet come nicely packaged in a matte-finish three-way-gatefold CD case. The front cover is identical to the original release (excepting a translucent sticker running across the bottom reading ‘DELUXE EDITION’), however, the back is only the tracklisting/credits in a fairly stock standard font on a fairly stock standard background (still looks effective, though.) The gatefold features images of the original tape labels (underneath the two discs) and a picture of the band recording the album. The booklet slides nicely into the middle slip of the gatefold (on top of the latter image). It discusses the background, making and success of the album, and –separated by more pictures of the band — also the live aspect of The Velvets. I found the packaging really appealing; the inclusion of a booklet and the three-way gatefold reminds me of the packaging of the 2009 stereo (Beatles — did you really need to ask?) remasters!

And as for the discs themselves…Disc One is the album itself. But there are two mixes of the album! The one used in the deluxe edition is the better-known ‘Val Valentin’ mix, mixed by the MGM/Verve recording engineer of the same name, but Lou Reed also created another mix highlighting his parts (Sterling Morrison later nicknamed this the ‘Closet’ mix). Whilst I’ve heard plenty of tracks from White Light/White Heat and Loaded (plus the entirety of The Velvet Underground and Nico), the only song from this album I’d heard from this album prior was ‘Pale Blue Eyes’. I really enjoyed the album itself, my favourite songs being ‘Candy Says’ and ‘What Goes On’.

However, my favourite part of the album was the second disc! The second disc featured live recordings of The Velvets at a venue called The Matrix (somewhere in New York??) on the 26th and 27th of November, 1969. Apart from alternate versions from the album tracks (the live version of ‘What Goes On’ is awesome!), this disc also includes live versions of songs like ‘Heroin’ and ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’, and even songs which would be later released on Loaded, like ‘Sweet Jane’ and ‘Rock & Roll’. There is also a very entertaining segue-way from Lou Reed… This disc was really amazing to listen to, and definitely worth any VU fan’s time!

Here are some pictures I took of our copy:

The front

The front

The back

The back

One CD and an image found on the back of the right slip of the gatefold

One CD and an image found on the back of the right slip of the gatefold

The casing fully open, with the CDs and booklet intact

The casing fully open, with the CDs and booklet intact

The CDs and booklet

The CDs and booklet

The empty casing

The empty casing

And yeah, I know it’s cliche, but I’ll give the The Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Deluxe Edition a five out of five. The packaging is really attractive, and the music is about ten times better!

And Ringo is going to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! When I heard this, I was actually quite shocked that the guy who’s usually credited with inventing modern rock drumming wasn’t already in the Hall of Fame, but at least he is being inducted now… I believe Paul is inducting him, as well (just like he did for John!). So although you’re obviously not reading this, congratulations Ringo! You deserve that spot.

And this weekend, ‘My Beatles Record Collection’ returns! See if you can guess what record comes next… But until then, good day sunshine! 🙂

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