The Velvet Underground
Out of the basement and under the tree!
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 12, 2014
The Velvet UndergroundThe Velvet Underground: 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition (Polydor/Universal Music Enterprises)
As chronicled in David Fricke's liner notes, when Lou Reed convened drummer Moe Tuckers and guitarist Sterling Morrison in September 1968 to fire fellow founding member John Cale, who was absent, the New York art rockers were hardly the legends of today. Two months later, VU arrived in Los Angeles with new bass player Doug Yule to track its third and final LP for MGM Records, here excavated as a 6-CD set. Bassist/keyboardist/viola virtuoso Cale's absence proved sonically profound. Gone was the noir reportage of "Heroin." Almost absent was second LP White Light/White Heat's sonic violence and atonal thrust. The Velvet Underground thus represents its creators as presaging R.E.M. and their ilk: moody reflections on love ("Pale Blue Eyes"), redemption ("Beginning to See the Light"), and spiritual questing ("Jesus"), plus immortal rocker "What Goes On," a taut R&B groove with a soaring fuzz guitar break. Of the three mixes here, engineer Val Valentin's mono promo mix packs the most punch. The real revelations are on the last three discs: original mixes of unreleased 1969 demos from Eighties collections VU and Another View, and multi-track source tapes of San Francisco gigs heard in inferior versions on 1969 – the best live Velvets you'll hear. Light mattered as much as dark to the Velvet Underground. Hear why.