There’s this word that gets used a lot – seminal. Some can make a case for it being overused, and they’d probably be right. But in the case of some art, the word just fits.
Take The Velvet Underground. In their brief but influential career they released not one, but four seminal albums. Each with their own vibe, their own personality. The first, The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) is an art piece full of drug addled characters, a frozen chanteuse and songs that had no relation to anything else going on at the time. The band’s second helping, White Light/White Heat (1968) was and remains a visceral aural assault on your senses. Their fourth album, Loaded (1970) was a concise grouping of pop songs, a record “loaded” with hits.
And then there’s the band’s self-titled 1969 release. The record was the first without band co-founder/bassist/violist/singer John Cale, allowing for Lou Reed to take on full leadership of a band that had previously thrived on the duo’s combative dynamic. In Cale’s place came Doug Yule, an able-bodied musician with a less distinct personality but stylistically a perfect fit for the new sound the band was heading in.
For The Velvet Underground (1969), Reed, Yule, drummer Maureen Tucker and guitarist Sterling Morrison worked on their most concise batch of songs. There were rockers and ballads, folk songs and even some experimentation (though nothing quite like the droning guitars and feedback on The Black Angel’s Death Song or Sister Ray from the previous albums). What Goes On and Beginning To See The Light are straightforward; Jesus is contemplative. They’re all beautiful in their own way.
To celebrate the 45th anniversary of the…wait for it…seminal album, Universal has reissued The Velvet Underground in a variety of configurations – a single disc version, a double disc version, and a Super Deluxe version, following the layout and packaging of reissues of the VU’s first two albums. This version is only for the die-hards, as it features three versions of the album in various mixes, one of which (The Promotional Mono Mix) had never been commercially available before. The fourth disc compiles that would remain unreleased until the 1980’s compilation albums, VU and Another View. The fifth and sixth discs are live recordings from The Matrix in San Francisco, a mixture of released and previously unreleased versions of tracks.
For someone looking for an education on alternative rock in all in permutations, the Super Deluxe version of The Velvet Underground (1969) is certainly a worthwhile listening experience. For those with less time or inclination, go with the Deluxe Edition double disc version, which features the album alongside a selection of live tracks.
Speaking of which, one lucky Biff Bam Pop reader can score a copy of the 2-cd Deluxe Edition of The Velvet Underground (1969), just by telling us the name of their favourite VU song (from any album) in the comments section below. We’ll choose one winner by Thursday, December 4th at 11:59 pm ET and notify them via email.