VU by The Velvet Underground

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VU by The Velvet Underground
VU by The Velvet Underground

Album Released: 1985

VU ::: Artwork

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1.I Can't Stand It3:23
2.Stephanie Says2:50
3.She's My Best Friend2:49
4.Lisa Says2:55
6.Foggy Notion6:43
7.Temptation Inside Your Heart2:30
8.One Of These Days3:52
9.Andy's Chest2:52
10.I'm Sticking With You2:26


It must've been a magical day for some geek working in the vaults of MGM Records, when he discovered the tapes of a 'lost' Velvet Underground album from 1969.

Since that time, the band of course had gone from virtual unknowns to one of the most revered rock groups of all time, and such a find was excessively valuable. I'm sure the record company executives didn't even skip a breath before deciding to give the material its long awaited release.

And why should they - I very much appreciate the opportunity to get to hear these songs. Never mind that we'd already gotten to hear most of them on Lou Reed's solo albums, or the 1974 archival release 1969: The Velvet Underground Live. Because here they exist in their earliest forms. They could be called 'primitive' versions, because truth be told I wouldn't call many of these versions definitive.

Since this album wasn't finished when the band were unceremoniously let go from MGM, expect these songs to have an unfinished feel. This album is also surprisingly poppy. It was said many times that Atlantic Records had coaxed the band into writing pop music for Loaded, but if this album is any indication, they were thinking about going in that direction anyway, for this is a very easy listening album.

But then again, the listenability aspect might be explained by the significant post-production work done on it. Sound technology was getting pretty advanced by the 1980's, and they had the ability to remix it in such a manner that it sounds strikingly clear.

The first thing I noticed was that the drumming on the album opener “I Can't Stand It” is way too loud and clear to have been mixed in the 1960's. It's still a great song of course, but there's reason to believe that's not really the way The Velvets would've presented it. And “Stephanie Says” - a beautiful and breezy ballad recorded during the John Cale era - also has a crystal-clear quality to the beautiful xylophone and the viola. It's one of Lou Reed's finest ballads, and it's much prettier than the rewritten version of it that appeared on Berlin, as “Caroline Says II”.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

This posthumous collection is a misshapen patched-together blob of unreleased tracks recorded by the band at various sessions during 1968 and ’69.

Two songs, “Temptation Inside Your Heart” and “Stephanie Says”, were recorded with John Cale before he left the band, presumably for a never-to-be-released followup to White Light / White Heat.

Fast forward to mid-1969, and the band is recording another abortion (now with Doug Yule manning bass), this time laying down eight songs for a lost followup to The Velvet Underground, discarded in their record company shuffle.

Several of the songs on VU would later appear in more polished versions on Lou Reed’s solo albums. You may or may not like these original takes better, but there's no denying they make for an enjoyable listen on their own terms ... “Stephanie Says” is arguably the band's prettiest ballad ever; “I Can’t Stand It” is an infectious rocker; and “I’m Sticking with You” rivals The Beatles’ “Good Night” for the title of 'perfect schlocky album closer'.

VU makes the band’s trajectory from experimental madness to rocksy/rootsy floppy pop very apparent. The ’69 material isn’t quite as commercial as the stuff on Loaded, but it cuts away most of the remaining craziness even from the rather subdued The Velvet Underground.

The two ’68 songs ain’t much to go on, but they do show Reed drawing back from the precipice of White Light / White Heat, by revisiting the more accessible moments from the debut.

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by Reviewer: S M Hellebore

With their lyrical preoccupations, the Velvet Underground may not have been a label's dream client, but they had cleaned up their act. Well, they'd at least cleaned up their sound by the time The Velvet Underground was released.

The band then recorded another album's worth of tracks, after which MGM/Verve got cold feet. That's because in 1970, MGM's plans seemed to revolve around ideas like the 'Bosstown sound', and dumping drug-related acts from their roster. Way to stay popular guys - why not just go bulk-up on crooners, and ignore the kids, middle-class white folk, that's the ticket - now go rustle up some more folk singers Marv.

Recorded 1968-69 but not released until 1985, VU is not 'The Great Lost Velvet Underground album', but a large portion of it is, along with a couple of Cale-era tracks. The tracks all date from the band's post-feedback era, where they focused more on straightforward songcraft, without wails, and less obvious references to the more consuming aspects of life.

The album retains the band's unique sound - the persistent rhythm of Tucker's simple beats, along with uncluttered bass and rhythm guitar. That lockstep rhythm section is mirrored somewhat in the squalls of overarching feedback they employ on "I Can't Stand It", that still provides enough space for snappy little guitar lines or Reed's offhand lyrical delivery.

Only "Ocean" fails to provide enough cover for the music, instead relying on the band's soothing repetitive noise. Otherwise, Reed's interest in country ("One of These Days"), 50's music (portions of "She's My Best Friend"), and heartfelt pop ("Stephanie Says") all appear here.

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by Reviewer: Obscurity (blogging at Obscurity!)