Released in 1967, The Velvet Underground's Andy Warhol-produced debut album The Velvet Underground and Nico stands today as one of the most influential rock albums of all time; listen to any given 10 new releases from indie bands and you'll undoubtedly hear shades of the VU if not outright mimicry. Now, upon release of this 45th anniversary edition of the album, fans have more music to enjoy and pretenders to the throne have more reference material. With a line-up of Lou Reed, John Cale, Maureen "Moe" Tucker, Sterling Morrison and Nico, the album featured seminal tunes like "Waiting For My Man," "Heroin," "Femme Fatale," "Venus in Furs" and "All Tomorrow's Parties." These songs are heard in various forms throughout this 6-CD set; a disc featuring the original album, newly remastered, includes a handful of previously unreleased takes on album cuts including a version of "Heroin" that's a bit more frenetic than the original and a mix of "European Son" that's about a minute and a half longer than the standard version. The original album is also included in mono, appended with four single sides including an abbreviated "All Tomorrow's Parties" and a previously unreleased alternate mix of "Sunday Morning." A third CD features Nico's Chelsea Girl remastered and presented in its entirety; as a solo artist Nico is a bit of an acquired taste but Chelsea Girl is significant because it also features the rest of the Velvets as well as Jackson Browne---Nico performs his "These Days" here years before it appeared on his own album. Discs four through six hold what most fans will interpret as the package's real treasures: nine alternate versions of album cuts that the band laid down at Scepter Studios, a half dozen songs from rehearsals at Warhol's Factory and nine songs culled from live performances at the Valleydale Ballroom, Columbus, Ohio in 1966. The set also includes thorough annotation in the form of a 47-page booklet.
Shifty Adventures in Nookie Wood
Fans could be forgiven for mistaking "I Wanna Talk 2 U," Shifty's opening cut, for a new David Bowie cut; Bowie after all did borrow heavily from the Velvet Underground canon. Despite the fact that he's up there in age and one of rock's highly-revered icons Cale is not looking to the past with this set; "I Wanna Talk 2 U" comes from a collaboration with Danger Mouse and Cale actually uses auto-tune on the loping "Face to the Sky," EDM number "December Rain" and the effervescent "Mothra" where his lyrics knowingly include the line "Try something new today." "Vampire Café" is a mash-up of world music and Berlin-style electronica, "Nookie Wood" is a somewhat playful escapist fantasy and "Hemmingway," inspired by the life of Ernest Hemmingway, is a very hooky tune referencing the writer's adventures and penchant for drinking and ends appropriately enough with a scream over a piano cacophony. Cale's music has always been interesting but with Shifty he's reached a new level of excitement.
Battle of the Band: The Velvet Underground vs. John Cale
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