Velvet Underground – Golden Archive Series (Sundazed) LP/CD

by admin  19th Jul 2014 Comments [43]

The Velvets’ entry into the Golden Archive Series that MGM ran for a mere 12 months starting in 1970 is a curious one. A series more known for packages filled with quantifiable hits by name pop, country, and jazz artists was a strange place for perhaps—along with the Mothers of Invention (also, oddly, profiled in the series)—the most idiosyncratic combo on their roster at the time. In 1970 most people hadn’t wrapped their heads around the Velvets—though, their immediate influence was starting to swell in pockets around the globe—and their label clearly understood them no better. Was MGM attempting to re-package both groups for the pop marketplace?

Oddly sequenced, the set reads like either suits determining the most radio-friendly tracks from their first three LPs, or same enlisting a common-man intern not familiar with the group to choose their most palatable sides, with the brutality excised from their grand blend of beauty and brutality. Yet “Heroin” and “White Light/White Heat” are strangely tossed in the mix throwing things askew. You can’t fault the tracks chosen, as they’re all catalog classics, though focusing on the more spiritually searching, and messy love elements, with a side-order of chemical struggles and darker edges. However, some minor sequence tweaks—either for flow, or to create a narrative out of shifting perspectives—would’ve bolstered the impact of the set greatly upon initial release. From a fiscal POV I understand, but it’s an absolute shame so little of their ’67-’68 material is represented—three tracks from The Velvet Underground & Nico, two from White Light/White Heat, and the other five from their recent, decidedly more pop-slanted 1969 S/T album.

Opening with a triple-play of hushed brilliance concerning internal struggles of existence and coupling (“Candy Says, “Sunday Morning,” and “Femme Fatale”) grabs the ears firmly, but a sharp shift to the pulsing, in-the-red, abrasive noise-fest “White Light/White Heat,” is too forceful a move. Their thuggish simplicity and vocal drone is represented in “Here She Comes Now,” and too the sweet Tin Pan Alley pop side with Moe at the mic on “After Hours.” On the whole a good variety is displayed. While there’s a marked step from the total aural and moral destruction of their earlier sides beloved by rock’n’roll trufans, VU were never really something you could easily place in a ‘commercial’ box even during their attempts at sweetness—there was always one finger raised in your peripheral.

All in all, this is a good entryway into the wonder of VU sans all the dangerous tangles and barbs, but with some retrospective knowledge perhaps a CD is the choice here so you can create your own ultimate playlist. (Jeremy Cargill)


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