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Rock - Released January 1, 1966 | Verve

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album's sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what's most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop ("Sunday Morning"), tough garage rock ("Waiting for the Man"), stripped-down R&B ("There She Goes Again"), and understated love songs ("I'll Be Your Mirror") when they weren't busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1966 | Polydor

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album's sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what's most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop ("Sunday Morning"), tough garage rock ("Waiting for the Man"), stripped-down R&B ("There She Goes Again"), and understated love songs ("I'll Be Your Mirror") when they weren't busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1966 | Polydor

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album's sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what's most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop ("Sunday Morning"), tough garage rock ("Waiting for the Man"), stripped-down R&B ("There She Goes Again"), and understated love songs ("I'll Be Your Mirror") when they weren't busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions Best New Reissue
After The Velvet Underground cut three albums for the jazz-oriented Verve label that earned them lots of notoriety but negligible sales, the group signed with industry powerhouse Atlantic Records in 1970; label head Ahmet Ertegun supposedly asked Lou Reed to avoid sex and drugs in his songs, and instead focus on making an album "loaded with hits." Loaded was the result, and with appropriate irony it turned out to be the first VU album that made any noticeable impact on commercial radio -- and also their swan song, with Reed leaving the group shortly before its release. With John Cale long gone from the band, Doug Yule highly prominent (he sings lead on four of the ten tracks), and Maureen Tucker absent on maternity leave, this is hardly a purist's Velvet Underground album. But while Lou Reed always wrote great rock & roll songs with killer hooks, on Loaded his tunes were at last given a polished but intelligent production that made them sound like the hits they should have been, and there's no arguing that "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" are as joyously anthemic as anything he's ever recorded. And if this release generally maintains a tight focus on the sunny side of the VU's personality (or would that be Reed's personality?), "New Age" and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" prove he had hardly abandoned his contemplative side, and "Train Around the Bend" is a subtle but revealing metaphor for his weariness with the music business. Sterling Morrison once said of Loaded, "It showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records," but just as importantly, it proved they could do so without entirely abandoning their musical personality in the process. It's a pity that notion hadn't occurred to anyone a few years earlier. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | Polydor

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album's sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what's most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop ("Sunday Morning"), tough garage rock ("Waiting for the Man"), stripped-down R&B ("There She Goes Again"), and understated love songs ("I'll Be Your Mirror") when they weren't busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

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After The Velvet Underground cut three albums for the jazz-oriented Verve label that earned them lots of notoriety but negligible sales, the group signed with industry powerhouse Atlantic Records in 1970; label head Ahmet Ertegun supposedly asked Lou Reed to avoid sex and drugs in his songs, and instead focus on making an album "loaded with hits." Loaded was the result, and with appropriate irony it turned out to be the first VU album that made any noticeable impact on commercial radio -- and also their swan song, with Reed leaving the group shortly before its release. With John Cale long gone from the band, Doug Yule highly prominent (he sings lead on four of the ten tracks), and Maureen Tucker absent on maternity leave, this is hardly a purist's Velvet Underground album. But while Lou Reed always wrote great rock & roll songs with killer hooks, on Loaded his tunes were at last given a polished but intelligent production that made them sound like the hits they should have been, and there's no arguing that "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" are as joyously anthemic as anything he's ever recorded. And if this release generally maintains a tight focus on the sunny side of the VU's personality (or would that be Reed's personality?), "New Age" and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" prove he had hardly abandoned his contemplative side, and "Train Around the Bend" is a subtle but revealing metaphor for his weariness with the music business. Sterling Morrison once said of Loaded, "It showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records," but just as importantly, it proved they could do so without entirely abandoning their musical personality in the process. It's a pity that notion hadn't occurred to anyone a few years earlier. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 1, 1969 | MGM Records Inc.

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Upon first release, the Velvet Underground's self-titled third album must have surprised their fans nearly as much as their first two albums shocked the few mainstream music fans who heard them. After testing the limits of how musically and thematically challenging rock could be on Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat, this 1969 release sounded spare, quiet, and contemplative, as if the previous albums documented some manic, speed-fueled party and this was the subdued morning after. (The album's relative calm has often been attributed to the departure of the band's most committed avant-gardist, John Cale, in the fall of 1968; the arrival of new bassist Doug Yule; and the theft of the band's amplifiers shortly before they began recording.) But Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of the demimonde is as keen here as on any album he ever made, while displaying a warmth and compassion he sometimes denied his characters. "Candy Says," "Pale Blue Eyes," and "I'm Set Free" may be more muted in approach than what the band had done in the past, but "What Goes On" and "Beginning to See the Light" made it clear the VU still loved rock & roll, and "The Murder Mystery" (which mixes and matches four separate poetic narratives) is as brave and uncompromising as anything on White Light/White Heat. This album sounds less like the Velvet Underground than any of their studio albums, but it's as personal, honest, and moving as anything Lou Reed ever committed to tape. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 1, 1969 | MGM Records Inc.

Upon first release, the Velvet Underground's self-titled third album must have surprised their fans nearly as much as their first two albums shocked the few mainstream music fans who heard them. After testing the limits of how musically and thematically challenging rock could be on Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat, this 1969 release sounded spare, quiet, and contemplative, as if the previous albums documented some manic, speed-fueled party and this was the subdued morning after. (The album's relative calm has often been attributed to the departure of the band's most committed avant-gardist, John Cale, in the fall of 1968; the arrival of new bassist Doug Yule; and the theft of the band's amplifiers shortly before they began recording.) But Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of the demimonde is as keen here as on any album he ever made, while displaying a warmth and compassion he sometimes denied his characters. "Candy Says," "Pale Blue Eyes," and "I'm Set Free" may be more muted in approach than what the band had done in the past, but "What Goes On" and "Beginning to See the Light" made it clear the VU still loved rock & roll, and "The Murder Mystery" (which mixes and matches four separate poetic narratives) is as brave and uncompromising as anything on White Light/White Heat. This album sounds less like the Velvet Underground than any of their studio albums, but it's as personal, honest, and moving as anything Lou Reed ever committed to tape. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 30, 1968 | Verve

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The world of pop music was hardly ready for The Velvet Underground's first album when it appeared in the spring of 1967, but while The Velvet Underground and Nico sounded like an open challenge to conventional notions of what rock music could sound like (or what it could discuss), 1968's White Light/White Heat was a no-holds-barred frontal assault on cultural and aesthetic propriety. Recorded without the input of either Nico or Andy Warhol, White Light/White Heat was the purest and rawest document of the key Velvets lineup of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker, capturing the group at their toughest and most abrasive. The album opens with an open and enthusiastic endorsement of amphetamines (startling even from this group of noted drug enthusiasts), and side one continues with an amusing shaggy-dog story set to a slab of lurching mutant R&B ("The Gift"), a perverse variation on an old folktale ("Lady Godiva's Operation"), and the album's sole "pretty" song, the mildly disquieting "Here She Comes Now." While side one was a good bit darker in tone than the Velvets' first album, side two was where they truly threw down the gauntlet with the manic, free-jazz implosion of "I Heard Her Call My Name" (featuring Reed's guitar work at its most gloriously fractured), and the epic noise jam "Sister Ray," 17 minutes of sex, drugs, violence, and other non-wholesome fun with the loudest rock group in the history of Western Civilization as the house band. White Light/White Heat is easily the least accessible of The Velvet Underground's studio albums, but anyone wanting to hear their guitar-mauling tribal frenzy straight with no chaser will love it, and those benighted souls who think of the Velvets as some sort of folk-rock band are advised to crank their stereo up to ten and give side two a spin. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 24, 2014 | MGM Records Inc.

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Rock - Released March 12, 1967 | Polydor

One would be hard-pressed to name a rock album whose influence has been as broad and pervasive as The Velvet Underground & Nico. While it reportedly took over a decade for the album's sales to crack six figures, glam, punk, new wave, goth, noise, and nearly every other left-of-center rock movement owes an audible debt to this set. While The Velvet Underground had as distinctive a sound as any band, what's most surprising about this album is its diversity. Here, the Velvets dipped their toes into dreamy pop ("Sunday Morning"), tough garage rock ("Waiting for the Man"), stripped-down R&B ("There She Goes Again"), and understated love songs ("I'll Be Your Mirror") when they weren't busy creating sounds without pop precedent. Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of drugs and kinky sex (then risky stuff in film and literature, let alone "teen music") always received the most press attention, but the music Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker played was as radical as the words they accompanied. The bracing discord of "European Son," the troubling beauty of "All Tomorrow's Parties," and the expressive dynamics of "Heroin" all remain as compelling as the day they were recorded. While the significance of Nico's contributions have been debated over the years, she meshes with the band's outlook in that she hardly sounds like a typical rock vocalist, and if Andy Warhol's presence as producer was primarily a matter of signing the checks, his notoriety allowed The Velvet Underground to record their material without compromise, which would have been impossible under most other circumstances. Few rock albums are as important as The Velvet Underground & Nico, and fewer still have lost so little of their power to surprise and intrigue more 50 years after first hitting the racks. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released November 20, 2015 | Polydor

The Velvet Underground are arguably the most important American band of the second half of the '60s, but few seemed to think so at the time. The Velvets flew under the radar of public recognition through most of their career, and no one bothered to professionally record their live shows between 1966 and 1970. There have been plenty of authorized and illicit releases of Velvets live tapes (mostly audience recordings) since the early '70s, but one thing they had in common was compromised fidelity; in terms of audio, "pretty OK" is as good as they get, and for fans, listening for the music through the murk is a frustrating challenge. In November 1969, the Velvet Underground played a two-night stand at the Matrix, a club in San Francisco that had a four-track recording rig wired into its sound system; the four sets the band played were taped, and rough mixes of those shows were featured on the fine collection 1969: Velvet Underground Live, and they ranked with the very best VU live documents despite the hiss that hovered over the music. More than 40 years after that album was released, the original Matrix four-track masters have been remixed and remastered, and the four-disc box set The Complete Matrix Tapes marks the first time this material has been released in full. Though extensive excerpts from the new mixes appeared on the expanded 45th anniversary edition of the VU's self-titled third album, and many of these performances are familiar to folks who know 1969: VU Live well, this set's fidelity is a major selling point, even if you're not an audiophile. The Complete Matrix Tapes offers over four and a half hours of the Velvet Underground playing well and recorded with unobtrusive clarity, allowing the listener to hear the details of the performances and the ambience of the room as never before, and it's a remarkably exciting listen. As four sets appear in full, several songs are repeated (each disc includes takes of "Heroin," "Some Kinda Love," and "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together"), but each performance has a personality of its own, and hearing how the band reshaped the longer numbers in repeated versions is a delight for fans into the minutia. (Lou Reed also changes up the lyrics on a few numbers here.) And while conventional wisdom has it that the post-John Cale edition of the band was less fiery and inventive, this lineup -- Reed on guitar and vocals, Sterling Morrison on guitar, Doug Yule on bass and organ, and Maureen Tucker on drums -- plays with strength, commitment, and a sense of adventure that ranks with their best and most purely enjoyable work. The bulk and repetition of The Complete Matrix Tapes will scare away a few casual observers, but anyone who wants to know how this band sounded on-stage on two good nights will find this to be a revelation; it's the best and best-sounding VU live release to date. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1988 | Island Mercury

The Velvet Underground were little more than a rumor when Lou Reed left the band in 1970, but by 1974, thanks to Reed's success as a solo artist, the Velvets had become a bona fide cult item, and that year Mercury Records released a two-record set compiled from tapes from shows in Dallas and San Francisco entitled 1969: Velvet Underground Live. The album featured a generous 104 minutes of music, and when Mercury reissued it on CD in 1988, rather than edit the material or release a two-CD set, they put out the album as two separate discs. While this seemed like a rather curious move, the album's sequence was such that it divided in half quite cleanly, and while any VU fan will want both volumes, they don't work half bad as individual albums. 1969: Velvet Underground Live, Vol. 1 rocks a bit harder than its counterpart; it opens with a grooving version of "Waiting for the Man," moves on to a rave-up take of "What Goes On" that features some of Lou Reed's finest rhythm guitar work, and closes out with passionate renditions of "Rock and Roll" and "Beginning to See the Light." And where there are a number of ballads on hand (most notably a lovely take of "Lisa Says" and versions of "Sweet Jane" and "New Age" considerably different from those on Loaded), they sound just as committed and compelling as the rockers. While the Doug Yule-era edition of the Velvet Underground often gets short shrift from aficionados, the performances on 1969: Velvet Underground Live, Vol. 1 prove this band still had plenty of fire, and was playing at the top of their game. The CD also adds a final bonus track, an unreleased version of "Heroin"; while the same song appears on Vol. 2, this recording is a different (and considerably more aggressive) performance. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

After The Velvet Underground cut three albums for the jazz-oriented Verve label that earned them lots of notoriety but negligible sales, the group signed with industry powerhouse Atlantic Records in 1970; label head Ahmet Ertegun supposedly asked Lou Reed to avoid sex and drugs in his songs, and instead focus on making an album "loaded with hits." Loaded was the result, and with appropriate irony it turned out to be the first VU album that made any noticeable impact on commercial radio -- and also their swan song, with Reed leaving the group shortly before its release. With John Cale long gone from the band, Doug Yule highly prominent (he sings lead on four of the ten tracks), and Maureen Tucker absent on maternity leave, this is hardly a purist's Velvet Underground album. But while Lou Reed always wrote great rock & roll songs with killer hooks, on Loaded his tunes were at last given a polished but intelligent production that made them sound like the hits they should have been, and there's no arguing that "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" are as joyously anthemic as anything he's ever recorded. And if this release generally maintains a tight focus on the sunny side of the VU's personality (or would that be Reed's personality?), "New Age" and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" prove he had hardly abandoned his contemplative side, and "Train Around the Bend" is a subtle but revealing metaphor for his weariness with the music business. Sterling Morrison once said of Loaded, "It showed that we could have, all along, made truly commercial sounding records," but just as importantly, it proved they could do so without entirely abandoning their musical personality in the process. It's a pity that notion hadn't occurred to anyone a few years earlier. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released March 1, 1969 | MGM Records Inc.

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Upon first release, the Velvet Underground's self-titled third album must have surprised their fans nearly as much as their first two albums shocked the few mainstream music fans who heard them. After testing the limits of how musically and thematically challenging rock could be on Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat, this 1969 release sounded spare, quiet, and contemplative, as if the previous albums documented some manic, speed-fueled party and this was the subdued morning after. (The album's relative calm has often been attributed to the departure of the band's most committed avant-gardist, John Cale, in the fall of 1968; the arrival of new bassist Doug Yule; and the theft of the band's amplifiers shortly before they began recording.) But Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of the demimonde is as keen here as on any album he ever made, while displaying a warmth and compassion he sometimes denied his characters. "Candy Says," "Pale Blue Eyes," and "I'm Set Free" may be more muted in approach than what the band had done in the past, but "What Goes On" and "Beginning to See the Light" made it clear the VU still loved rock & roll, and "The Murder Mystery" (which mixes and matches four separate poetic narratives) is as brave and uncompromising as anything on White Light/White Heat. This album sounds less like the Velvet Underground than any of their studio albums, but it's as personal, honest, and moving as anything Lou Reed ever committed to tape. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released September 26, 1995 | Polydor

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Rock - Released June 14, 2005 | Universal Records

At this point in music history, it's become a given that the Velvet Underground were one of the most important and innovative rock bands of their era, and that the four albums they released during their lifespan rank with the most challenging and satisfying work in the rock canon. For beginners and dabblers, though, this invites the question of where to start exploring the group's catalog, an especially vexing question since each of the Velvets' albums has a very distinct musical personality, from the approachable and upbeat surfaces of Loaded to the all-out assault of White Light/White Heat. While Gold, an installment in Universal's ongoing series of "best-of" albums, was doubtless intended as "the Velvet Underground's Greatest Hits Writ Large" (an ironic approach, since the group never had anything even approaching a hit when they were around), it's also one of the best introductions to the group's repertoire that's been released to date. Universal opted not to license any material from Loaded (the VU's final album, released by the Atlantic offshoot Cotillion) for this collection, but short of that, Gold offers a healthy overview of their first three albums, and doesn't shy away from the band's more abrasive material (including all 17 howling minutes of "Sister Ray" from White Light/White Heat). Some of the Loaded-era music is represented by live performances from the epochal 1969: Velvet Underground Live set, the key tracks from the so-called "lost album" (previously unearthed on the historical anthology VU) are present and accounted for, previously unheard versions of John Cale's last session with the group appear here for the first time, and Lou Reed's and Sterling Morrison's contributions to Nico's Chelsea Girl can also be found. The mastering is crisp and well detailed, and the booklet includes a handful of rare photos along with a well-considered history of the group by Scott Schinder. Anyone with a serious music library really ought to have the four original albums in total, and anyone planning a significant commitment to his Velvet Underground collection ought to simply pick up the outstanding box set Peel Slowly and See, which is all the VU most folks will ever need and then some. But if the Velvet Underground are one of those bands you've always heard about but never listened to, Gold offers a splendid road map to their brilliant and diverse demimonde, and offers more than two and a half hours of evidence why their music still matters so much. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released January 19, 2016 | Rhino Atlantic

There's a certain amount of disagreement among Velvet Underground scholars regarding whether or not this album, recorded by Andy Warhol associate and longtime fan Brigid Polk on a portable cassette recorder on August 23, 1970, does in fact document Lou Reed's final appearance with the VU. If this wasn't his last stand with the group, it was certainly close to the end of the line, and while the performance is technically strong, it isn't especially inspired, with Reed sounding more than a bit weary. (At this point, the band was near the end of a three-month residency at Max's, doing recording sessions for Loaded during the day, a schedule that would tax most performers.) The absence of Maureen Tucker on drums (who was pregnant and sitting out the Max's shows) makes an even bigger difference; the replacement of her steady, tribal pulse in favor of Billy Yule's busy, sometimes sloppy style does these songs no favors. But there are a few lovely moments, including rare live performances of "After Hours" and "Sunday Morning," and Reed and Sterling Morrison lock guitars with their usual authority on "Waiting for the Man" and "Beginning to See the Light." The audio quality isn't great, but given the circumstances it's better than you might expect (it's OK by the standards of an early-'70s bootleg), though historical merit seems to be more the issue than high fidelity. And yes, that really is Jim Carroll ordering double Pernods and asking about the availability of Tuinal between songs. Fun for fans, but 1969: Velvet Underground Live is a much stronger document of this band's on-stage prowess. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Rock - Released January 1, 1974 | Island Mercury

Maureen Tucker once said that one of her greatest regrets about her tenure in the Velvet Underground is that the band didn't record their shows, and while the live tapes that do survive of the group's performances document an extraordinary band, sadly there aren't very many of them. 1969: Velvet Underground Live, a two-record set released in 1974, is the best and most compelling (legally released) document of the band's powers in concert, but given its length (over 104 minutes), when Mercury Records reissued the set on CD in 1988, they opted to send it out as two separate single-disc albums, rather than as a two-disc set. The three long songs that open 1969: Velvet Underground Live, Vol. 2 (they were the whole of side three on the vinyl release) capture the Velvets at their most hypnotically beautiful, easing from the slow but dramatic ebb and flow of "Ocean," through the lovely melancholy of "Pale Blue Eyes," into the slow, unbearable build to manic frenzy of "Heroin." The disc's second half finds the band in more conventional but no less satisfying form, shifting back and forth between mid-tempo numbers like "Over You" and "Some Kinda Love" and charging rockers such as "White Light/White Heat" (a fine version of "I Can't Stand It" has been added for the CD issue). While Lou Reed's passionate vocals and guitar work are front and center throughout, the rest of the band is in equally superb form, especially Sterling Morrison, still the finest foil Reed ever had on guitar, and Maureen Tucker, whose subtle, highly musical drumming is at once minimal and superbly intelligent. If you care at all about the Velvet Underground, both volumes of 1969: Velvet Undergound Live belong in your collection, but Vol. 2 is the one to get if you want to know how much more this band could do than create bracing noise. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Pop - Released August 16, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Records

If you stepped out on your back porch one morning and saw Pegasus contentedly munching your crabgrass shortly before taking flight, you'd sound a bit churlish if you pointed out that his figure-eight was not perfectly executed. Similarly, in 1992 the prospect of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker burying the collective hatchet and mounting a concert tour as the Velvet Underground seemed only marginally more likely than the previous scenario, so perhaps the most remarkable thing about this live document of the briefly reunited VU performing for a wildly enthusiastic crowd in Paris is that it exists at all. Anyone hoping for a hi-fi re-creation of this band's astounding 1966-1968 live shows is pretty much out of luck; Live MCMXCIII is short on exploration of the outer limits of noise, and long on tightly paced songs, with all of the "hits" featured prominently. What's more, Reed often seems to be having a hard time with his vocals, Cale's singing makes him sound like an especially pretentious veteran of the Old Vic, and Morrison should have spent a bit more time wood-shedding before taking the stage for the first time in two decades. But when they come together, with Tucker's always-steady beat behind them, something remarkable happens -- they become the Velvet Underground, perhaps older and a bit worse for wear, but still sounding like one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and when the spirit is with them, they can still make the earth shake. Neophytes and the casually interested should check out 1969: Velvet Underground Live instead, but for longtime fans, Live MCMXCIII is an enjoyable and unexpectedly moving performance, as four of rock's unsung heroes take one last stroll through the songs that made them belatedly famous...and finally get the ovations they deserve. [Live MCMXCIII is available in three forms -- a double-disc set, an edited single disc, and a limited edition single-disc package. Because it features a full concert, the double-disc set is preferable.] © Mark Deming /TiVo

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The Velvet Underground in the magazine