Thursday, 14 May 2009

The Velvet Underground - 1969 Velvet Underground Live With Lou Reed

For some reason I hadn't blogged some of the albums I have reviewed at the time I did them, so I'll blog them now, starting with a brilliant live album.

Velvet Underground, arguably one of the greatest bands of all time, at least one of the most influential, playing live at the top of their career sounds like a perfect recipe.

Well, it is. And isn't. Sort of. Depends on how fussy your are because the sound quality is, frankly, quite bad at some points. The underlying "whiz" sound is quite loud, the reproduction of different sounds is not very accurate and even though this is a stereo album (I think) most tracks sound like mono. I would have thought this *is* mono but for a few weak glimpses of stereo sound on some tracks. Overall, some tracks sound like they were recorded on a poor C-cassette, copied a few times and the final copy was used for the album. Note that this review is based on the vinyl version so it is possible that later CD versions (which I haven't heard) have better sound quality.

But once you start to listen to music, most of this is forgotten. The music is simply so brilliant especially because the tracks are performed live giving the artists the freedom the good ones benefit from. The album is full of superb tracks like "Waiting for My Man", "What Goes On", "Femme Fatale", "Beginning to See the Light", "Pale Blue Eyes" and "White Light/White Heat" to pick the best one. I'm sure this album can be listened to over and over again and every time you find something new. Somehow Lou Reed also sounds a bit more.. enthusiastic, if that's a good word, than he did later in his career. There is a bit more...spring (another interesting choice of words if I may say so) in his singing. It doesn't make the songs any more chirpy or happy than they are but somehow I like it. Lou Reed can sound really miserable but when he also sounds like he doesn't really care about the singing it can get a bit too depressing.

Funnily enough I finally completely realised why it is said that anyone who went to a VU concert started their own band. I've been practising with an electric guitar for a few days (which means I can barely get out a few notes) so I've been listening to the guitars in particular. They mostly sound quite simply yet the music is brilliant. There really isn't that much stuff that sounds difficult to play (at least with my limited understanding) so it's easy to start thinking that if it really is possible to make such great music with such simple ingredients why couldn't I? But the geniousnes of VU is not about skillful use of instruments but the way they merge together. Each instrument has a very distinct identity yet they form a fantastic whole.

Velvet Underground shows what great music is. Anyone should get one from The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground or this album and listen to them a few times. Say five. If you still don't like it, fair enough. But just in the off-chance that you do "get" the album you will forever be happy you gave it a try.

I "only" gave the album four and a half stars because of the sound quality. I'm fussy like that. Don't let that put you off, though.

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