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AllMusic Review: 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. — directions to chumash casino

Track Listing:

Side one
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Candy Says” Yule 4:04
2. “What Goes On” Reed 4:55
3. “Some Kinda Love” Reed 4:03
4. “Pale Blue Eyes” Reed 5:41
5. “Jesus” Reed with Yule 3:24
Side two
No. Title Lead vocals Length
1. “Beginning to See the Light” Reed 4:41
2. “I’m Set Free” Reed 4:08
3. “That’s the Story of My Life” Reed 1:59
4. “The Murder Mystery” Reed, Morrison, Yule, and Tucker 8:55
5. “After Hours” Tucker 2:07

 

Schill Score: 10/10

 

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White Light/White Heat is the second studio album by American rock band the Velvet Underground, released in 1968 on Verve Records. It was the band’s last studio recording of new material with bassist and founding member John Cale. After the disappointing sales of the Velvet Underground’s first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), their relationship with Andy Warhol deteriorated. They toured throughout most of 1967. Many of their live performances featured noisy improvisations that became key elements on White Light/White Heat. The band fired Warhol, parted ways with Nico, and recorded their second album with Tom Wilson credited as producer. The album has been described as experimental rock, noise rock, proto-punk and art rock by writers and critics.

The record’s lyrics vary from themes of drug use and sexual references (such as fellatio and orgies), including the song “Lady Godiva’s Operation”, about a transsexual woman’s botched lobotomy,and the title track “White Light/White Heat”, which describes intravenous use of methamphetamine.

“Here She Comes Now” is built around a double-entendre. On the album’s last track, “Sister Ray”, Lou Reed tells a tale of debauchery involving drag queens having a failed orgy, while the band plays an improvised seventeen-minute jam around three chords.

Track Listing:

All tracks are written by Lou Reed except where noted.

Side A
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “White Light/White Heat” 2:47
2. “The Gift” Reed, Sterling Morrison, John Cale, Maureen Tucker 8:18
3. “Lady Godiva’s Operation” 4:56
4. “Here She Comes Now” Reed, Morrison, Cale 2:04
Total length: 18:05
Side B
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. “I Heard Her Call My Name” 4:38
2. “Sister Ray” Reed, Morrison, Cale, Tucker 17:28
Total length: 22:06

AllMusic Review: 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

Schill Score: 6.5/10

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The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground And Nico (1967)

The Velvet Underground & Nico is the debut album by American rock band the Velvet Underground and German singer Nico, released in March 1967 by Verve Records. It was recorded in 1966 while the band were featured on Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable tour. The album features experimental performance sensibilities and controversial lyrical topics, including drug abuse, prostitution, sadomasochism and sexual deviancy. It sold poorly and was mostly ignored by contemporary critics, but later became regarded as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music.

Many subgenres of rock music and forms of alternative music were informed by the album, including art rock, punk, garage, shoegazing, goth, and indie. In 1982, musician Brian Eno stated that while the album initially sold approximately only 30,000 copies, “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” In 2003, it ranked 13th on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time”, and in 2006, it was inducted into the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress.

Track Listing:

All songs written by Lou Reed, except where noted.

Side 1
No. Title Length
1. “Sunday Morning” (Reed, John Cale) 2:53
2. “I’m Waiting for the Man” 4:37
3. “Femme Fatale” 2:35
4. “Venus in Furs” 5:07
5. “Run Run Run” 4:18
6. “All Tomorrow’s Parties” 5:55
Side 2
No. Title Length
1. “Heroin” 7:05
2. “There She Goes Again” 2:30
3. “I’ll Be Your Mirror” 2:01
4. “The Black Angel’s Death Song” (Reed, Cale) 3:10
5. “European Son” (Reed, Cale, Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker) 7:40
Total length: 47:51

AllMusic Review: 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

Schill Score: 8/10

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