Monday, July 12, 2004

The Velvet Underground - Loaded (Cottillion, 1970)

The Velvet Underground had built their reputation on proto-punk tales of New York City sin and salvation, and while they had shown flashes of their ability as a pop band, their final studio album, Loaded, comes as a bit of a surprise from the band that recorded "Heroin" and "Black Angel's Death Song."

But this record found the band playing some of the finest pop music ever recorded. "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" have become anthems recorded by dozens of other bands over the years. "New Age" was one of their most interesting narrative songs, detailing the career of a failed actress, while "Train Comin' Round the Bend" even hinted at a bluesy shuffle.

The Velvet Underground had really come a long way from their avant-garde beginnings with the Andy Wharhol troupe. After John Cale's departure, the band moved closer to traditional rock and pop without ever losing the individuality the made them stand head and shoulders over the other rock and roll bands of the era. Doug Yule's organ and bass give the group a much different sound than Cale's discordant viola and perhaps it was the concession to the standard pop song format that made Lou Reed decide to abandon the band even before this record was finished. Regardless, the band finished on a true high point and this album stands as one of the true classics of American rock music.

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