Monday, November 02, 2015

The Velvet Underground - Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition (Atlantic Catalog Group, 2015)

By the time The Velvet Underground’s fourth album was released in November of 1970, the group was for all intents and purposes finished. Leader Lou Reed had quit and retreated to work in his father’s office and ponder a solo career while the other members, Sterling Morrison on guitar, Doug Yule on vocals, bass and keyboards, and a number of percussionists filling in for the pregnant Maureen Tucker were reeling from his departure. What should have sounded like a band falling apart instead turned out to be one of the most beautiful rock albums of the era. The VU had moved from songs about drug fueled excess and debauchery into a very accessible group, although hardly anyone was listening to them at this point. Which is a terrible shame, since two of the songs that anchor the album, “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” are anthems that deserved to be massive hits, but only started to receive wide range recognition when the punk and indie groups discovered them in the years to follow. After Lou Reed graduated from Syracuse University in the early 1960’s he worked for a time for Pickwick Records, trying to write pop hits for other artists to cover. This pop sensibility truly flourishes on Loaded, like in the haunting character study of the obsessed fan and the out of work actor in “New Age” and the blazing fun of “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” and the defiant “Head Held High.” The album is a winner on all counts and deserves to be heard by any fan of rock and roll. If you really love the Velvet Underground there have been a series of boxed sets coming out one per year to celebrate in extreme close up the album and the circumstances that surrounded it. This package is no different. Over the course of six discs the selections include: Loaded Remastered w/ outtakes; Loaded Remastered: Promotional Mono Version w/ singles and b-sides; Demos, Early Versions and Alternate Mixes; Live At Max’s Kansas City Remastered; Live At Second Fret, Philadelphia, 1970 previously unreleased and a DVD-A with 96/24 Hi-Resolution Surround Sound Remix, 96/24 Hi-Resolution Stereo Downmix and 96/24 Hi-Resolution Original Stereo Mix. There is also a 70 page book with some great period photos and news clippings as well as an essay by Lenny Kaye. That’s an awful lot of Loaded. It does sound very good, especially the remastering of the Max’s material, which turned a muddy audience recording into a very credible live album (but you still get the drunk guy speaking loud and clear.) The Second Fret material is nearly inaudible bootleg quality, which is disappointing. The demos and alternates were quite interesting as well; featuring some songs that didn’t make the album and some that did in different configurations. This set is only recommended to the die hard, but if you are curious, Spotify has discs 1-5 available for streaming. Loaded: Re-Loaded 45th Anniversary Edition -

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