After 45 Years, “The Velvet Underground” Stands the Test of Time


The Velvet Underground
The Velvet Underground—45th Anniversary Super Deluxe Edition
Polydor/Universal Music Enterprises

Following the radical and overpowering White Light/White Heat, the Velvet Underground’s third, self-titled, album initially seemed like a lesser effort, but it has more than stood the test of time. With cofounder and main creative foil (or foe) John Cale out of the band, leader Lou Reed assumed complete control, crafting a set of relatively understated songs that range from rockin’ (“What Goes On”) to surprisingly gentle (“After Hours”).

At six discs, 65 tracks, and five hours of music, this behemoth collection offers plenty to savor (although casual fans might prefer the two-disc distillation). If three different mixes of the original album suggests overkill, the mono version does reveal different textures to the music, while a fourth disc of sessions for an abandoned fourth album contains a slew of genuine gems, including the raucous “I’m Gonna Move Right In,” a touching “She’s My Best Friend,” and an early look at the Reed standard “Rock & Roll.”

The final two discs, featuring live performances from November 1969, are simply terrific, highlighted by the exuberant “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together,” a 30-minute-plus take on “Sister Ray” and the anthemic “Sweet Jane.” Nearly a half-century later, the raw heart and tender soul of the Velvet Underground are wondrous indeed.