#3 Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground
Velvet Underground – Velvet Underground
I think that the argument could be made that the Velvet Underground were the most important American band of the 60s and at least can have a healthy debate whether they are more important than the Beatles. It is true that the Beatles have offered something universally cultural in their music, but if there was ever an underbelly to rock and roll, the Velvets should hold that title.
Not as experimental as either it’s predecessor, White Light/White Heat or Velvet Underground and Nico, the Velvet’s third album is a much gentler album, feeling a bit more traditional than some of their earlier works. This might be due to the fact that John Cale had been forced out of the group and replaced by Doug Yule who is not throwing electric violin solos in the middle of songs.
It is their most melodic album and the first album that I would suggest to pick up for any beginner to the Velvet Underground experience. Now, even the gentle VU experience is full of surprises. “Candy Says” is about Warhol transsexual Candy Darling, a somber, vicious and telling portrait.
And that is the telling portrait. Songs like ‘Candy Says’ and ‘Pale Blue Eyes’ are beautiful in their composition but lyrically they draw a level of morbidity and yet there is a tenderness as well. ‘Jesus’ is simply a plea for someone that has lost their sense of direction. Yet, there is still moments that they push the tempo such as “What Goes On” and “I am Beginning to See the Light”. Overall, there is this level of warmth that exists on this album that has always compelled me to pull it out first and fairly often when digging into the Velvet Underground collection.
Whereas, Velvet Underground and Nico had shocked me with songs like “Heroin” and “Black Angels Death Song”, and White Light/White Heat continued on that path with “Sister Ray”, their third album for me has always been that perfect compromise. Lou Reed is at his best being both the poet and the musician moving in a more folksy direction but still willing to draw attention with the “Murder Mystery”. It is other moments such as “After Hours” sung by Mo Tucker that give this album a bit of heart as well.
I know there will be those that will state that their first two albums were more important or even that Loaded is more accessible with songs like “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” but there again is this late night chill moment that this album just feels so proper, so right and so perfect for my 3rd favorite album of all time.