velvet underground

The more sceptical among you might consider this something of a cash in, truth be known though that this re-mastered and expanded re-appraisal of ‘white light / white heat’ had long been on the release schedule before the sad news reached us of Lou Reed’s unexpected passing. That said its here and perhaps as fitting a tribute as you could call upon that celebrates the Velvet’s best moments 45th anniversary. The expanded set comes spread across three CD’s and features both stereo and mono mixes augmented with alternative takes, four newly prepped remixes and the complete official release of a Velvets show dating back to April 1967 recorded at the Gymnasium in New York and pulled from John Cale’s own personal cassette of the gig recording. The release is completed by the inclusion of a 56 page hard backed book packed with rare photos, memorabilia and interviews with John Cale and Lou Reed from earlier this year conducted by David Fricke. On a personal note I’ve never tired of ’white light / white heat’, even on repeat listens through the years, though I’ve been well versed at what to expect its always retained that punch to the face awkwardness that I first encountered way back on hearing it originally for the first time in my formative years. All these years on ‘white light / white heat’ stands the test of time, still relevant, still awkward and still pinning and pricking the ears back. Whilst punk cited the Stooges and MC5 as forefathers, for the more abstract and disparate fall out elements from punks initial rebellious belch it was ‘white light / white heat’ that subconsciously spoke and informed their waywardness. Described by one of its co-conspiring creators as ‘a very rabid record’ there’s a pathological unruliness that pervades throughout the original six tracks on this seminal album with each of its creators pulling in opposite directions though unified in the aim to craft something loose, fried and a mirror opposite of their debuting platter. As though intent on antagonising and testing the listeners patience, its darkness for the time must have been choking to the would be listener expecting a second helping of VU and Nico, raw and blooded upon a back to basics template it was a close to home reflection of their lives, their neighbourhood and their very existence. Here you’ll find the twisted tongue in cheek humour of Cale’s spoken word ramble on ’the gift’ back dropped to some fried soft psych noodling sitting alongside the blanked out stoned drone of ’Lady Godiva’s operation’ and the freakish distort ravaged ’I heard her call my name’ with the 17 minute improv blues scowling jam ’sister ray’ providing the main course. As to the extras a cleaned, clearer and dare we say more wired alternate take of ’I heard her call my name’ that sounds more shit faced than the original, a razor hot newly mixed instrumental take of ’guess I’m falling in love’, original mixes of ’temptation inside your heart’ and an arresting version of ’Stephanie says’ and a previously unreleased early version of ’beginning to see the light’ which alas our copy appears to have scrubbed out completely. That said main event here, well for us, is the complete recording of the Gymnasium gig. As said culled from Mr Cale’s own personal cassette and here released for the first time in its entirety – in official terms that is – highlight has to be the previously unreleased ’I’m not a young man anymore’ which is blessed with the finest primitive snake winding riff you’ll hear in an age not to mention kissed with a killer psych blues motif that shuffles along bonged out of its brains smoking its own home grown. Add to that an absolutely barking and scuffed up freak beat blues rendition of ’run run run’ which is so out there and gone that it quite frankly pisses over the original and a seriously skewed slab of ’sister ray’ which in truth shapes up to be more deranged that the eventually studio mix. Essential – I’ll say.

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