Thursday, February 19, 2009

February 19: The Velvet Underground, "Loaded"

Artist: The Velvet Underground
Album: Loaded
Year: 1970
Label: Warner Bros.

Having already released three amazing albums in as many years, the odds were well against The Velvet Underground being able to go "four for four." However, they managed to beat said odds with what would be the final "great" record of their career with the faultless Loaded. Ironically, the record was released nearly a month after Lou Reed had formally left the band.

The album's title is significant as it it a reference to the notorious request that renowned Atlantic records exec, Ahmet Ertegun, asked of the group. In short, he asked them to stay away from drinking and drugs throughout the recording process as he felt it had an adverse impact on their music. The group did "the best they could," and the results of the studio time were exactly what Ertegun had hoped they would. Loaded is packed full of radio friendly songs, while at the same time keeping the soul of the group intact.

The most significant difference between Loaded and the previous Velvet Underground records is the sound and feel of the record. Loaded has far less experimental jazz-based songs and the music and lyrics have much more "pop" appeal. This fact makes it no surprise that Loaded was the most commercially successful record the group ever made. The record also spawned the legendary singles "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll."

One thing that remains strong throughout all of the records of The Velvet Underground is the "cool" feel in all of their music. The unmistakable vocal delivery of Lou Reed never fails to produce the image of the legend standing behind the mic in his sunglasses. The rhythm and flow of the songs are a bit jazzy, a bit poppy, but truly, each song is the definition of the word "cool."

The open and free musical stylings of The Velvet Underground created a strong base for the launching of numerous genres throughout the 70's and 80's. While on the first three Velvet Underground records, the true brilliance of Lou Reed's writing was somewhat lost amidst the musical journey and experimentation, his talent shines crystal clear on every song contained on Loaded. It is quite difficult for a band that is used to "jamming" to shorten their usual format. However, with the release of Loaded, The Velvet Underground proved that not only can it be done, but it can be done with spectacular results.

Standout tracks: "Rock and Roll," "Cool It Down," and "Train Round The Bend."

1 comment:

Doug Van Gundy said...

This is a remarkable blog, and a remarkable undertaking. I applaud your stick-to-it-iveness as well as your taste (remarkably close to mine, so it must be good, right?).

I also appreciate your willingness to swim upstream against the orthodoxy in some cases, choosing to showcase this record (which I think is a work of pure genius) before the easier, more universally accepted "and Nico" or "White Light/White Heat".

Keep the faith sir. I just discovered your blog today, but I will be back tomorrow.