The Velvet Underground


LOADED IS A crummy classic. The last and worst studio record by the best American rock band ever, it stands today as the only Velvets album that didn't change your life. Born out of a bad idea--Lou Reed writing hit songs--Loaded aimed to be a slick and accessible replication of the dark power that made the band's first three records so unknowable to the philistines that didn't start buying them until 20 years after they came out. It was an album for and about loss and losers created by a rock band at the point of disintegration who knew little else. For any other band the music that resulted would have meant romance; for the Velvets circa 1970 it unearthed nothing but pathos.

Written by Lou Reed, who left the band in mid-recording, the record was primarily finished by the band's Yoko figure, singer/guitarist Doug Yule, leaving sweet Lou room to bitch about glossy production and bad final edits ruining "the album loaded with hits" he left behind. For years Velvets fans have argued over how Lou's record would have sounded had he stuck it out. To help them out, Rhino's reissue piles a CD and a half of demos and alternative takes, going to great lengths to shed some light on the Reed/Yule dichotomy, but in the end revealing little more than the fact that there never really was one. The demos sound like demos, and most of them ("Ride Into the Sun," "The Ocean," and "Satellite of Love") have appeared in better forms on other reissues. Of the demos of songs that actually wound up on the original Loaded, none but a beautiful Dylanesque version of "I Found a Reason" betters the LP take. Final takes on Loaded's great songs--"Cool It Down," "Head Held High," and the holy couple of "Rock 'n' Roll" and "Sweet Jane"--sound like the proper extension of Lou's original ideas (especially in the restored "full-length versions" of the original album tracks that appear here). It all works to make hash of Lou's gripes, and underscore the fact that Loaded's beauty didn't get lost in the translation, but the conception. No revisionist reissue can apologize for that, and this one is no exception. (Jon Dolan)

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