Friday, 17 June 2016

"Loaded" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (2015 Atlantic/Rhino 'Single CD' Expanded Edition Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry...





"...It Was Alright..."

*** This Review Is For The 2015 Single-CD Remastered Version of 1970's "Loaded" ***

Lou Reed described the Velvets as essentially being a small New York 'Rock 'n' Roll' band - a natty little Pop Group awash with three-minute ditties – peelable bananas and tunes aplenty - swimming ever upwards in the black heroin-addled veins of their streetwise hearts. 

I dare say those subjected to their 60ts sonic assaults (especially live) might have taken umbrage with the Louster's 'rounded off' description of The Velvet Underground as a 'Rock 'n' Roll' band - but I think I know what he was getting at. For their 3rd platter - "Loaded" - it's as if the band was trying to get back to 'songs' instead of frenzied workouts with lights and feedback – trying to form a cohesive work that would leave that old 'shock and awe' stuff firmly behind them. Only "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" goes to 7:29 minutes - and excepting "New Age" and the 'Full Length' versions of "Sweet Jane" and "Rock & Roll" - the rest keep it hovering around three minutes. And it's a wickedly good record for such disciplines. For me 1970's "Loaded" has always been a more mature album - Lou Reed's songwriting moving on - getting better - his obvious Solo career beckoning.

The last time I bought "Loaded" on CD it was the February 1997 Rhino 2CD set called 'Fully Loaded' with Bill Inglot Remasters. That beauty came in a sliding card slipcase and an 'Alternate Version' of the entire album on Disc 2 along with a further 13 Outtakes across both discs.

This 2015 single-CD reissue of "Loaded" keeps the 10-track album, four of those 1997 Bonus Tracks and adds on a new 2015 Remaster from KEVIN REEVES – a vastly experienced Audio Engineer who has done huge numbers of reissues for the Universal umbrella of labels. This CD sounds better and warmer than my previous issue – fabulous clarity on key album tracks like "Cool It Down" and "Who Loves the Sun". Here are the finite details...

UK released Friday 30 October 2015 (November 2015 in the USA) - "Loaded" by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND on Atlantic/Rhino 081227952426 (Barcode 081227952426) offers the 10-track 1970 LP with four Bonus Tracks and plays out as follows (55:30 minutes):

1. Who Loves The Sun
2. Sweet Jane (Full-Length Version - 4:06 minutes)
3. Rock & Roll (Full-Length Version - 4:43 minutes)
4. Cool It Down
5. New Age
6. Head Held High [Side 2]
7. Lonesome Cowboy Bill
8. I Found A Reason
9. Train Round The Bend
10. Oh! Sweet Nuthin'
Tracks 1 to 10 are their 3rd studio album "Loaded" - released November 1970 in the USA on Cotillion SD 9034 and April 1971 in the UK on Atlantic 2400 111. Produced by GEOFFREY HASLAM, SHEL KAGAN and THE VELET UNDERGROUND – the album didn’t chart in either country.

BONUS TRACKS:
11. I'm Sticking With You
12. Ocean
13. I Love You
14. Ride Into The Sun
NOTES: "I'm Sticking With You" mixed by Kevin Reeves in June 2015, "Ocean", "I Love You" and "Ride Into The Sun" mixed by BILL INGLOT in March/April 1994

THE VELVET UNDERGROUND was:
LOU REED - Lead Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Piano and Harmonica
STERLING MORRISON - Lead and Rhythm Guitar
DOUG YOUL - Vocals, Lead Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, Organ, Piano, Bass and Drums
MAUREEN "Mo" TUCKER - Drums (Vocals on the Bonus Track "I'm Sticking with You")

GUESTS:
TOMMY CASTANARO - Drums on "Cool It Down" and Head Held High"
BILL YULE - Drums On "Lonesome Cowboy Bill", "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" and "Ocean"
ADRIAN BARBER - Drums on "Who Loves The Sun"
ADRIAN BARBER and /or BILL YULE - Drums on "Train Round The Bend"

The 12-page booklet features pictures of Atlantic Tape Boxes and Production Sheets, a Rolling Stone magazine review from the 24 December 1970 issue, reissue and remaster credits - but no new liner notes. The booklet looks nice but the total absence of any informative liner notes sort of leaves the reissue and the listener stranded - some history of what happened would have added so much. But what you do get is the new KEVIN REEVES Remaster (with Production Assistance from BILL INGLOT who did the 1997 version) and it Rocks. There is wonderful clarity on offer here...

Given the lack of initial public reaction to the LP - it's hardly surprising that Cotillion belatedly tried a US 45 in March 1971 using the sexily hooky opening track "Who Loves The Sun" with the full seven-minute glory of "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" on the flipside (Cotillion 45-44107). But it aroused little interest. Atlantic in the UK tried too in April 1971 with "Who Loves The Sun" plopping "Sweet Jane" onto the B-side (Atlantic 2091 008) - but again with no chart joy (this English 7" single is a very hard-to-find vinyl item in Blighty nowadays). For some reason I always think of the brilliant "Sweet Jane" and "Rock & Roll" as a pair - a double-whammy of Lou Reed and VU tunes brimming with street smarts, tales of Jeannie and her radio overseen by an admiring Lou - happy that he's in a 'Rock & Roll Band'. Reed would open his fantastic "Rock & Roll Animal" live set with "Sweet Jane" - Hunter and Ronson tearing it on the guitars. And I love that "hey protest kids" lyric. What a great set of tunes these are.

For me "Cool It Down" has always been one of the album's hidden nuggets - an ubercool double vocal where Lou sings that he's "...looking for Miss Linda Lee..." and her naughty wares. The languid "New Age" hankers back to the dead-inside drugs feel of their debut album. The remaster makes you feel those "...you're over the hill right now and you're looking for love..." lyrics and that strangely beautiful melody - his voice that shouldn't work but does. Side 2 opens with the grunge anger of "Head Up High" and is followed by "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" where The Velvet Underground kind of go Rockabilly in their own unique 'yo-de-lay-de-ho' way. There is noticeable hiss at the beginning of the almost Beach Boys "I Found A Reason" - but it settles down when the band go into those multi-layered vocal coos. It's the kind of "life's lonely highways" song that seems so simple at first but over time seeps into your heart. Treated guitar ushers in "Train Round The Bend" where Lou is sick of trees in the country and wants to get back to the city. The remaster lifts this poisonous little groove right up - sexy and full. The album bows out with "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" - a song that feels epic only twenty seconds into it. Lou sings of Jimmy Brown who "...ain't got nuthin' at all..." - empathising with broken men and women who walk with their heads down - weight of the world on their shoulders...

The nursery ditty sounding "I'm Sticking With You" sees Maureen "Mo" Tucker take lead vocals - duetting with Lou in the centre passages. Genius move on the part of this reissue is to keep the superlative “Ocean” as one of the Bonus Tracks – originally mixed by Rhino’s Audio Engineers Bill Inglot and John Strother. Reed breaks down into giggles on the quirky "I Love You" while "Ride Into The Sun" feels huge with that floating church organ and those treated vocals. Very cool stuff indeed - a little like the band really.

"...You could just go out and dance to the Rock 'n' Roll station..." - Lou Reed sang 46 years ago. I still feel that affection too and especially towards this forgotten peach of an album...

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