Last Monday, fans of The Velvet Underground were treated to a brand new booklet and set celebrating the 45th anniversary of their self titled third record. The release, dubbed a “super deluxe” outing, contains six CD’s of content. Focusing on the 1969 record, the content from the CD’s spans multiple mixes of the album and a good deal of unreleased or archival content.
Before listeners even tackle the musical content, they are presented with the book in which the CD’s are housed. It is a little over 70 pages, and is the must-have coffee table book for a fan of the band. The book is beautifully designed, printed on thick, glossy paper. The pages are incredibly intriguing, offering a mixture of band photos, ticket stubs, concert flyers, interview quotes, and a brief history by Rolling Stone writer David Fricke.
The actual music contained in The Velvet Underground 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe set is expansive and provides an all-encompassing overview of The Velvet Underground in 1969. This record is known as the softer side of Lou Reed and the Velvets; it is also the departure of John Cale from the group. The album had stood as one of the band’s absolute best, with songs like Pale Blue Eyes and What Goes On embodying its laid back demeanor. This anniversary set includes three different mixes of the record, a series of recordings from the year, and a live set from San Francisco.
The three mixes are surprisingly entertaining. The Val Valentin mix is what audiences will likely be most familiar with, and the “closet” mix is Reed’s own interpretation of the record. As the name suggests, the closet mix sounds like it was recorded in a closet, pushing the vocals and making the instrumentation a bit murky. That is good, though, because it is compelling to listen to the record as Reed intended rather than the commercial mix. A few of Reed’s mixes are particularly different, especially Some Kinda Love, which may be an even better mix. The mono mix is very simply a mono mixing of the record, giving listeners the opportunity to feel the low-fi vinyl grooving of an original pressing.
The fourth disc of music is the 1969 recordings which are not actually unreleased recordings, with all of the tracks having been released on either VU or Another View. With that said, these are brand new mixes of those releases, thus allowing them to remain fresh. While these songs do not hold the exciting factor of previously unreleased content, their inclusion here makes a lot of sense, since they help create a better outlook of the year the featured record was recorded in, and what The Velvet Underground was recording in addition to it.
The final two CD’s in the set are titled Live at the Matrix, recorded in San Francisco in 1969. All of these mixes are also new, and most the songs are entirely unreleased. There are a few previously released songs, though, that were featured on either 1969: The Velvet Underground Live or The Quine Tapes. The brand new recordings include an excellent I’m Waiting For The Man, a haunting Heroin, and the best live version of Pale Blue Eyes to ever be uncovered.
The Velvet Underground 45th Anniversary Super Deluxe box set is a bargain for 80 dollars. The musical content alone makes the investment worthwhile, with the book it is housed in being a surprisingly exceptional piece of memorabilia. For any fan of the Velvets, this is a very worthwhile investment, especially for fans of the group’s very distinctive sound in this period, a sound that was such a departure from White Light / White Heat.
Review By Brett Stewart