Lou Reed’s ‘Phrases and Music, Could 1965’: Album Evaluate

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Contemplating their brief lifespan and comparatively slim discography, the Velvet Underground will be the most totally excavated and documented rock band of their period: Practically each studio and live performance recording, acetate and demo has been scrutinized, digitized and optimized for the numerous superior boxed units which were launched for the reason that world caught up with the group’s brilliance within the Eighties, a dozen-odd years after they cut up up. The inspiration of that brilliance, in fact, is Lou Reed’s songwriting, which mixes a novelist’s gritty realism with equally confrontational rock music, but additionally consists of tender, susceptible songs like “Pale Blue Eyes” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” — songs which can be all of the extra poignant as a result of you may sense, in some way, that the delicate soul who wrote them is additionally sort of an asshole.

Contemplating that Reed left the group 52 years in the past and died in 2013, new finds have been uncommon. However after his archives got to the New York Public Library, researchers Don Fleming and Jason Stern discovered a blockbuster hiding within the artist’s CD assortment: A five-inch reel-to-reel tape from 1965 that includes Reed and Velvets cofounder John Cale, each 23 years outdated on the time, singing 11 Reed originals, together with dramatically totally different variations of a number of of the world-changing tracks featured on one of the influential albums in rock historical past, 1967’s “The Velvet Underground and Nico.” Reed had mailed the tape to himself as a “poor man’s copyright” — the postmark (Could 11, 1965) would function proof of the date of the recordings — however by no means opened it.

To be clear, these are usually not skilled recordings; they’re unfastened variations of the songs sung into an inexpensive recorder, and include Reed on lead vocals, acoustic guitar and harmonica whereas Cale sings concord (lead on one tune) and infrequently bangs on issues; there are bum notes, laughter and errors.

However within the Velvets canon, their historic significance is huge: These are the earliest identified variations of three of the Velvets’ all-time classics, recorded round six months earlier than the group shaped, and signify an enchanting early doc of simply how a lot these songs modified earlier than the world heard them. 

To wit: Whereas absolutely shaped, “Ready for the Man” (offered in two totally different variations) is nearly a blues tune, with a lazy concord vocal and not one of the amphetamine drive of the traditional “Velvet Underground and Nico” model. “Heroin” is pushed by a folky strum and incorporates a hurried vocal on the “When the blood begins to circulate” part reasonably than the acquainted model’s opiate haze; it additionally begins with the road “I do know simply the place I’m going,” a reasonably important shift from the same old opening, “I don’t know simply the place I’m going.” However, “Pale Blue Eyes” has nearly utterly totally different lyrics (Reed modified them a number of occasions earlier than and after the tune was launched in 1969) however is in any other case is basically the identical.

Much less memorable tracks embrace the folky “Males of Good Fortune” — a very totally different tune from one with the identical title Reed launched on “Berlin” in 1973 — and a pair of ‘50s-style songs: “Too Late,” which is considerably harking back to Velvets tracks like “I Discovered a Cause” (and likewise options considered one of his ambitiously incongruous center sections), and “Buttercup Music,” a corny nation ditty that remembers the Beatles’ “Child’s in Black” and has an odd spoken part that includes Reed talking in a few totally different accents. “Stockpile” is mainly a knock-off of the Rufus Thomas traditional “Walkin’ the Canine.”

However the outlier right here is “Wrap Your Troubles in Goals,” later coated by Nico on her debut solo album “Chelsea Lady,” which has a gradual rhythm and a vocal by Cale that foreshadows a few of Reed’s later, stranger songs with the Velvets and exhibits the vary of his songwriting even at that early age — it appears like nothing else on this assortment.

The remaining songs, largely recorded in 1963 and ’64, embrace a tackle Dylan’s “Don’t Assume Twice” and the normal “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”; they’re temporary and dashed-off, ending abruptly or with murmured vocals. There’s additionally a doo-wop serenade, “Gee Whiz,” recorded in 1958 when Reed was simply 16.

Billed as “the inaugural title within the ongoing Lou Reed Archival Sequence,” the album is launched on the mighty Mild within the Attic Data and, as is their customized, it’s obtainable in a number of totally different configurations, lots of them elaborate (more on that here). A sprawling array of things from Reed’s archives will be seen on the fascinating — and free — exhibit, “Lou Reed: Caught Between the Twisted Stars” (more on that here) which is on the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts till March of subsequent 12 months. Overseen and licensed by Reed’s spouse, Laurie Anderson, all of these things finds his work being handled with the respect and reverence that followers — and, presumably, the person himself — at all times thought they’ve deserved.

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