Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Velvet Underground 9: Peel Slowly And See

The catalog department at PolyGram was especially fond of the Velvet Underground, and just in time for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came the box set. Peel Slowly And See attempts to present the most complete portrait possible of the band, and does a pretty good job at it. Each of their four albums are included in their entirety—the third album in its alternate “closet” mix, and Loaded, licensed from Atlantic and featuring, for the first time, the full-length takes of “Sweet Jane” and “New Age”. A few of the more important selections from VU and Another View appear in context, as do two tracks from Nico’s Chelsea Girl.
Naturally, it wouldn’t be a box set without unreleased rarities. Of immediate historical significance is the entire first disc, a distillation of a recorded rehearsal held around 1965 by Lou, Sterling and Cale. It consists of several takes each of “Venus In Furs”, “Heroin”, “Waiting For The Man” and a hootenanny-style “All Tomorrow’s Parties”, along with the tedious “Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams” (later given to Nico) and the Dylanesque “Prominent Men”. It’s not exactly fascinating, but gives an idea of what they sounded like before meeting Maureen and Andy Warhol.
Other demos scattered throughout the set include “Here She Comes Now”, “Countess From Hong Kong” and a few pre-White Light songs that sound downright folky. Seven outtakes from Loaded were a big deal (until Rhino’s expanded version of the album went even deeper), being mostly songs Lou would later rerecord on his own.
The set also includes a few live recordings, such as the experimental “Melody Laughter” and “Booker T”, both edited from longer improvisations and both of which led to “Sister Ray”. “What Goes On” comes from Doug Yule’s first appearance with the band.
While it’s not absolutely complete, Peel Slowly And See is an excellent, comprehensive overview of the band. By including all four albums, it saves the trouble of having to buy each of the albums on their own. (Unless, of course, you need all the alternate versions on the expanded Nico and Loaded CDs.) It even featured a peelable banana on the box top. Hence the name.

The Velvet Underground Peel Slowly And See (1995)—4

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