Monday, June 1, 2015


This is the Velvet's fourth album, and last featuring Lou Reed, who quit before it was released in 1970.  While it's the home of two of the band's best-known, and two of Reed's signature tunes, Sweet Jane and Rock & Roll, it's always been the cause of debate, confusion and hostility, pitting those who revere the caustic/John Cale albums against those who appreciate the easier sounds of Reed at his most commercial.

There's no doubt Reed was tired of breaking down barriers with little to show for it.  With Cale out of the picture, and Doug Yule more of a traditional rock guy, the emphasis was now on making more radio-friendly sounds.  They wanted hits, but given that the Top Ten of the month it came out included Neil Diamond's Cracklin' Rosie, The Jackson 5ive's I'll Be There, and The Partridge Family's I Think I Love You, they were still way too far out for that to happen. 

Did that make this a failed album?  Far from it, and bright and shiny album cuts such as Cool It Down still have a tension and edge.  I Found A Reason, with beautiful doo-wop influenced harmonies and a spoken-word section, is like a candied version of the band.  And while Reed's lyrics might be more sedate than his epic tales of shooting heroine and S&M, New Age was still a nasty shot at over-the-hill actresses.  The great Rock & Roll is highly personal, about how the music saved young Lou from accountancy and boredom or some such fate.

It was a band album in name only.  Maureen Tucker doesn't even appear on it, too pregnant during the sessions to play the drums.  Sterling Morrison was in college, so he's pretty much on the sidelines.  Cale replacement Yule, ostensibly the bass player, now covered much of the guitar, drums and even lead vocals, singing four of the tracks, making this the Reed-Yule album in truth.  But it's great no matter what the comparisons, and holds up far better than almost all subsequent 70's Reed albums. 

It's also good to have a nice clean, new vinyl pressing of Loaded, with the mix favouring the vocals and warm bass.  This is one to buy if you are creating a library of the 500 great albums.

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