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The Velvet Underground is the third album by American rock group The Velvet Underground. It was their first record to feature Doug Yule, John Cale's replacement in the band. It was recorded in 1968 at TTG Studios in Hollywoodmarker, Californiamarker. It marks a radical shift in sound and approach. Frontman Lou Reed said "I really didn’t think we should make another White Light/White Heat. I thought it would be a terrible mistake, and I really believed that. I thought we had to demonstrate the other side of us. Otherwise, we would become this one-dimensional thing, and that had to be avoided at all costs." Maureen Tucker said, "I was pleased with the direction we were going and with the new calmness in the group, and thinking about a good future, hoping people would smarten up and some record company would take us on and do us justice." Doug Yule said the album "was a lot of fun. The sessions were constructive and happy and creative, everybody was working together."

Context

The Velvet Underground was the band's first album for MGM Records, the band's first two albums having been issued by MGM subsidiary and legendary jazz label, Verve Records. The previously strong Andy Warhol influence is diminished, with the most notable ties to The Factory being the cover and back photographs taken by Warholite Billy Name, and opening track "Candy Says," written about transsexual Candy Darling (who would later appear in Reed's 1972 song, "Walk On The Wild Side").

The record was produced by the band themselves, and issued in two different stereo mixes. The more widely distributed version is the one done by TTG staff recording engineer Val Valentin. The other mix was done by Lou Reed, and was dubbed the "Closet Mix" by guitarist Sterling Morrison.

The LP sleeve was designed by Dick Smith, then a staff artist at MGM/Verve.

The "Closet Mix"

Sterling Morrison thought Reed's mix had a small, closed in, cramped sound. With the music so muted, the phrase "Closet Mix" was coined by Morrison, who said, "We did the third album deliberately as anti-production. It sounds like it was done in a closet – it's flat, and that's the way we wanted it. The songs are all very quiet and it's kind of insane. I like the album." Overall, the songs on Reed's mix of the album sound different from the Valentin Mix in that the vocals are brought to the foreground, as opposed to the more "even" mix of Valentin's version. Drums and percussion on the Closet Mix are generally panned to one stereo channel only (typical of many other 1960's rock recordings.) On the Valentin mix drums are usually placed in the center.

Notable differences in the music can be heard on the two different versions. "Some Kinda Love" is a completely different performance. The Closet Mix uses a slower, quieter take, while the Valentin Mix is a slightly more upbeat and closer to the way the band performed the song in concert. The Valentin version of "Some Kinda Love" is about 20 seconds longer. There are different guitar solos on "What Goes On". "Jesus" is slightly longer in the Closet Mix, with a noticeable echo on the final refrain of "Jeeee-sus." "Beginning to See the Light" fades out 15–20 seconds later in the Closet Mix. On "The Murder Mystery," the vocals in the Closet Mix are brought to the front in an even more extreme fashion, drowning out the music almost entirely. There are also other less obvious differences.

Release history

Early copies of the album were released on MGM, but most re-issue versions are on Verve.

The first U.S. version contained the Lou Reed "Closet Mix," although the track times listed on the first U.S. issue more closely match the Valentin mix, possibly indicating that the Reed mix was issued by mistake. The original U.K. release used the Valentin mix.

All CD versions, as well as the 1985 vinyl re-issue, are copies of the Valentin mix. Other LP re-issues vary but most also use the Valentin Mix. The "Closet Mix" is available on disc four of the 1995 CD box set Peel Slowly and See.

In 2003, the album was ranked number 314 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.

Track listing

All tracks written by Lou Reed. Running times listed are for the Valentin Mix.
Side one
  1. "Candy Says" – 4:04
  2. "What Goes On" – 4:55
  3. "Some Kinda Love" – 4:03
  4. "Pale Blue Eyes" – 5:41
  5. "Jesus" – 3:24


Side two
  1. "Beginning to See the Light" – 4:41
  2. "I'm Set Free" – 4:08
  3. "That's the Story of My Life" – 1:59
  4. "The Murder Mystery" – 8:55
  5. "After Hours" – 2:07


Personnel




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