This album is one great big, exciting contradiction. Whatever your preconceptions of...
Kathy Narayan 2002-11-20
Many of you who flirted with The Velvet Underground in your late teens/early twenties, along with Velvet virgins, may shudder at the thought of yet another a Very Best Of. No need. Whatever ideas you may have about this band a sickly overdose of slow, heroin-fuelled, whining tracks, banging bass and distorted guitars, perhaps - this album will have you listening with fresh ears.
Although it's true that much of The Velvet's music was, indeed, drug-inspired this incredibly varied compilation, illustrates just how much more there was to these four New Yorkers: Lou Reed (vocals and guitar), John Cale (bass, keyboards, viola and vocals), Sterling Morrison (bass and guitar) and Maureen Tucker (drums).
Very Best Of offers tasters from all four classic Velvet Underground LPs. The debut, The Velvet Underground And Nico (1967), best known for the Andy Warhol banana on white sleeve, is the only one featuring Warhol's singing prodigy, the German-born Nico. Listening to her accented, low, off-key voice sliding naturally around ''All Tomorrow's Parties'' and ''Femme Fetale'', it's easy to see why she remains such a popular influence.
After Reed sacked Warhol, the band's manager for two years from 1965, The Velvets let rip on White Light/White Heat (1968). Recorded in just one day, John Cale quit shortly afterwards following clashes with Reed. After The Velvet Underground (1969) and their final classic LP, Loaded (1971) (both well represented on this collection), all original members departed.
Very Best Of includes many era-defining songs, such as ''Heroin'', ''I'm Waiting For The Man'', ''White Light, White Heat'', ''I Can't Stand It'' and ''Sunday Morning''. But it also features several lesser-known top pop tunes: ''Sweet Jane'', ''What Goes On'' and ''Beginning To See The Light'' and the downright strange ''I'm Sticking With You'' originally an out-take from the Loaded LP . The outstanding ''Venus In Furs'' pulls you into the speakers with its hypnotic ''Shiny, shiny...'' mantra.
The great thing about this latest Very Best Of, is the way in which it reveals The Velvet's true unorthodoxy, leaving you acutely aware of the brave musical steps this four-piece took. This album is one great big, exciting contradiction. Whatever your preconceptions of The Velvet Underground, Very Best Of is likely to prove you wrong.