Review: The Velvet Underground & Nico: Deluxe Edition

By David Spencer

Brian Eno once famously said that The Velvet Underground & Nico album may not have sold many copies when it first came out, but everyone that bought it, formed a band. Such powerful testimony sums up in once sentence what the historic and revered piece of work is. This is an album that will never be popular in the commercial sense but will always have a special place in the hearts of rock fans looking for something deeper and more significant.

The album was released in March 1967 on Verve Records, with its now iconic Andy Warhol-designed, peel-off banana cover. Now we are marking the 45th anniversary of its release, with this multi-format release that includes stereo and mono versions re-mastered from the original tapes, previously unreleased recordings of the band’s rehearsals in Warhol’s Factory. There are also the rare April 1966 Scepter Studios recordings, which feature early, alternate versions of songs later issued on the album.

On the limited-edition, super deluxe six-CD box set there is also feature a previously unavailable November ’66 live concert performed by the Velvets’ original, five-person lineup — Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, Moe Tucker and Nico — at the Valleydale Ballroom in Columbus, Ohio. Also included is Nico’s Chelsea Girl, an album released in October 1967 (seven months after the Velvets’ disc) which featured all the members of the band as well as a teenage folksinger named Jackson Browne.

An absolute gold mine for fans of the band or musos alike, the collection reveals the bands journey to the final album. There is the chance to compare mono with stereo – and analyse how tracks developed from early demos. A deluxe edition is never for the casual fan, but more than ever this material requires a love and passion for its mother album. Talking of which tracks like Sunday Morning, Femme Fatale and the epic Venus In Furs still sound as dark and enticing as they did four decades ago.

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