The Velvet Underground - Loaded

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  • Regular price $21.98
Members Price: $18.68

  • Limited Gold Vinyl
  • Last and Final Album with Lou Reed
  • Features the classic tracks Rock & Roll and Sweet Jane
Few rock groups can claim to have broken so much new territory, and maintain such consistent brilliance on record, as the Velvet Underground during their brief lifespan. It was the group's lot to be ahead of, or at least out of step with, their time. The mid- to late '60s was an era of explosive growth and experimentation in rock, but the Velvets' innovations -- which blended the energy of rock with the sonic adventurism of the avant-garde, and introduced a new degree of social realism and sexual kinkiness into rock lyrics -- were too abrasive for the mainstream to handle. During their time, the group experienced little commercial success; though they were hugely appreciated by a cult audience and some critics, the larger public treated them with indifference or, occasionally, scorn. The Velvets' music was too important to languish in obscurity, though; their cult only grew larger and larger in the years following their demise, and continued to mushroom through the years. By the 1980s, they were acknowledged not just as one of the most important rock bands of the '60s, but one of the best of all time, and one whose immense significance cannot be measured by their relatively modest sales.

Historians often hail the group for their incalculable influence upon the punk and new wave of subsequent years, and while the Velvets were undoubtedly a key touchstone of the movements, to focus upon these elements of their vision is to only get part of the story. The group was uncompromising in its music and lyrics, to be sure, sometimes espousing a bleakness and primitivism that would inspire alienated singers and songwriters of future generations. But the band's colorful and oft-grim soundscapes were firmly grounded in strong, well-constructed songs that could be as humanistic and compassionate as they were outrageous and confrontational. The member most responsible for these qualities was guitarist, singer, and songwriter Lou Reed, whose sing-speak vocals and gripping narratives came to define street-savvy rock & roll.

Reed loved rock & roll from an early age, and even recorded a doo wop-type single as a Long Island teenager in the late '50s (as a member of the Shades). By the early '60s, he was also getting into avant-garde jazz and serious poetry, coming under the influence of author Delmore Schwartz while studying at Syracuse University. After graduation, he set his sights considerably lower, churning out tunes for exploitation rock albums as a staff songwriter for Pickwick Records in New York City. Reed did learn some useful things about production at Pickwick, and it was while working there that he met John Cale, a classically trained Welshman who had moved to America to study and perform "serious" music. Cale, who had performed with John Cage and LaMonte Young, found himself increasingly attracted to rock & roll; Reed, for his part, was interested in the avant-garde as well as pop. Reed and Cale were both interested in fusing the avant-garde with rock & roll, and had found the ideal partners for making the vision (a very radical one for the mid-'60s) work; their synergy would be the crucial axis of the Velvet Underground's early work.