Monday, February 8, 2010

The Best Of The Velvet Underground - Words and Music of Lou Reed


I can't remember why I own this collection.  I think I bought it at a time when I was maybe trying to make my then collection look a little more intelligent or  respectable or something.  But it's well worth having, even if only as a reference point for some fine song writing.  Notice I said 'song writing' as opposed to 'singing'.

I don't have much time for vocalists who can't really sing.  I appreciate Lou Reed (and Bob Dylan, for that matter) as brilliant song writers and innovators who charged the scenes they inhabited with such fervid talent, there was no doubt they were going to be stars.  I just wish they could sing properly.

Oh sure, there are some of you (in fact, probably a lot of you) who will think Mine and YourZ (truly) are being particularly picky or maybe even clueless and/or tasteless but at least we're honest.  I was brought up on a diet of some of the greatest pop vocalists the world has ever known and, even as a child, couldn't understand why Bob Dylan rated up there with the rest of them when I thought he couldn't sing to save his life.  The same goes for Lou Reed.   

VERDICT: TURN IT DOWN or, even better, learn to play and sing the songs yourself - they'll probably sound at least as good as Lou Reed's versions


So after I'd listened to the first half of this I came stalking into the house and demanded of YourZ if he knew any women who've made a stellar and respected career out of music despite not being able to sing all that well.  Like Bob Dylan and Lou Reed who spring to mind immediately.  His offerings were Grace Jones, Laurie Anderson and Yoko Ono.  And I'm sorry, but "Computer says NO" for all three, as none have managed the awe and reverence inspired by Mr Zimmerman or the singer on this album.  (Or for part of it, I know, Nico's there too.)  So why is that?  Why can men who have only a passing acquaintance with a tune manage to carve out long and well-respected careers in the music industry, while girls who are the same get to be behind-the-scenes songwriters (Carole Bayer Sager, I'm looking at you even though I really loved that album, played it to death when I was 16.)  Why is that? HUH??????

Listening to the second half of the album, another question popped up ( I originally wrote that as pooped up, snerk).  Why is it I can listen quite happily to Lou Reed (most of the time) but Bob Dylan makes me twitch?  I did have to push the skip button on Lisa Says (which really sounds uncannily like Bob, now I think of it) but all the others just wandered past my ears and into my brain causing no grimacing at all. In fact, there was significant sing-a-long (particularly for Sweet Jane) and a fair bit of turn it up and bop along.

I remember being terribly into Lou as a try-hard intense teenager.  I do have an album on black plastic somewhere and no doubt if I played that I would instantly transport myself into my teen bedroom - burning candles, pop posters etc.  This CD was great to listen to, and I want to make sure I listen to it more often from now on.

By the way, when we began this whole bloggy-thing, YourZ suggested we remove all the 'best-of" albums from the batch we point the stick at.  I firmly voted him down, as this would have removed lots of music.  And to date (YourZ will tell you I love to do the I-told-you-so and I do admit it's a character flaw, but when I'm right, I'm right) (YourZ sez: yeah, yeah, yeah, you're right, I know...) out of the 39 album's we've reviewed - 10 have been best-ofs, including this one.



  1. I'm going Mine way or the highway on this one. The VU had more than one incarnation and albums vary in sound due to the change in backing bands. One thing about Lou Reed..I think I knew he couldn't sing and always had a top notch band. But check out(bye bye greatest hits)The Velvet Underground Live 1969(its got a lady showing some ass on the cover)..all the songs are driving, sing alongs..even Lisa Says...Rock and Roll from that album is a highlight....move on to Loaded(1970)different sound and band..great stuff. As for Lou Reed solo..well hell..most of his albums are full of stellar songs..some you can sing, some leave you scratching your head...rush out to get Transformer,Coney Island Baby, Lou Reed Live in Italy and New York....all different bands and all might want to stay away from Metal Machine Music and maybe Berlin...unless you want to get reallllll low.

  2. I love the VU, and while I can agree that Lou is far from a vocal virtuoso, I think he does a supberb job of portaying emotions through his voice. On a song like "Heroin" he does an amazing job of displaying the paranoia and manic nature, and then on a song like "Candy Says" you can feel the pain and depression. I guess with that said, I checked out the track listing for this particular "Best of" album and I thought there were some odd selections. I don't understand why "Lisa Says" and "Stephanie Says" would be present and not "Candy Says". Also, I think "Venus in Furs" is a huge song that's missing, as that is one of their most notable tracks. I guess no "Best of" album is perfect though. Even though it's been said a million times by high-brow critics, the VU were so ahead of their time, and even to this day I don't know if the world is ready for them.

  3. Seano, I now think Mine is right too (yes, I said it). And I agree with you about Lou and his band too. I think every kid of my generation listened to 'Transformer', preferably stoned off their noggins, at some point - it was kind of a right of passage.

    Jeff, it is the problem with Greatest Hits albums, particularly those put out as cynical money-generators rather than hand-picked by the artists themselves. We've got any number of Greatest Hits that confuse us with the song selections. Still, as Mine has said before, we'd rather have a Greatest Hits than nothing at all.

    Thanks to both of you for reading, again.