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When the Velvets recorded this debut, they were best known as the protégés of Andy Warhol (who designed the sleeve), and as a grating, combustive live band. Fueled by drummer Moe Tucker's no-nonsense wham and John Cale's howling viola, some of the straight-up rock & roll and arty noise extravaganzas here bear that out. But before Lou Reed was singing about sadomasochism and drug deals and writing lyrics inspired by his favorite poets, he was a pop songwriter, and this album has some of his prettiest tunes, mostly sung by Nico, the German dark angel who left the band after this disc. Even the sordid rockers are underscored by graceful pop tricks, like the two-chord flutter at the center of the classic "Heroin." --Douglas Wolk
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A thing of great beauty.
Jennifer Heidmann | 01/08/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"There's not much more that can be said about this album, or this group. However influential they may have been (punk, new wave, art rock, name your genre) it would all be for naught if they were merely stylistic innovators. Like most innovators, they built extensively on a wide variety of the styles that came before them -- rhythm and blues, rock and roll, folk, jazz, and modern classical. The fact that it all works is a tribute to their creativity. It's no accident that Lou Reed never achieved anything like this level of greatness after the Velvets. He was one of the great songwriters of the rock era, and a fabulous stylist, but without Morrison, Tucker and (especially) Cale, he would've been just one among many.
Will NOT Bring You Dahn (What a Clahn)
M. Farfaglia | Irvine, CA United States | 02/15/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"That a song like "Sunday Morning" would appear on the same album as "Venus in Furs" is remarkable enough, and in 1967 no less. "The Velvet Underground and Nico" is as varied stylistically as it is consistently rough and unpolished, and these two attributes work together to form a most unique listening experience. The noise becomes uncomfortably grating at times, possibly compelling you to lower the volume of your playback device, while at others the drone of electric viola or the propulsive shuffle backbeat stimulates your response to do just the opposite. Lou Reed's trademark Sprechstimme brings Dylan to mind, and there are echoes of the Byrds, such as the jangly guitar behind "All Tomorrow's Parties," which lend a kind of reassuring familiarity to the music. This is only to be undone by "chanteuse" Nico (how she is credited on the album) rendering "I'll Be Your Mirror" in thick German accent for an effect that is as non-sequitur as Warhol's banana image on the cover. Her reading of "femme fatale" is decidedly more humorous, but that's part of what makes this record so much fun to listen to.
"The Velvet Underground and Nico" isn't for everybody, but if you're among the minority who is likely to "get" this kind of music yet hasn't picked it up yet, you'll probably ask yourself how you ever got along without it when you finally do. An essential acquisition for aficionados of the 1960's in particular."