Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Velvet Underground - IV (upgrade)

The Velvet Underground – IV

(soniclovenoize reconstruction)

December 2017 Upgrade

Side A:
1.  We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together
2.  One of These Days
3.  Andy’s Chest
4.  Lisa Says
5.  Ferryboat Bill
6.  Foggy Notion

Side B:
7.  I Can’t Stand It
8.  Coney Island Steeplechase
9.  I’m Sticking With You
10.  She’s My Best Friend
11.  Ocean
12.  Ride Into The Sun

This is an upgrade to my reconstruction of the fabled “lost fourth album” by The Velvet Underground, recorded in-between 1969’s The Velvet Underground and 1970’s Loaded.  With the master tapes discovered in the 1980s and remixed, the material originally saw the light of day on compilation albums VU and Another View.  The original 1969 mixes, as well as newer 2014 remixes that emulated the sound of those original 1969 mixes, were finally released on the 45th anniversary The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  Sundazed also released their own reconstruction of this “lost fourth album” as a limited edition vinyl entitled 1969, but various pressings used either the 1969, 1985 or 2014 mixes.  My reconstruction uses only the vintage 1969 or “dry” 2014 mixes to present a cohesive, completed album and attempts to be true to what an actual fourth Velvet Underground might have been like in 1969. 

Upgrades to this December 2017 edition are:

  • Original 1969 mixes of “Foggy Notion”, “I’m Sticking With You”, “Andy’s Chest” and “She’s My Best Friend” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes. 
  • New 2014 remixes of “One of These Days”, “Lisa Says”, “Coney Island Steeplechase”, “I Can’t Stand It” and “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” are used, replacing the 1985 mixes.
  • “Ocean” is sourced from The Velvet Underground super delux, an upgrade from the What Goes On source.
  • The original 1969 mix of “Ferryboat Bill” is added to the reconstruction, after much protest from blog followers! 
  • “Ride Into The Sun” is speed-corrected and volume-adjusted to match the sound of the new sources.

After the proto-shoegaze of 1967’s The Velvet Underground & Nico and the groundbreaking noise-rock of 1968’s White Light/White Heat, we have a completely different Velvet Underground by 1969.  After recording an album intended to be the polar opposite of White Light/White Heat with John Cale’s more musically apt (albeit less experimental) replacement Doug Yule, the band enjoyed critical success with their The Velvet Underground album, even though commercial success still eluded them.  Although the band was tired of MGM Records—or perhaps reading the writing on the wall and anticipated a drop from the label due to a lack of commercial potential—The Velvets continued recording a follow-up to The Velvet Underground while touring throughout 1969, biding their time until their management found a better label. 

These recording sessions, based at the Record Plant in New York, began on May 6th with The Velvet Underground tracking the jaunty “Coney Island Steeplechase”, as well as a rocker heavily featured on their current tour and effectively becoming the most-well known originals of this batch, “Foggy Notion”.  The band returned to the studio on May 13th and tracked a song Lou Reed himself would re-record for his seminal 1972 Transformer album “Andy’s Chest”, as well as the charming Mo Tucker-sung “I’m Sticking With You” which would be tried again but ultimately scrapped for the Loaded sessions.  The next day the Doug Yule-sung “She’s My Best Friend” was recorded, a song Reed would himself rerecord for his 1976 Coney Island Baby album.  On May 20th the band recorded another live staple that would be revisited for Lou Reed’s 1972 solo album Lou Reed, “I Can’t Stand It”.  The Velvets returned to the studio on June 19th & 20th to track an additional three songs: the bizarre “Ferryboat Bill”; another road-tested epic “Ocean” again later rerecorded for both Loaded and Lou Reed; and a rough performance of “Rock and Roll”, a song later re-recorded as the centerpiece for Loaded.  At this two-day session they also made mixes of seven of the nine songs tracked thus far and compiled an acetate that contained, in order: “I’m Sticking With You”, “Foggy Notion”, “Ferryboat Bill”, “Andy’s Chest”, “Ocean”, “Rock and Roll” and “She’s My Best Friend”.

With half the album in the can, The Velvets took the summer off to continue touring and returned to The Record Plant on September 5th for more work on the project.  The exquisite “Ride Into The Sun” was tracked, a song too later rerecorded but scrapped for Loaded and finally appearing on Lou Reed.   While a multi-layered instrumental version exists, the multitracks containing the vocal overdubs seems to have been lost, and unfortunately only exists as an acetate.  The band returned to the studio on September 23rd to cut the bar-room rollick “One of These Days” and the aimless instrumental jam “I’m Gonna Move Right In” was tracked on September 27th.  Live staple “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” was recorded three days later and finally the somber “Lisa Says” recorded on October 1st.  In the end, fourteen new songs were recorded between May and October—most of which were excellent, studio captures of this incarnation of The Velvet Underground who had become a live-performing machine throughout 1969.   But by the end of the year, MGM had dropped The Velvet Underground from their roster of artists and the mastertapes were filed away in a vault, forgotten and never to be heard again in that decade or the next. 

It should be noted that the actual band members seem to have differing opinions on what the intent of these recordings was.  In interviews and personal correspondence, bandleader Lou Reed expressed that the 1969 Record Plant recordings were meant for their fourth album—specifically noting that “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together” was meant to be the lead single, a tongue-in-cheek ode to mindless dance music.  Mo Tucker sides with Reed, stating she was under the impression they were recording a proper fourth album (although she confusingly claims that The Record Plant recordings were not it).  In contrast, Doug Yule claimed they were simply professionally-recorded demos for the album that would eventually be Loaded.  Sterling Morrison offers a completely different explanation: the recordings were simply “busy work”, a put-on so that MGM would not suspect the band was shopping for a new contract, and that these recordings were never meant to see the light of day.   Who are we to believe, if we believe any of this at all? 

Regardless, the multitracks of the 1969 Record Plant sessions (along with a few unreleased John Cale-era tracks from 1968) were accidentally found in the vaults in the mid 1980s, remixed and released as the compilation album VU in 1985.  Perfectly timed during a revival of interest in the band, the album was a hit; it was probably no coincidence that VU featured rather modern mixing techniques (such as gated reverb on the drums) wowing audiences that a band from the 60s could have such a modern sound!  With the remainder of the tracks released on 1986’s Another View, these mixes circulated on compilation albums for nearly thirty years.  With fans complaining of the anachronistic mixing of the Record Plant sessions, the vintage 1969 mixes were finally given an official release in 2014 on the 45th anniversary super delux boxset of The Velvet Underground.  Also included were freshly-made remixes of the remaining seven songs, created to match the sound of the vintage 1969 mixes.  By this point in time, Sterling and Yule’s view of these recordings were ignored and the sessions were touted as “the great lost fourth Velvet Underground album,” be it accurate or not. 

My reconstruction attempts to use the best of these 1969 Record Plant Sessions and present a finished, cohesive album, as could have been released by the end of 1969 as the fourth Velvet Underground album.  We will be using all original 1969 mixes or the new 2014 mixes found on The Velvet Underground super delux boxset.  All introductory studio chatter is edited out as well as some outros faded out, as per what the final tracks probably would have been released as.  My reconstruction drops “I’m Gonna Move Right In” for the sake of conciseness and drops “Rock and Roll” for the sake of redundancy.  We will also substitute the instrumental “Ride Into The Sun” with the vocal acetate version found on the What Goes On boxset, speed corrected and volume-adjusted to match the previous eleven songs.  The resultant album is a strong collection of twelve tracks that amount to just over 40 minutes, the perfect Velvet Underground album.  While succumbing to a more polished sound, we also essentially have a more energetic version of The Velvet Underground, bridging the gap between that and Loaded.  Also, we can fully appreciate the underrated powerhouse of Doug Yule, a forgotten hero who kept the band together without John Cale.  A document of a short-lived era of the band usually only heard on live recording like The Quine Tapes, IV are the waves to ride us into the sun.  Let's have a real good time together.  

Sources Used:
The Velvet Underground (2014 CD boxset)
What Goes On (1993 CD boxset)

flac --> wav --> editing in SONAR & Goldwave --> flac encoding via TLH lv8
*md5, artwork and tracknotes included