The Velvet Underground – Loaded

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 5)

In addition to the regular version of Loaded, I also own Fully Loaded, a two disc edition with outtakes, alternate takes, different mixes, and demos. It also offers the unedited, full length, original versions of “Sweet Jane,” “Rock and Roll” and “New Age,” as well as a reworked (and lesser but still great) version of personal favorite “Ride Into the Sun,” two takes of “Ocean,” and an early version of Reed solo release “Satellite of Love.” I am not going to review Fully Loaded, for any number of perfectly valid reasons that I am not inclined to enumerate. The review of Loaded will suffice. But if you like this album or the VU at all, I do recommend Fully Loaded.

What I Think of This Album

Some fans hate this album, and some fans love it. I fall much closer to love. This is a much more conventional Velvet Underground, and that’s fine – some of these songs are straight up classics, even if they’re not about bondage or shooting up.

I do lament that Moe Tucker (on maternity leave at the time) isn’t drumming, and I sort of resent Doug Yule’s increased role (Sterling Morrison was involved in the recording, but he was also focused on his renewed college studies at the time). Yule seems like a nice guy, and was undeniably a skilled musician. He was a multi-instrumentalist and an arranger, and his lead guitar work on some songs – like “Rock & Roll” – is truly impressive. I don’t dislike him, but I wish Lou Reed had sung the four Yule-led tunes, or at least “Lonesome Cowboy Bill”, “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’,” and even “New Age.” Those songs just sound a lot less like the Velvet Underground without Reed out front.

I will concede that perhaps Yule’s voice is better suited for the self-pitying and transcendent “Who Loves the Sun.” And he arguably could have pulled off “New Age,” but his performance leaves a lot to be desired in the face of Reed’s exquisite lyrics. Regardless, the first third of this album is unbeatable. “Who Loves the Sun” is a tremendously morose lament; “Sweet Jane” is a masterpiece that will rightly outlive us all (I love Lou’s raspy vocal); and “Rock & Roll” is a joyous but grounded celebration of the music that some of us are lucky enough to be moved by. “Held Held High” is a raucous R&B number, and syrupy “I Found a Reason” (which is in part stolen from 50’s hit “Chanson D’Amour”) sounds like the band is simply showing off how they can play different styles. If anything, that may be the biggest knock on this album – that it lacks a cohesive sound and unifying character. This is less the Velvet Underground than it is Lou Reed’s Emporium of Songs. But again, most of those songs are pretty fucking great. “New Age” is a surprising, mature ballad, and “Lonesome Cowboy Bill” is silvery, lighthearted fun. And “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” is perhaps predictably slotted last, but it is pleasantly downcast and suitably epic.

The only tracks I don’t care for are the affected “Cool It Down” (which I think of as a poor man’s version of “Head Held High” and isn’t even *that* bad) and sluggish, repetitive “Train Round the Bend.”

Reed left the band before Loaded was released. Morrison departed a little less than a year later, obtaining his Ph.D. and becoming a tugboat captain (as celebrated on Galaxie 500’s “Tugboat Captain”). Yule cobbled together a final, disowned VU album, from which the band Squeeze took their name. Reed, John Cale, Tucker, Morrison, Yule, and even Nico continued to play together in various constellations over the years.

Trivia: one of the drummers on this was Doug Yule’s brother, Billy, who was still in high school at the time.

The Best Thing About This Album

The opening trio of songs is one of the best starts of an album anywhere, ever.

Release Date

November, 1970

The Cover Art

Way too literal, and cartoonish at the same time. If the music on this album is not really representative of the band, the cover art is even less so.

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