Saturnine – Wreck At Pillar Point

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 1)

I don’t recall where or when I got this album, or why. I must have read about the band in a magazine and then stumbled across Wreck at Pillar Point. At some point, I became aware of a connection to the Essex Green and the Ladybug Transistor, but that was years later, I believe. The band was from New York, formed by law students Matt Gallaway (vocals/guitar) and Mike Donofrio (bass) in 1993 (and originally called Saturnine 60). They added drummer Jim Harwood and guitarist Jennifer Baron, and lasted for fifteen years, releasing six albums. All of which you can find on Bandcamp, and I suggest you check out this unappreciated band. I do note that the final album, Remembrance of Things Past, is described as an “indie-rock opera loosely based” on the novel, and by then Baron had left and they had added a keyboardist.

What I Think of This Album

The easiest and possibly best, and almost certainly the shortest, description of Saturnine is “Michael Stipe fronting a slowcore/dreampop band.” The similarities between Stipe and Matt Gallaway’s voices are striking, though on this debut album at least, Gallaway can get a little pitchy and that might be a dealbreaker for some listeners. Others will grow frustrated with the languid tempos and may not appreciate the odd juxtaposition of skronky guitar solos in such a gentle setting.

There is a lot to like on this album and I suspect that some simple resequencing would’ve made it better. Mostly, if the band had been more strategic about the placement of the songs on which Galloway’s vocals are the most . . . challenging, the record would present better. A stagnant instrumental early on also doesn’t help.

The guitar noise – somehow both loud and quiet at the same time – on opener “This Time the Best” is impressive, as is the gnarled solo, which is equal parts Lou Reed and Neil Young. The somber “Ground Truth” slides by on a pretty melody, and the ghostly harmonies (presumably by guitarist Jennifer Baron) are excellent. I still think these songs should have been interspersed later in the track list.  

“Your Maps” should have probably been the lead track, with some nice chiming/ jangly guitar, as well as an appealing vibrato part that almost sounds like a violin. On the other hand, this may be the most REM-adjacent song on the album, so perhaps they were a little shy about it. Similarly, we all would have benefitted from the frontloading of “Summer Was a Waste.” The solo wouldn’t sound out of place on a Galaxie 500 album. The harmonies once again are subtly excellent.   

“Broken” is another winning tune buried in the middle of the album, even if the sad-sack vocals can be a bit much. The guitar work, however, is fantastic, with a laser-like solo as the obvious high point, but credit to the band for the overall arrangement and construction of the song. Almost as strong is “Slightly Less Than Even,” with probably the best singing on the disc, more excellent guitar work and what sounds like piano to me.

The bass on “Reeling” is reminiscent of Naomi Yang’s work with Galaxie 500. The band kicks up some dust on “Tell Me Lies Later,” we can enjoy more great bass and guitar work on the deceptively entertaining “Had Enough,” and there is a pillowy beauty to ballad “Maverick’s” (and yes, that apostrophe is supposed to be there).

The Best Thing About This Album

“Broken” consolidates all the band’s strengths.

Release Date

September, 1995

The Cover Art

It’s just really difficult to make out what this even is. To the extent one can, the sepia-toned pastoral image only reinforces the REM comparisons.

Eleventh Dream Day – Prairie School Freakout

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

Eleventh Dream Day is a frustrating band that l suspect might’ve made far less infuriating choices if early on they had found the success their talent merited. I also blame Doug McCombs. The band’s roots are in Louisville, where Rick Rizzo and Janet Beveridge Bean met. Both guitarists moved to Chicago and joined forces with McCombs (bass) and the incomparably named Baird Figi (guitar), with Beveridge Bean switching to drums. The band steadily released albums from 1988 to 1994 (Figi being replaced in 1992 by Wink O’Bannon), and then collectively put Eleventh Dream Day on the back burner:  Rizzo returned to school; Beveridge Bean focused on her band Freakwater; and McCombs pursued annoying ideas with his band Tortoise. They released albums sporadically after that (minus O’Bannon), none of them with the fire of the early work and many with a strong ambient influence.

What I Think of This Album

I own a “deluxe” reissue of Prairie School Freakout which prints the four band members’ reminisces of the recording of the album. Almost all of them reference the extreme heat, the late night start, the compressed recording time, the small footprint of the studio, and the noise coming from Rick Rizzo’s amp. All of that comes through on the recording, which captures Eleventh Dream Day giving an inspired performance, born of sweat and desperation.

Rizzo and Figi Baird dominate the album with their Neil Young homage. Apart from the shouted vocals – rooted instead in punk – opener “Watching the Candles Burn” could’ve easily been a Crazy Horse track, with Janet Beveridge Bean’s tom rolls adding to the momentum. The same is true of “Beach Miner” (though I think the opening guitar figure is downright Beatles-esque). Final song “Life On a String” similarly brings to mind Young.

What the band also does, critically, is to subvert and twist the Americana that Young (a Canadian) appropriated, delivering a modern, burned-out, ominous landscape drowning in violence and sadness, unmoored by an utter lack of meaning. This is thanks to the stunning work of songwriters Beveridge Bean and Rizzo; Bean provides three tracks, Rizzo another three, and they share credit on one more (Figi wrote two and McCombs one). The album would work well as the soundtrack to an updated movie version of In Cold Blood

Beveridge Bean’s harmony vocals do nothing to ease the unsettling atmosphere; if anything, her singing on “Sweet Smell” (her own song) only contributes to the claustrophobic feel. Rizzo deconstructs a couple’s failure to communicate and connect on “Coercion” (again, a Bean number) and it comes out sounding like an (American) gothic nightmare. His singing of the closing line “She became the night” evokes dread and exhaustion. McCombs provides the anomalous “Through My Mouth,” which is all hardcore rhythm – appropriate for Rizzo’s shouting about dying – and then turns into an atonal squallfest.

Relatedly, Bean’s “Death of Albert C. Sampson” is tale about a suicidal killer of a grocery store clerk; this is basically a Rust Belt version of Camus’s The Stranger accompanied by a blistering guitar lead. “Among the Pines” is equally existential and similarly death-obsessed, building from a tapestry of instruments to a sunny, jangly chord progression that would fit in perfectly on a classic era Lemonheads album while Rizzo sing-speaks like Lou Reed after overdosing on Emily Dickinson. The two solos here are wonderfully lyrical and melodic – arguably the highlight of the album.

“Driving Song” is exactly that, though it does not traffic in liberation and fun. Rather, it speaks to resignation and pointless repetition – the acknowledgement of being trapped. Written by Baird, he proves that he can nail the anomie that his bandmates have been doling out. This song is mostly an excuse for the lead guitar part, which is admittedly fucking awesome. The band gets atmospheric on “Tarantula,” which invokes a charred cathedral, the orbit of heavenly bodies, and, of course, death. Beveridge Bean provides spooky harmonies, Rizzo delivers his lyrics with punk aggression, Baird plays some cool slide guitar, and the other guitars carve like glaciers across the plains.

I am shocked that this album did not catapult Eleventh Dream Day to fame. This thing fucking rocks, and does so intelligently. Future band member Wink O’Bannon co-engineered the recording.

My reissue tacks on the three tracks that comprise the Wayne EP, from a year later:  “Tenth Leaving Train,” “ Southern Pacific,” and “Go.” The first is a marathon number (over 11 minutes long) that allows Baird and Rizzo plenty of room to stretch out, which they do not fail to take advantage of. Making things explicit is the Young cover “Southern Pacific”; Bean’s distant harmonies are great, the guitar figures in the background are awesome, and Rizzo sounds half-demented. “Go” is a fun, noisy romp, a bit like X if they had come out of Kansas instead of L.A.

The Best Thing About This Album

I would say the guitars but the songs wouldn’t be the same without Rizzo and Bean’s harrowing lyrics. I will therefore punt to a certain degree and praise the band’s energy, which should cover both the sound and the fury.

Release Date


The Cover Art

It’s okay. It bears no relation to the amazing sounds on the record. The title is fantastic, of course.

The Tyde – Twice

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I don’t remember if I learned about the Tyde or Beachwood Sparks first. Regardless, I ended up getting rid of that second Beachwood Sparks album (despite an excellent cameo by J Mascis on “Yer Selfish Ways”) and keeping my two Tyde albums. The Tyde originally consisted of three Beachwood Sparks members – bassist Brent Rademaker, guitarist Dave Scher, and Christopher Gunst (who played guitar with Beachwood Sparks but drums in the Tyde) – along with brother Darren Rademaker and his former spouse Ann Do, as well as guitarist Ben Knight. Gunst left after the first album and was replaced by Velvet Crush drummer Ric Menck, while Scher was demoted to guest by the second album. The first three Tyde albums, by the way, are titled Once, Twice, and Three’s Company. I only ever listened to the second and third ones.

What I Think of This Album

I like how California can be the home of hardcore punk like Black Flag and Fear and also the birthplace of laid back, surf-focused bands like the Tyde (to say nothing of other Golden State variants).

“Shortboard City” sounds like something the Flying Burrito Brothers would have come up with if you’d locked them in a room with the entire Jan and Dean discography for a week. Like the best songs on this album, it has the loose, raggedy feel of people who are playing music simply for the fun of it. The rueful, ruminative “A Loner” succeeds in large part due to Ann Do’s keyboards and Darren Rademaker’s laconic vocals.

I have a difficult time not thinking of Herman’s Hermits when I see song title “Henry VIII,” which is otherwise an uptempo, jangly slice of pop with sardonic, almost Lou Reed-ish vocals. “Go Ask Yer Dad” is a lush and snappy country-rock number (despite the new wave keyboards), while “Best Intentions” is a fatalistic but generous ballad about human frailty, combining country-rock with spacey atmospherics (not unlike Beachwood Sparks).

The band mixes a British indie sound with their country inclinations on “Crystal Canyons” (featuring nice organ work from Do). “Takes A Lot of Trying” is a prophetic title, as this annoying blues-rock distraction fails epically. “Memorable Moments” marries Rentals-keyboards to jangly guitars and a pulsing bass, with an appealing melody and Rademaker’s warm vocals.

There is a bitter undercurrent to ambivalent “being in a band” song “Blood Brothers,” which is gently brooding until Rademaker turns up the intensity towards the end with some emphatic emoting. The British influence arises again on shoegaze-inspired “New D,” which ends the album with droney panache.

The three recording engineers share a complicated history:  Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Hunter Crowley both played with the Warlocks, while Rob Camranella/Campanella was also in the Brian Jonestown Massacre.

The Best Thing About This Album

The mix of country, surf, and British indie.

Release Date


The Cover Art

This works for me in a serious way.

U2 – The Joshua Tree

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 2)

This album was huge. I think there was a year in high school when, on any given day, at least three kids were wearing this concert t-shirt. Suddenly, everybody loved U2. Kids, adults, critics, mainstream press. The Joshua Tree sold over 10,000,000 copies in the U.S. The album struck the right balance in many ways:  artsy but still rock; socially conscious without being preachy; moody while still loud; spiritual but not overtly religious; a celebration of America’s mythology but from an outsider’s perspective. Some of my love for it has waned – it lacks the personal resonance for me that a lot of the best music offers – but I still like it a lot. I wish I could have gone to the concert.

What I Think of This Album

There is no serious debate that this is the best U2 album. Cinematic and compelling, the band turned The Unforgettable Fire inside out for this follow-up. Sporting a much more organic sound, The Joshua Tree” retained the spaciousness of the previous album as well as its textures, but avoided any true experimentation. Shit, “Running to Stand Still” is basically “Bad,part two.

Starting with some frankly weird acoustic bluesy string bends, “Running” is at heart a piano ballad, lovely in its delicacy and affecting in its starkness. The introduction of Larry Mullen, Jr.’s rumbling, oceanic drums and Bono’s falsetto crooning add drama and depth. There are shades of Lou Reed in Bono’s spoken delivery. The band appropriates folk protest music on “Red Hill Mining Town,” which incorporates gospel sounds as well. Similarly, “Trip Through Your Wires” combines gospel with the blues, with an interesting autoharp part played by producer Daniel Lanois and a respectable harmonica from Bono. The yelping from Bono, though, I could do without.

The elegiac “One Tree Hill” – somehow both a tribute to a deceased friend and a political number about the Pinochet regime in Chile – depends a great deal on Mullen, Jr.’s skillful drumming and the alternating use of Edge’s guitar and a separate string arrangement. Closer “Mothers of the Disappeared” is the track that most evokes the sound of previous album, with a gauzy, hypnotic patina coating the gentle undulations, anchored by a fuzzy drone of a rhythm loop; it is a stunning, moving piece of work paying tribute to the lost generations of Latin American children, murdered by their own governments (with the backing of the U.S.).

Then, of course, there are the hits. Notably, these anthems manage to avoid bombast and instead unfurl into open and expansive soundscapes while remaining intimate and personal. “Where the Streets Have No Name” relies on an impressionistic swell of keyboards complemented by the Edge’s delayed guitar arpeggio, augmented by the insistent contributions of bassist Adam Clayton and Mullen, Jr., and capped off by a truly excellent performance from Bono. Really, a perfect opening track. The band doubles down with the spiritual questioning of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” bringing in a considerable soul/gospel element. Not to be overlooked are the slippery bass part and another fine performance behind the kit from Mullen, Jr. Finally, the tormented romantic troubles of “With or Without You” are made poignant by the Edge’s ghostly work (plus a repeating riff and a closing pattern) and Bono’s skilled use of his vocal range. All of these songs are verifiable smashes, and the fact that they don’t overshadow the other strong selections is a testament to the quality of the album.

Honestly, though, there are weaknesses. The harried and shimmering “In God’s Country” is almost U2-by-the-numbers, presaging the overbearing schtick of Rattle and Hum, but managing to not stick out too badly from the rest of the album. There is no positive spin to “Bullet the Blue Sky,” which is AWFUL, and would be reintroduced in an even worse – somehow – live version the following year. “Exit” is downright embarrassing, not to mention simply boring.

Brian Eno co-produced with Lanois, and Flood (Depeche Mode, Erasure, Nine Inch Nails, PJ Harvey) engineered; Steve Lillywhite mixed some of the tracks.

Tidbit:  Kirsty MacColl (spouse at the time of Lillywhite) sequenced the album, being instructed only on what the first and final songs should be.

The Best Thing About This Album

I am going to give credit to Larry Mullen, Jr., whose drumming I never really paid attention to before.

Release Date

March, 1987

The Cover Art

Anton Corbijn again, this time trying his hand at a panoramic camera, and the story is he didn’t know how to use it, resulting in a sharp background and a blurry foreground (at least on the original CD release). The cover art for the original vinyl/CD/cassette was different for each format, but reissues of the CD used the vinyl cover. The vinyl art is much better than the original CD art (which is a blurry, vertically distorted crop of the art shown here, and with a lot less negative space at the top and bottom margins), more closely making a visual connection between the image and the music.

The Velvet Underground – Live MCMXCIII

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 9)

I have some kind of Roman numeral innumeracy. I cannot for the life of my figure them out – it’s a stupid system, really, and there is no reason to learn it. I think the MCMXCIII must be 1993? The M is 1,000; the C before the M makes 900, the X before the C is how you show 90, and the III are 3. That’s the best I can do. Hardly important here, but whatever. Nothing is important.

What I Think of This Album

There are a lot of good reasons to own this, the undeniable VU swan song, but I can accept that some people might not want to. First, I think this is the only live document with Cale and his essential viola work. Second, you get to hear the Nico- and Yule-sung songs sung by Reed and Cale instead. Third, there are special treats, like a version of “Guess I’m Falling In Love” with lyrics and a brand new song (“Coyote”), as well as a live version of personal favorite “Black Angel’s Death Song.” Fourth, it’s a moving document of the band finally getting its due, particularly in light of Sterling Morrison’s death a few years later. Fifth, though Reed and Cale fell out (again) before a North American tour could come together, the performance and the liner notes suggest a real warmth and affection between the four.

But the band is clearly past its prime (Reed’s vocals are pretty shaky) and no one would consider this to be anything but a nice bit of nostalgia; the sound, also, is a major letdown. I believe Luna was the opening act for these European shows. Reed thanks Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes in the liner notes. Reed guitarist Mike Rathke produced the live album and Roger Moutenot (Sleater-Kinney, Yo La Tengo, Beulah) was on hand for mixing and engineering. I personally think Yule should have been invited (Morrison lobbied for it; Reed and Cale said no) to participate, and I also think he should have been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame (which I despise) with the rest of the band.

Sterling Morrison died in 1995. Nico passed in 1988. Reed left us in 2013.

The Best Thing About This Album

The whole thing is a warm blanket of heroin, bleakness, and dirty sex.

Release Date

October, 1993

The Cover Art

Not into it. Seems lazy and pandering.

The Velvet Underground – Live at Max’s Kansas City

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 8)

I should but don’t know whether there are any (released) live recordings of the band from the John Cale era. I suspect not, otherwise I think I would easily know. I assume those wouldn’t be unheralded. It would be nice to hear the original quartet, especially Cale’s viola live.

What I Think of This Album

The bad:  there is a lot of annoying ambient noise, including people ordering drinks from the bar; Billy Yule’s traditional rock drumming is totally wrong for these songs. The good: considering this was recorded on a handheld mono tape recorder in 1970, the sound is not *that* bad; this happened to be Lou Reed’s final performance with the band, which is a fortunate bit of serendipity; and of course, it’s the Velvet Underground live.

Sterling Morrison and Lou Reed kick up an agreeable racket on guitar and if the performances aren’t legendary, they are still good. The band was at the end of a three month residency at Max’s, during which time they were also working on Loaded (for his part, Billy Yule went to high school/summer school during the day and then went to Max’s at night). I don’t know if they played two sets every night, but they did this night. The original release culled songs from both sets, but the 2004 reissue I have presents both sets in their entirety. Given how much better the 1969 live albums are, this is really just for hardcore fans.

Note: this album was released before the 1969 albums, but I place it after those in my collection based on the dates of the actual shows.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Beginning to See the Light”? Nothing really stands out on this album.

Release Date

May, 1972 (original); 2004 (reissue)

The Cover Art

I’m not sure what the colorful elements were supposed to add to this standard b/w shot of the venue, but I am pretty sure that the effort failed.

The Velvet Underground – 1969: The Velvet Underground Live With Lou Reed, Vol. 1

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 6)

I am reconsidering my decision to review live albums, though I suppose it’s too late to change direction now. I have several VU live albums. I don’t think any other band in my collection even comes close on this count. I don’t know why. Something about the Velvets live seems mythical.

What I Think of This Album

The unwieldy title aside, this is a strong album for the hardcore fan. The sound is decent (though The Complete Matrix Tapes now offers a better version of the same San Francisco performances), and the musicianship is excellent. You get to hear Lou Reed sing songs that Nico and Doug Yule sing on the albums, and there are early versions of “Sweet Jane,” “New Age,” and “Rock & Roll.” Plus, the versions of “What Goes On” and bonus track “Heroin” are outstanding.

The Best Thing About This Album

The rhythm guitar in “What Goes On” is glorious.

Release Date

September, 1974

The Cover Art

Cheeky. A bit regressive and pandering. Seems very 1974, actually.

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.

The Velvet Underground – Another View

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 4)

I started this blog in September 2019, I think? I took a few months off in the summer of 2020, but let’s call it a year and a half so far. The early days were fairly tedious. Not only did I have to convince myself to carry out this truly stupid undertaking, I also had to navigate the site design and figure out a format for the posts and so forth. Eventually, I needed a name for the site. I wanted it to be music-related but not obvious or dumb or self-aggrandizing (already characteristics of the posts themselves). I don’t remember if I was listening to this album around that time, but I must have been. And while I had owned the album for a bit, I clearly had not paid close attention to it, as “Ride Into the Sun” certainly wasn’t something I was conversant with. But “Ride Into the Sun” has become one of my favorite VU songs, and I thought it made for a good title. It is elegiac and can be interpreted either as hopeful or as foreboding, and the flexibility of the messaging appealed to me. The fact that it’s an instrumental (at least the version on this album is) also means there is no competing narrative to contend with. Ride Into the Sun. I think I will.

What I Think of This Album

Definitely not for anyone but completists, Another View is largely forgettable but still very enjoyable. Comprised of the less compelling missing tracks from 1967-69, it has three John Cale songs (though two of them are basically the same song) and six Doug Yule songs. If none is essential, that is okay. Though I happen to think “Ride Into the Sun” is essential.

“Ride Into the Sun” is a bewitching instrumental, with a crystalline clean lead guitar part followed by an overdriven lead guitar part (a pattern that is repeated) against some chunky rhythm playing. I assume it’s Sterling Morrison on lead and Lou Reed on rhythm, just based on the styles. It is damn near perfect. Another instrumental, the Cale-era “Guess I’m Falling In Love” is a nasty piece, full of energy and grit, with punishing drums from Maureen Tucker. Sandwiched in between is the very fun “Coney Island Steeplechase;” it sounds like Reed’s vocals are run through distortion on this one. Similarly amusing is “We’re Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together,” which amply delivers on its promise, despite its lyrical shortcomings. At a minimum, the early version of “Rock and Roll” (rerecorded for Loaded) is an interesting historical artifact. There are two versions of “Hey Mr. Rain” included, which brings a welcome return of Cale’s histrionic viola; I haven’t spent a lot of time with either version, but I prefer Version II. “Ferryboat Bill” is pure filler, but still better than the six-and-a-half minutes of blues workout “I’m Gonna Move Right In,” which I have no desire to ever hear again. Look, this may be the leftovers of the leftovers, but the band thought highly enough of “Real Good Time” and “Mr. Rain” to include them on their reunion tour set list.

The Best Thing About This Album

Like you had to ask. “Ride Into the Sun.”

Release Date

September, 1986

The Cover Art

I don’t approve of it, but it’s not terrible. The placement and spacing of the text leaves a lot to be desired.

The Velvet Underground – VU

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist (part 3)

It’s sort of weird having come of age when the Velvet Underground were finally getting their due. Although obviously I wasn’t a VU OG, it was odd to go back and listen to their stuff and wonder why the record labels and executives did not appreciate what they had until over a decade later. This is similar to my experience with the Smiths (for whom I was sort of an OG); I never imagined that this band I loved would end up becoming so influential and well-known twenty years down the road. As for origins of this disc, having recorded two albums on the Verve label, the VU signed a two record deal with MGM; The Velvet Underground was the first album in satisfaction of that contract. The band recorded fourteen tracks in anticipation of their fourth album, but were cut loose from the label in 1969, before the album could be released. MGM placed the tapes in storage, where they were forgotten about for about fifteen years. Around 1984, some genius realized what they were sitting on; they also found another five unreleased tracks from the John Cale years. But instead of releasing what should have been the fourth album, they combined all the forgotten songs and picked what they felt were the best ten of the nineteen for release as VU. The remainder followed on Another View.

What I Think of This Album

I have a hard time not thinking of this as the lost fourth album, even as I know that it is not. Still, it’s pretty cool, and I slot it (as well as Another View) in between The Velvet Underground and Loaded in my collection. I suppose I wouldn’t call it essential, but I also wouldn’t call White Light / White Heat essential. In fact, I think this is definitely a better representation of the band than that album.

Two songs feature John Cale:  the touching and delicate “Stephanie Says,” a veritable showcase for Sterling Morrison, with Cale playing a surprisingly straightforward viola part (as well as contributing the celesta part); and “Temptation Inside Your Heart,” a knotty rocker with some excellent lyrics from Reed (“electricity comes from other planets”) and apparently ad-libbed backing vocals from Cale, as well as superb percussion from Moe Tucker.

The other eight tracks are from the Doug Yule era. There are some energetic, electrifying tunes that would have been out of place on both The Velvet Underground and Loaded:  the prickly “I Can’t Stand It” (with a couple of fun, distorted Reed solos); and guitar workout “Foggy Notion,” on which Morrison shines (against Reed’s excellent rhythm work) and Yule does an admirable job on bass. “One of These Days,” however, sounds pretty close to a Loaded track; consistent with that sense, Yule is playing lead guitar on this one. Similarly, “She’s My Best Friend” (with Yule singing) would have been a standout on Loaded, while the somewhat bluesy “Lisa Says” is believable as an outtake from the third album. Most enigmatic is “Ocean,” a lengthy, moody piece with two distinct movements – the most legitimately artsy the band got in its post-Cale incarnation (nonsense like “The Murder Mystery” doesn’t count). I am too familiar (and besotted) with the Reed solo version of “Andy’s Chest” – a full six of these songs turned up later on Reed’s solo albums, in various forms – to properly appreciate this version. Tucker gets her second ever lead vocal opportunity on the slight “I’m Sticking With You,” which is nowhere near the success “After Hours” is but is still a decent little song (I dig the outro a lot, which is a throwback to Reed’s days as a songwriter for Pickwick).

The Best Thing About This Album

“Foggy Notion” and “Temptation Inside Your Heart” back-to-back is an unbeatable combination.

Release Date

February, 1985

The Cover Art

You know what, for a record company effort, this is a pretty cool cover. They did right by the band, the fans, and most importantly, the songs.

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