Friday, August 17, 2007

No. 109: Loaded

Band: Velvet Underground
Album: Loaded
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: While not the band's most groundbreaking work or its rawest, "Loaded" is a beautiful coda to one of the most influential bands of the 60s. "Sweet Jane" and "Rock and Roll" were played on radio a great deal, "Who Loves The Sun?" was on the soundtrack to a big-time movie and "I Found A Reason" found a second life as Cat Power's greatest cover.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I'm not sure RS has it wrong. "Loaded" isn't the first album, but the combination of radio-friendliness and the weight of the band puts "Loaded" up there.
Best song: My favorite song on the album is probably "Who Loves The Sun?" if only because it's all about juxtaposition. One of the more twee songs in 1970, the lyrics are delightfully dark.
Worst song: I'm not in love with "Cool It Down."
Is it awesome?: Absolutely. It's the record that non-Velvets fans have to have.

"Loaded" is named as such because the record company reportedly wanted an album "loaded with hits" from the band. Reed, ever the sellout, decided to comply and stacked the album with radio-friendly song after radio-friendly song. It's strange to think that "Loaded" is a sellout album, but that's exactly what it was. Mo Tucker was taking care of her newborn, John Cale was long gone. It was a different group.

And the album teeters a weird line. It's nowhere near the experimentation of the earlier records (no Cale viola, no raucous feedback), but it was still the Velvets, so it didn't sell. At all. Reviewers didn't like it.

Everyone come around since. The Velvets are deified by most critics now -- rightfully so, for the most part -- and listening to the songs, the critics are correct. "Who Loves The Sun?" is Belle & Sebastian before B+S existed, "Rock and Roll" is the kind of jukebox heroism that rock has relied on forever, "Sweet Jane" is classic love-ish song that still resonates and "Oh! Sweet Nuthin'" is classic Reed ballad.

The label tinkered with a lot of the production and sequencing, mostly because Reed had left the band towards the end of recording, though the 1997 re-release has fixed most of that. It's fantastic album, with or without Reed's wishes being granted.

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