White Light/White Heat box set... Don't open it with a box cutter
Review: The Velvet Underground – White Light/White Heat (45th anniversary box set)
Published on November 19th, 2013 | Jonny Abrams
Listen and download
All hail the 45th Anniversary multi format release of The Velvet Underground’s classic second album White Light/White Heat!
Starring original newly remastered stereo/mono versions and live albums over its three discs, this nifty package will also include a “56-page hard bound book”.
Even amidst the heady, heavy musical times of 1968, White Light/White Heat must have seemed like one hell of a bolt from the blue.
Not that monumental predecessor The Velvet Underground & Nico wasn’t a bolt from the blue itself – it bolted blue, alright – but White Light/White Heat bolts electrifyingly from the bluest blue in all of bluedom.
Even remastered, in either mono or stereo, the roaring rips of distortion sound like they’re shredding a hole in the space/time continuum.
John Cale does a sterling job stepping in for Nico on ‘occasional lead vocal’ duty, deadpanning “The Gift” to its hilariously horrific denouement and sweetly serenading the psychedelic, subtly pounding (if such a thing is possible) “Lady Godiva’s Operation”.
Lou Reed’s black-belt-level pop instincts shine through as did they always – well, most of the time anyway – and, perhaps owing to his reputation as a hardcore grouch, this seems to be an under-emphasised aspect of his genius.
Their influence on so many others becomes abundantly clear when those wibbly guitars wig out wastedly, as does the difference.
Whereas so many have sculpted out the likes in search of sounding like the Velvets, the Velvets were the velvets were the Velvets. Nature taking its course.
Opening with its title track, a chipper ’60s pop song caked in fuzz and smushed disorientatedly together, White Light/White Heat feels best approached in its original mono, largely due to the aforementioned disorientating smush.
It’s not an album that needs to be tidied up and separated for guitar stereos. That might be better suited to the latter two Velvet Underground albums, by which time Cale’s avant-garde contributions had left with him.
Here, however, it’s a thrill when the potentially tender pair of “Here She Comes Now” and “I Heard Her Call My Name” are plied with such counter-intuitively conceived atmospheres.
This isn’t a review of the box set itself as much as it is an opportunity seized to blather on about a great album.
The White Light/White Heat 45th anniversary box set will be released December 9th on Commercial Marketing.
Rocksucker says: Five Quails out of Five!