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The Velvet Underground & Nico [Deluxe Edition] ()

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The "deluxe edition" of the Velvet Underground's classic debut album is somewhat disappointing in that it fails to offer any previously unreleased material, even as it expands its length from one to two CDs. The key bonus is the inclusion of both the stereo and mono versions of the album, which fill up most of disc one and disc two, respectively. To fill out the program, disc one also includes the five songs from Nico's first album, 1967's Chelsea Girl, in which Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Nico were involved in the songwriting; disc two adds the 45 rpm single versions of "All Tomorrow's Parties," "I'll Be Your Mirror," "Sunday Morning," and "Femme Fatale." To be frank, the differences between the stereo and mono versions are not major enough to be noticed by most listeners, although hardcore collectors will probably appreciate the opportunity to pick up a mono version rather than ante up for an expensive original mono LP. The five Nico songs, though quite good, are easily available on Chelsea Girl itself. Finally, the differences between the 45 rpm single versions and album ones are quite minor: "All Tomorrow's Parties" is heard in an edited version that reduces its running time by half, and "Sunday Morning" has a little bit of studio chatter at the very beginning. More significantly, "I'll Be Your Mirror" does not fade out as it does on the album, but goes on for five additional seconds, coming to a rounded ending on a guitar chord. That's about the most notable musical bonus on this package, and it's a pretty steep price to pay for two CDs worth of material (much of which many interested in the Velvet Underground will already have) just to hear that. The booklet has a reasonable overview essay and lyrics, but isn't that huge or detailed, and again offers little that intense fans of the album and band wouldn't already know. This is great music, of course, as many critics have noted, innovative in its lyrical exploration of drugs, sex, the psychology of romance, and urban decadence, musically explosive in both the assaultive avant-garde construction of its louder numbers and the magnificent melodies of its ballads, and filled with great songs like "I'll Be Your Mirror," "All Tomorrow's Parties," "Venus in Furs," "Femme Fatale," and "The Black Angel's Death Song" (not to mention the Nico solo tunes of an only slightly lower caliber, like "Chelsea Girls" and "It Was a Pleasure Then"). But it's not something that you really need if you already own The Velvet Underground & Nico, unless you're a truly major devotee. By the way, there is a limited edition version that, like the original LP, has a peelable banana on the cover, though the packaging (with the track listing on a plastic case) is set up so that you'll probably end up peeling it whether you want to or not when you slide the album in and out of the case. ~ Richie Unterberger, Rovi Hide synopsis

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