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The Verve/MGM Albums ()

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Here in the 21st century, everything old is new again, at least as far as rock & roll is concerned. While monophonic audio was considered a dead issue by the end of the '60s and the vinyl LP was supposedly replaced by the "superior" compact disc in the late '80s, a growing number of stubborn music fans and audiophiles have come to embrace the warmth and accuracy of analog audio, and collectors of musical minutia will tell you the mono mixes of many classic albums of the '60s sound better than their stereo counterparts, as well as reflecting the intent of the artists with greater clarity. With this in mind, the outstanding reissue label Sundazed Music has released The Verve/MGM Albums, a five-LP set that presents monophonic versions of the first three albums by The Velvet Underground, newly remastered from the original analog tapes and pressed on heavy-duty vinyl. In addition, the box includes a mono LP of Nico's solo debut Chelsea Girl, which included contributions from her former Velvet Underground bandmates Lou Reed, John Cale, and Sterling Morrison, as well as 1969, a new collection of songs intended for the VU's uncompleted fourth album for Verve/MGM. (Most of these songs appeared on the 1985 archival compilation VU, though for this release, they've been given new, cleaner sounding mixes and a more coherent sequence, and unlike the other LPs in this set, 1969 is in stereo.) The first three albums represent some of the best and most forward-thinking American rock of the '60s -- the rough but tender demi-monde journey of The Velvet Underground & Nico, the no-quarter sonic assault of White Light/White Heat, and the alternately introspective and dynamic feel of The Velvet Underground -- and if Chelsea Girl is a very different kettle of fish, it's at the very least a fascinating footnote to the VU's history. Add in the newly refurbished edition of the "lost album" material, and folks who like their music flat, black, and circular will find this a most satisfying listen as well as a fascinating collectable. [Though given how thorough Sundazed were in preparing this set, one wonders why they didn't also license the band's final album, Loaded, from Atlantic Records and offer a complete set of the group's studio work.] ~ Mark Deming, Rovi Hide synopsis

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