As previously reported, CDs aren’t selling so well, specifically new releases. With the proliferation of digital media, compact discs are heading in the direction of the specialist market, where it eventually will bought up solely by collectors and those seeking the nostalgia of the pre-MP3 era. That scenario is honestly the compact disc’s best bet.
Because catalog releases are now outselling new releases (for the first time in history), more effort is being put into reissues, hence we are now being saddled with yet another reissue of The Velvet Underground’s 1967 debut “The Velvet Underground & Nico.”
Before we delve into what this new set is offering, let’s briefly go over the record’s extensive release history:
1967 — “The Velvet Underground & Nico” is released on vinyl for the first time with a special front cover designed by Andy Warhol featuring a banana sticker that could be peeled back. Both stereo and mono mixes were available.
1986 — The album gets a CD release and features slightly modified album art and few mixing changes throughout, much to the dismay of fans.
1995 — A five-disc box set called “Peel Slowly and See” (named after the subtitle on “VU&N”‘s cover) is released which contains all four Lou Reed fronted Velvet Underground albums including “The Velvet Underground & Nico” which was remastered and featured the restoration of the original LP’s stereo mix.
1996 — A single disc version of the album is released that is likewise restored and remastered.
2002 — A two-disc deluxe edition of the album is released containing remastered versions of both the stereo and mono mixes of the album. The set also includes single mixes of some of the songs as well as a few selections from Nico’s debut solo album “Chelsea Girl.”
Now it’s 2012 and a new six-disc box set is slated for release October 1 via Universal for the record’s 45th anniversary (which actually passed last March). But what does it have that the others don’t? Not much. The first two discs contain roughly the same assortment of additional single edits as well as the full album in mono and stereo. A third disc contains the entirety of “Chelsea Girl,” presumably but not definitely remastered. Disc four contains the famously bootlegged Scepter Studios Sessions which contains alternate mixes and takes of the album’s tracks. The last two discs are live performances from Valleydale Ballroom in Columbus Ohio, which includes the 40-minute noise jam “Melody Laughter.”
Those live performances are the main rub here as there are not many archival VU performances from this era currently available. In a nutshell this package is set to include every note associated with or surrounding The Velvet Underground’s debut. Is it worth the price which will surely be in the $100 range? Doubtful.
If physical media is what the companies are still trying to push, than perhaps “White Light/White Heat” might make for a better choice for expansion but honestly, records from this era have already seen plenty of reissues. I won’t say that there aren’t any records that could use a little polish or extension (like say the Blur and My Bloody Valentine reissues that came out this year) but this is one album that just needs to be left alone already.