Gold Soundz: "I Heard Her Call My Name"

Last week I posted a few classic songs from The Band, so this week for Gold Soundz I thought I would go with something I consider their polar opposite. For two great American bands that existed in roughly the same era, you could hardly find music as contrary to The Band as The Velvet Underground. Where Robbie Robertson’s crew looked to history and tradition for inspiration, seemingly drawing from the entire canon of American music, Lou Reed and his crew pushed the sonic envelope forward - and in doing so basically became the fathers of alternative music.

Although all 4 of VU’s proper records are unanimously considered essential, it’s usually the two that bookend their short recording career that receive the most critical and commercial attention. The timeless debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, comes with a legacy of influence - it’s been said many times that few people heard it upon its release, but those who did all formed bands of their own. Loaded ended the collaboration and yielded The Velvets only real radio hits in “Sweet Jane” and “Rock and Roll” - but also demonstrated that this once uncompromisingly anti-commercial band was capable of writing enduring pop songs with somewhat surprising accuracy.

While both of these albums are unquestionably great, I more often throw on one of the middle 2 records - White Light/White Heat for its dissonant guitar squalls and the eponymous third album for its quiet, elegant introspection. These two albums, separated by less than 2 years, are nearly as different in sound and scope from one another as VU was to The Band. The degenerate, 17-minute “Sister Ray” would probably be the go-to track from the former, but it’s “I Heard Her Call My Name” I’m going to spotlight here. The track truly captures the album’s spirit - layered fuzz and some of the harshest electric guitar ever put to tape envelope a very melodic Lou Reed vocal.

MP3 :: I Heard Her Call My Name
(from White Light/White Heat. Buy here)

It’s even harder for me to choose a track from The Velvet Underground, as most are worthy of individual attention. The album came at a time of great upheaval within the band, as Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker were forced to choose sides between the warring leaders of the band - Reed and John Cale (who was the primary force behind the last album’s abrasiveness). Obviously both chose Reed, who went on to pen some of the most beautiful songs of his entire career for their next recording. “I’m Set Free” is my favorite at the moment - it’s growing hymn-like vocals are soothing and anthemic, and capture the album’s themes of release and forgiveness as well as any.

MP3 :: I’m Set Free
(from The Velvet Underground. Buy here)

Gold Soundz highlight some of my favorite songs of all time. “Gold Soundz” because I thought it would be cool to rip off a title for a “column” from a not-at-all obscure Pavement song. Previously featured in Gold Soundz:

Slobberbone :: “Gimme Back My Dog”
The Jam :: “In The City”
World Party :: “Way Down Now”
Elmore James :: “The Sky Is Crying”
John Prine :: “Lake Marie”
The Band :: “Jawbone”
Neutral Milk Hotel :: “Holland, 1945”

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