Velvet Underground - Golden Archive Series 12 inch
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MGM Records never seemed to know just what to make of the Velvet Underground. In 1967 and 1968 the pioneering New York band released two remarkable but poor-selling albums for MGM's Verve subsidiary, and in 1969 they were shuffled over to the main label, which lost interest after their more accessible third LP failed to make it on radio. MGM dropped the Velvets, and the group released its final studio album, 1970's Loaded, for the Atlantic-backed Cotillion label. Given that the very clean-cut Cowsills were MGM's cash cow act in the late '60s, it's no wonder Lou Reed's druggy and decadent visions were a bit much for the company. But when Loaded began earning positive press and a smattering of radio play, MGM saw a chance to finally make back a bit of their investment, and in the summer of 1970 they released Golden Archive Series, part of a series of similarly packed compilations, which became the first VU "greatest-hits" album. (Other artists featured in the Golden Archive Series included Janis Ian, Wayne Newton, Tim Hardin, Connie Francis, Ian & Sylvia, and of course the Cowsills.) Given that Golden Archive Series was a cut-rate reissue tossed out with about three dozen similar albums at the same time, it's a welcome surprise that it's a pretty good sampler of the Velvet Underground's tenure with Verve/MGM. The album leans to the group's gentler side, as embodied by songs like "Sunday Morning," "Candy Says," and "Here She Comes Now," but "Heroin" and "White Light/White Heat" are on hand to represent their more challenging work, and the LP offers up fine tunes from all three MGM-controlled albums, making it a decent introductory sampler. MGM would release a few other VU collections (including the laziest compilation ever, 1974's Archetypes, which simply packaged White Light/White Heat in a new sleeve) before Polygram gained control of MGM's catalog and the floodgates truly opened. But Golden Archive Series was not just MGM's first stab at reexamining the Velvet Underground's first three albums, it was a fine collection that demonstrated just how diverse and listenable the band could really be, a notion that wasn't exactly conventional wisdom at the time.