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Albums Of The Week: Various Artists | I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute To The Velvet Underground & Nico

A slate of indie heroes put homage to the influential ’60s pioneers' infamous debut.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Verve Records, the original label of The Velvet Underground, just released I’ll Be Your Mirror: A Tribute to the Velvet Underground & Nico, a track-by-track recreation of the band’s debut album with contributions from Michael Stipe, Matt Berninger, Sharon Van Etten with Angel Olsen, Andrew Bird, Lucius, Kurt Vile & The Violators, St. Vincent & Thomas Bartlett, Thurston Moore, Bobby Gillespie, King Princess, Courtney Barnett, Fontaines D.C., and Iggy Pop & Matt Sweeney.

I’ll Be Your Mirror was overseen and executive produced by Hal Willner, Lou Reed’s dear friend and producer who passed away last year. Willner was a master of the tribute album, with each project he worked on extending the magnitude of the artist or work under consideration. In particular, he very much viewed himself as a primary curator of Reed’s legacy, and the care and love he felt for his friend’s work is evident in every note on I’ll Be Your Mirror. Fittingly — and sadly — it is the last album he worked on.

The 1967 release of The Velvet Underground & Nico, The Velvet Underground’s debut album with its iconic Andy Warhol-designed peel-off banana cover, was a seminal event, kicking off a process of aesthetic infiltration that continues to this day. The record singlehandedly redefined the boundaries of what rock ’n’ roll could achieve and express, inventing the very notion of alternative rock and laying the blueprint for punk, grunge and every rebellious underground gesture to follow.

Before The Velvet Underground, the idea that a band could not have hits and still be important was unthinkable. But as Reed never tired of pointing out, after the Velvets, rock ’n’ roll could make an appeal to posterity, could look for recognition beyond the present day, in the same way that poetry, fiction, drama, painting and all the other so-called “high” arts could. If the Velvets had only made this one album, they still would be among the most significant and influential bands in rock history.

Jamie Krents, head of Verve Records says, “The VU are a fundamental part of Verve’s history, and their fearless approach and musical integrity continue to inspire all of us at the label. We were so lucky to partner with the late Hal Willner to pay tribute to the band’s iconic first album. It’s an absolute honor to have every one of these artists on a Verve recording and we hope this album finds a welcome place in the record collections of VU fans new and old.”

The release of I’ll Be Your Mirror marks the kickoff of a robust campaign of Velvet Underground activity in 2021. The tribute album was conceived in 2017 at the same time as Todd Haynes signed on to direct The Velvet Underground, the highly anticipated film that just premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival to rave reviews and marks Haynes’ first foray into the documentary space.