New Music

Velvet Underground’s debut gets proper tribute

New release: Chris Chandler & The Mercenaries, Slow Peel

The debut of The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967 did not set the music scene on fire. In fact, only around 30,000 copies were initially sold. Brian Eno famously stated, “Everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.” Over a half century later, some of those fans have paid tribute to the album with an excellent “re-make and re-model.” Chris Chandler chose the title Slow Peel for his debut, referring to the original cover art of Andy Warhol’s banana print. That original cover art was accompanied with the note, “Peel slowly and see.” Early copies of the album actually included a sticker which exposed a pink banana when peeled off.

Chandler recruited a who’s who of mercenaries including Richard Barone (The Bongos), Chris Cacavas (Green on Red, Giant Sand), Steve Wynn (The Dream Syndicate), and a talented collection of Atlanta musicians. Slow Peel is a proper tribute to this rock and roll classic without an attempt to parrot each and every note. Chandler and friends have created a wonderful look back that surely even Lou Reed would love. The track-by-track remodel features Chandler providing lead vocals on all the Reed-sung tunes, with “Femme Fatale” and “I’ll Be Your Mirror” sung by Halley O’Malley (ambulette), while K. Michelle Dubois leads “All Tomorrows Parties.” Kim Ware and Paul Melançon offer backing vocals on a few tunes, as well.

Uncle Green‘s Peter McDade beats the drums on the majority of tracks along with Michael Lorant and Alex McGill banging out the rest; other guitars by Shane Pringle and Robert Lee; violins by Georgie Harris and Sheila Doyle. Big props in the CD liner notes to Jonny Daly for producing the album and “EVERYTHING” else.

Song-by-song, this record stacks up nicely to the original. Although Chandler has years of experience in the music biz, this is his first endeavor at actually recording an album. The results are surprising. Besides the more familiar tracks like “Waiting for My Man,” “Femme Fatale,” and “There She Goes Again,” the remaining tracks all exhibit independent and unique personalities. Don’t miss Pringle’s hot saxophone on the epic closer “European Son.”

Check out “Waiting for My Man” here:

Many bands over the course of the past 54 years have taken shots at covering the Velvet Underground. Heck, R.E.M. included three of them on their 1987 collection of B-sides and rarities, Dead Letter Office. But Chandler and his Mercenaries put a 21st century touch on all of the 11 tracks.

The bandleader sat down with No Earplugs and talked about what’s on his playlist, future music making, and how he spends his time outside the studio.

No Earplugs: What’s your history and experience in music?

Chris Chandler: I DJ’d college radio in Mt. Pleasant Michigan late 80s. That’s where I got my taste in music, or where it started! I moved to Atlanta January 1991 and worked for this indie label, DB Records (Uncle Green, The Jody Grind, Windbreakers, Pylon, etc.). I became friends with lots of musicians over the years and as roommates. Three ex-roommates played on the CD. I started booking local concerts in early 2000s until last spring…but I was never in a band myself. The musicians on this record all gave their time and are friends. Some were from bands I’ve booked over the years like The Dream Syndicate and The Bongos. 

What inspired you to cover the Velvet Underground’s debut as your debut?

My wife bought me an acoustic guitar for my birthday two years ago and I started messing around and learned songs of bands I liked and posted some on social media. One of them was “Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet Underground and it kinda went from there.

What other bands are on your playlist?

Music I like includes The Church, RIDE, Radio Birdman, The Stooges, and John Coltrane. All kinds of stuff, really. I love hearing great new music, too, like Death By Unga Bunga and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever.

Any new recordings in your future?

I’ve been thinking about what could be next. I really love The Waterboys’ This is the Sea and I’ve thought about that. Who knows if there will be another…I hope so!

Wanna talk about your other life?

After putting together ticket packages for major sporting events for 25 years, my day job changed when COVID-19 hit. I became a realtor officially in the fall this past year. If anyone is looking to sell, please get in touch!

If everyone does their part to quash this pandemic, live music could be on the horizon. Maybe Chris Chandler & The Mercenaries could perform Slow Peel live in the near future. No pressure! To support the band, please download Slow Peel or buy the CD at Bandcamp.

Also, please consider contributing to Save Our Stages to keep all our favorite venues afloat during the pandemic.

#SaveOurStages #SupportLocalMusic

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