MGM re-released the first three Velvet Underground discs in all sorts of combinations, but this one is the strangest. Archetypes: The Velvet Underground is the exact White Light/White Heat album minus the brilliant skull and crossbones black-light cover by Andy Warhol. Instead, the Archetypes cover resembles The Terminator and has nothing to do with the music inside: Two helmeted bikers stand outside a Woolworth store flanking what looks like a weight scale. What this has to do with White Light/White Heat is anybody’s guess. In addition to the Velvet Underground, this series re-released albums by Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Allen Ginsburg, Tim Hardin, The Blues Project, Hank Williams, and the Small Faces. What, no Herman’s Hermits or Cowsills? The liner notes on the Velvets’ Archetypes album sleeve (presumably used for all the albums in the series) notes that Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side” was a recent hit around the time of this release, putting it circa 1972 (good old MGM didn’t put the date on the label). For a company that allegedly unloaded acts involved with drugs (probably dropping the Velvet Underground during that “housecleaning” phase), the five-and-dime down-home album cover for a re-release of this psychotic classic is more than deceptive, it is the epitome of paradox. But look on the bright side: It is yet another Velvet Underground collector’s item. To capitalize on Reed’s solo success, a definitive statement splashed on the cover might have been more successful: “Vital music by Lou Reed — Contains the 17-plus minute classic ‘Sister Ray’.” But no such luck. Heck, even the Mobile Fidelity reissue of the album contained the famous skull and crossbones on the back cover, making for yet another collector’s item. Come to think of it, a “high-end” version of this grunge classic is just as much a paradox as the five-and-dime cover. Absolutely necessary for Velvet Underground completists.
-Review by Joe Viglione, AllMusic