Brian Eno had been wanting to release his cover of the Velvet Underground‘s “I’m Set Free” for 12 years before he ultimately found a place for it as the closing track on his upcoming record The Ship. Today, he’s giving the track – officially titled, in the context of The Ship, “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free” – an early release. It’s streaming now at Eno’s website.
In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Eno described the original version as beautiful, but he said there was another reason that made him want to record it. “The key line is, ‘I’m set free to find a new illusion,'” he said. “And that’s what I really like. The idea that you don’t go from illusion to reality, but you go from one illusion to another one, or one story to another one. That seemed to me to be a nice way to seal that record.”
Eno’s take on the tune is even more serene than Lou Reed & Co.’s gently peaceful original that appeared on their 1969 LP The Velvet Underground. Lush instruments that include a piano, orchestral strings, horns and percussion swell around Eno’s voice as he casually sings his favorite lyric, “I’m set free to find a new illusion,” and revels in the word “free” over and over again. It’s a sweet tribute to an artist who inspired Eno beginning in the ambient-music artist’s college days.
“I struggled for a long time at art college about whether I become a pop musician or whether I become a painter, a fine artist,” Eno told Rolling Stone. “I really loved things in both of those fields. And then, one of the things the Velvet Underground made me realize, was that actually, they could be the same thing.”