Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Velvet Underground Live 1969

This album was initially released and a 2-LP set (at a budget price, as I recall) and is now being sold as two separate CDs for some odd reason (with one extra track per disc), much to the fans' annoyance. Regardless, this is mid-to-late period VU, with Lou (or course), Sterling Morrison, Mo Tucker and newcomer Doug Yule (replacing John Cale), running through numbers from their entire career, up to the then-unreleased album, Loaded. So, we miss the anarchistic noise of the Cale-era Velvets, but get more of a r'n'r band, with Mo adding a fuller backbeat than on the early studio records. Certainly an interesting and essential step in their -and Lou's - development, moving from the art-y-ness of the first albums to a (sometimes) danceable r'n'r combo.

The set is pretty stellar throughout: "Waiting For the Man", "Lisa Says", "What Goes On", "Sweet Jane", "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together", "Femme Fatale", "New Age", "Rock'n'Roll", "Beginning to See the Light", "Heroin", "Ocean", "Pale Blue Eyes", "Some Kinda Love", "Over You", "Sweet Bonnie Brown", White Light, White Heat", "I Can't Stand It" and "I'll Be Your Mirror". The vinyl sound is pretty good, considering the time, as the sets were recorded on professional equipment. I don't have the CDs, but apparently, the sound suffers on the digital versions due to some of the tracks being recorded from the vinyl, as the original master tapes have been lost.

The variations from the studio tracks are what makes a live album great and these have some fine differences. Not saying that these are better than the originals, but it's great to hear Lou & Doug sing Nico's songs, or hear more straight-ahead takes on "Waiting for the Man" and even "Heroin". "Femme Fatale" is a bit more aggressive and "White Light, White Heat" has an extended "jam" section. It is nice to hear the live interaction between Lou & Sterling, who were a really special guitar team, complimenting each other's playing and the songs and putting in parts that you might think they were pass over in a live setting. At the time of release (1974), a number of these songs were previously unknown, making it even more special.

While this might be more accessible than, say, White Light/White Heat, I don't know if I'd say this was a good starting point for a novice - Loaded would probably be my vote for that - but any fan should own this!