This 1974 release of excerpts of The Velvet Underground's live performances in Dallas and San Francisco in 1969 is truly the stuff of legend. Admittedly, this was the incarnation of the band minus John Cale, but frankly, you only need listen to Doug Yule's astonishing keyboard work on the brilliant What Goes On to realise that this band line-up had lost none of its inspiration. The other thing to note about the CD release of what was previously a vinyl double album is that it has been divided into two. For me, this Volume 1 is the strongest half of the complete recording (just by virtue of the strength of the songs), although Volume 2 also makes up another excellent album, and together the two volumes represent my favourite live Velvets album (albeit both the Live At Max's Kansas City and The Quine Tapes recordings should also be must-haves for band aficionados).
Volume 1 opens with a nice bit of banter between Lou Reed and his live Dallas audience, before the band launch into an almost countrified version of Waiting For My Man (interestingly, renamed - to reflect the actual lyrics - from its original studio and live version name of I'm Waiting For The Man) - amazingly, this version of the song is just as memorable as the trademark heavier studio version, with Reed and Morrison's guitars sounding particularly lyrical and resonant, serving to reinforce my view that this song is one of the band's greatest ever. Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no weak moment on 1969,with all 10 songs demonstrating variations from their studio versions, perhaps most obviously in Sweet Jane and Heroin, and also great takes of Lisa Says (particularly), Femme Fatale and New Age.
But, for me, it is on the more up-tempo songs where these live versions really excel, demonstrating that the band could really ditch their depressed, dirge-like reputation and deliver moments of brilliant exuberance, such as during the renditions of We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together, Rock And Roll, Beginning To See The Light and, best of all, What Goes On. The version of What Goes On is, for me, probably my favourite ever song version by this great band, leaving its studio equivalent in its wake, and building to an astonishing instrumental climax during which Morrison and Reed's guitars fuse into a single wall of guitar sound and Doug Yule's keyboards are simply mesmerising, bringing to mind the great playing of Ray Manzarek on The Doors' Light My Fire. At nearly 9 minutes duration, it's all over much too quickly.
Essential listening for many reasons, and none more vital than What Goes On.