This was a pleasant surprise—emphasis on "surprise." I didn't know anyone who expected it or anything like it: an iconic band, whose reputation was even then still on the rise, releasing an album of material from their prime, which no one particularly knew existed. That's one reason I pasted the 1985 release date on it, rather than the more accurate 1969 recording date. I just reflexively think of it as an album of the mid-'80s, not because it sounds like one—no, in fact one of its greatest pleasures was how much it sounded just like the Velvet Underground of the '60s. But it became such an infatuation, and that coincided so neatly with my own burgeoning obsessions with the band, and I played it so much and listened to it so intensely, that now it reminds me of times in my life from 1985 and 1986. Having done a bit of revisiting of the Velvets catalog in recent weeks I can even hear now like I never have before how plainly this is a notch off of all the pillar albums. But the sound quality is so good, and the songs so fresh even if we'd already heard other versions elsewhere (six of this 10 found their way onto Lou Reed solo albums), that the excitement itself must have made up for any deficiencies objective or otherwise. The story is that internal corporate shenanigans related to the labels the band was signed with effectively put this stuff on a shelf and from there it just got lost in the shuffle. It's probably most accurate to characterize it as a rough draft for a follow-up to The Velvet Underground—a lost album, if you will, which should have bridged that eponymous third and Loaded, a complicated story of business and judgment that ultimately involves some three labels altogether (Verve, MGM, and Atlantic). Two of the 10 songs on VU go back to the John Cale days, "Temptation Inside Your Heart" and "Stephanie Says," but there's no John Cale in sight. This is the post-Cale Velvet Underground. And it is in fine form: spry, quick, melodic, mostly stripped down pretty close to the 2 guitars bass drums types of fundamentals that Reed would come to favor. "I'm Sticking With You," like "After Hours," is another showcase for Moe Tucker. There's no particular studio sheen on anything here (with the possible exception of the effects on "Ocean") but it sounds remarkably polished, which I think is at least as much about the songwriting as it is about the fact that it had become a band that at least sounded remarkably comfortable playing with one another. The only false point for me is the version of "Andy's Chest," and that's only because I know Transformer so well and to me it is a Transformer song and certainly not a Velvet Underground one. But that's a very small quibble. If it's not the best Velvet Underground album by a good ways, it still remains the one whose release most thrilled me. Taking the shrink wrap off this and putting it on for the first time is a moment I can still recall for the sheer dumb stupefaction of it.