The Velvet Underground: Squeeze (1973)

Yeah, I know; with so many albums to choose from, why waste space on an album best known as either notoriously terrible and/or a complete fraud?  Personally, I think the most noteworthy thing about the album is that it is not nearly as terrible as legend has it.  No question it's bland and largely mediocre; but that doesn't mean it deserves the thrashing it has received ever since its ignoble inception.

For all the sonic contributions of original member John Cale and the other band members, the Velvet Underground were Lou Reed.  It was Lou's vision and voice that made the band, both its noisy, transgressive, groundbreaking work and its strikingly gorgeous work.  So a Velvet Underground album that does not include Lou Reed, and in fact includes no original members, is obviously not a Velvet Underground record.

Squeeze was the work of Doug Yule, Cale's replacement, released three years after Reed had gone solo and essentially broken up the band.  But Yule's contributions to the Velvets shouldn't be completely minimized; he played on 50% of the band's albums, and sang lead on a few of their prettiest tunes ("Candy Says," "Oh Sweet Nuthin'"); listen to some of the amazing live work from the Yule era (i.e. the insanely great Matrix Tapes), and you can't argue that he wasn't a key component of a fantastic four-piece outfit.

Still... not a Velvets album.  And the songs are not even close to being in the same league; instead of groundbreaking rockers and intense ballads, you've got an album full of generic bar band rock, something you might hear from an opening band that slips in a few originals alongside Chuck Berry covers.

That said, viewed as simply a random 70s album by a random 70s band with a different name, it's perfectly functional music, sub-par but not irredeemable classic rock. Hell, a few songs are even kinda decent.  You've got "Caroline," a generic but ok boogie tune, a retread of VU songs like "Lonesome Cowboy Bill" (and a few others mashed-up in there); "She'll Make You Cry" similarly misappropriates from Reed tracks like "What Goes On," and isn't half-bad; and album highlight "Friends" is a lovely ballad, almost like an outtake from the VU's self-titled third album, with nice vocals from Yule.  At times Yule tries to hard to ape Reed's vocal style (i.e. "Jack & Jane"), rather than relying on his own perfectly pleasant voice; and a few tracks replace Reed's pointedly unvarnished lyrics with blunt banality ("Mean Old Man").  

But it's not unlistenable (hell, there are worse Reed solo albums out there), and had it been issued as a Doug Yule album rather than a VU album, I'd imagine a fair number of people would be unembarrassed to have it on their shelves.  I can't say I listen to it very often; but I do play it from time to time.

Anyway, here's an audio rip of "Friends":
Given that the album is long out of print and (justifiably) hard to find and little-heard, it's surprising that it actually streams, but there it is on Spotify, filed right alongside all the "real" Velvet Underground albums: