Recorded at the duo's peak, just after finishing their fifth and final album, Live 1969 benefits greatly from the expert touch of Simon & Garfunkel's crucial producer/engineer, Roy Halee. It's significant that the six concerts sourced were intended for a live album, as the depth of its exceptional sound match that of their last two masterpieces with Halee, 1968's Bookends and 1970s Bridge Over Troubled Water -- two LPs whose material thankfully dominate the proceedings. For these three factors, Live 1969 instantly supersedes Columbia's OK 2002 issue, Live from New York City, 1967. Why these 1969 tour recordings only gained release now can't quickly be explained by the two pals' 1970 split; after all, the Beatles quit that year in greater bitterness, yet witness the speed in which the flawed, posthumous Let It Be appeared. Whatever the inexplicable reasoning, one feels the hand of history made in the hush of these pristine recordings, end-of-decade crowds basking in the splendor of exquisite harmonies -- especially on the Bridge material they'd yet to experience on record. The newness of the soaring, ageless "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and the unheralded, immaculate "Song for the Asking" and "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright" are otherworldly, as are older overlooked riches like "Old Friends/Bookends Theme" and a reconfigured, quieted "Leaves That Are Green." The presence of Wrecking Crew pros from the LP sessions for half the show makes a big difference, fleshing out the later, complex productions such as the new hit "The Boxer" (with an unfamiliar verse), and "Why Don't You Write Me." (These are commensurate with the beguiling full-band versions from the 2003 comeback tour.) Lastly, there's a previously unknown, pretty cover of Gene Autry's first song, his 1920s paean for his pa, "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine" (patterned on the Everly Brothers' 1958 version). Though one would like to see a one-concert document from this tour instead, Live 1969 is not a Columbia cash-in. This is open vault paydirt.