The Velvet Underground were in great form in 1969, where they lodged in San Francisco and played a whole stack of sets at the Matrix club. The Complete Matrix Tapes gives us all the live recordings from two of those nights, spread over 4 CDs (oooh!) and 42 tracks (aaaah!). The band are on fine form, locking into several of their best known tracks. Box-set on Universal.
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- The Complete Matrix Tapes by The Velvet Underground
10/10 RobF Customer review, 24th November 2015
You will probably see the term "holy grail" appear in almost every review of this box set, and it would be appear to be apt. Since the 1974 release of The Velvet Underground Live 1969 double LP, the existence of further material from the same source (in this case legendary San Francisco venue "The Matrix") has long been rumoured. A few years back a "sampler" appeared online which confirmed, not only the existence, but the vast sonic upgrade of the material in question.
The venue had a 4 track tape machine in situ and recorded a lot of the acts that passed through. This was the source for (most of) the 1974 LP, albeit via some second generation acetate dubs of the compiled "best bits". Then the 45th Anniversary Edition of The Velvet Underground's self-titled 3rd LP last year included a whole CD of this new found upgrade. If VU afficonados wet themselves at this point, it was with good reason, but hold off changing your trousers just yet as what is now being release is the whole thing - 4 CDs comprising of 4 sets that the band played during the space of their residency in November 1969. The official dates given are the 27th & 28th November (despite the repro ticket on the artwork saying 13-15 November) but who knows how accurate these are as The Robert Quine Bootleg Boxset from a while ago contains some of these exact same performances with contradictory dates.
Unabridged - there are a number of classic Lou Reed "raps" between the songs, where he sounds utterly relaxed and in good humour. The Cale-era songs sound oddly disconcerting as the viola gets displaced by Doug Yule's organ drones, and yes there is a 37 minute version of Sister Ray should you ever need to clear out a party.
Across the 4 CDs the set list varies but it's startlingly apparent quite how tight the band were at this point in their career, with some of the performances being virtually indistingushable. Sterling said that these tapes represented the band playing quietly because it was a small venue (you can almost count the number of people clapping) but that just adds to the charm and shows that the VU weren't just about letting rip.
I'm putting Sister Ray on now. Make your own way out
9/10 Phil Wilson Customer review, 24th November 2015
Long, long awaited, and its true that many of the tracks have been released before on the live 1969 albums, and last years Velvet Underground (third album) box set, but this has got to be an essential VU purchase due the sound quality and the rarity of some of the tracks. To have all these tracks in one place, in a boxed format (similar size to the quine Tapes box set) is great. 38 minutes of Sister Ray can be testing, but a great, long, slow version of I'm Waiting for The Man opens the set. Early versions of tracks that made it on to Loaded also appear, and due to the small size of the crowd, the band are not drowned out by the audience. A remarkable set -- buy confidently.
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