Thursday, July 30, 2020

The Velvet Underground - The Complete Matrix Tapes

Recorded over 2 nights - November 26 and 27, 1969 - at San Francisco's The Matrix (owned by Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin!), this 4-CD set was taken from the original tapes with a number of takes never before released (some songs had been included on previous VU live records). This final Lou Reed-led version of the band is at times slicker than the early albums, but they also let loose - particularly Lou - and produce some fantastically maniacal noize.

Of course, there is repetition throughout the four discs as the band, naturally, had a limited repertoire for the tour, but no song is ever played quite the same and the variations are pretty fascinating for fans.

Disc one opens with Lou's introduction and a very laid back take on "I'm Waiting For the Man" with extra, different, apparently ad-libbed lyrics and new solos, followed by a great "What Goes On" and "Some Kinda Love", then an ironically energetic "Heroin" with intense droning guitars and Doug Yule's organ making a wonderfully powerful cacophony, Lou is actually personable and funny in his introduction to "The Black Angel's Death Song", again with Yule's organ replacing Cale's viola and sometimes meandering a bit too much but it is very effective in "Venus in Furs". They are pretty rockin' in the garage-y "There She Goes Again" and "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together", a bit more mellow pop for "Over You" and "Sweet Jane" (again, with different lyrics), the sadly romantic "Pale Blue Eyes" and ending with Mo's novelty number, "After Hours".

Disc 2 - "I'm Waiting For the Man" has some more unique phrasing (wait, has he always said "PR shoes"?! He quips "that's Puerto Rican" right after that line!) and a rave-up ending, there's another great take on "Venus in Furs" (the organ is perfect in this), I always love "Some Kinda Love" and this version has Lou a bit more spirited than some of the live ones, "Over You" is purposefully light weight but  there is a fantastic, extended Lou Reed freak-out, free-jazz solo (ala first couple of albums) in the rockin' "I Can't Stand It" - one of the best versions I've heard yet! This is followed by a hyped up take on "There She Goes Again" then there's a respite from the intensity with the whimsical "After Hours" that Mo sings. The speed must have been kicking in for the energetic "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together" and while I've never been a big fan of "Sweet Bonnie Brown" /"Too Much", this is a good, quick-paced version with a subdued but always fierce'n'dynamic "Heroin" (all of the different takes are great in their own way) succeeding it with some pleasant dissonance, "White Light/White Heat" is nicely rockin' with a terrific Lou solo and the set closes with the powerful "I'm Set Free".

Disc 3 - has the logical opening "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together" after which we get "Some Kinda Love", a cool "There She Goes Again", another intense "Heroin", a sublime "Ocean" and "Sister Ray" is extended to over a half hour, with more wonderfully maniacal Morrison and Reed guitar workouts. Disc 4 again begins with "Waiting for the Man", then a fun'n'energetic "What Goes On", the more subdued but equally great "Some Kinda Love" ("like a dirty French novel, the absurd courts the vulgar" - man, how does one come up with a line like that?), the pure r'n'r of "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together" and "Beginning to See the Light" (with its rousing "how does it feel to be loved"), I always had a soft spot for the romantic "Lisa Says" as well as "New Age" ("something's got ahold of me and I don't know what" is equally as rousing) and, of course, "Rock'n'Roll" has rightfully become a classic, even if it's missing the lovely harmony guitar lines here, "I Can't Stand It" is rockin' with a free-jazz styled solo, "Heroin" is especially dynamic, "White Light/White Heat" is always great and this has another hip, extended solo and the whole shebang concludes with a mellow take on "Sweet Jane".

This is really a quality set, with good sound and fantastic performances, mixing the mania of the early group with the slicker, poppier qualities of the later versions. What an amazing band with incredible songs! I'd say that any fan sound own this!