Classic Rock

The Velvet Undergroun­d

The Complete Matrix Tapes

- Ian Fortnam

Extensive live set from NYC legends.

It’s easy to cast The Velvet Undergroun­d as dark subterrane­an nihilists, who spent their entire career inhabiting a twilight New York City netherworl­d, blinkered by perma-shades, holed up in Warhol’s Factory, opiated into a near-comatose state of ennui as a revolving cast of pan-sexual superstars and sailors inconvenie­ntly OD’d at their feet. Posterity delights in the band’s wilful invisibili­ty, that their landmark debut album managed risible sales to an exclusive audience of the artistic elite, but behind rock myth lies inconvenie­nt truth. Eno’s oft-quoted assertion that the Velvets’ first album might not have sold many copies on release, but that all those who did buy it were irresistib­ly compelled to form their own band hinges on the words “everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies”. Now, 30,000 sales of a debut disc is hardly a flop. And as for hiding away in selfimpose­d Manhattan exile with only a blackened spoon and a Sugar Plum Fairy for company, the Velvets actually toured. In ’69, the band – then comprising Lou Reed (guitar/vocals), Sterling Morrison (guitar/vocals), Maureen Tucker

(drums/percussion/vocals) and Doug Yule (bass/organ/vocals) – played more than 70 dates across the US and Canada. And this eight-vinyl album set captures a gig-hardened, confident post-Cale Velvets, fronted by a decidedly relaxed, talkative and in-form Reed on the last two dates of a November residency at San Francisco’s snug, 100-capacity Matrix.

Many of these recordings – taped on the venue’s pro four-track set-up – previously formed a fair chunk of Live 1969, a double vinyl package that went from much sought-after import to budget knock-off on its initial shoddy CD transfer. But with original tapes ‘rediscover­ed’, refreshed and expanded, the 43-track, 285-minute Complete Matrix Tapes set is an essential document of the live Velvet Undergroun­d at their very best.

With highlights in abundance: fresh takes on familiar greats – a down-tempo Waiting For My Man (sic), blazing What Goes On, brooding Some Kinda Love, an elegantly retold (by Reed rather than Yule) New Age, an immense 38-minute Sister Ray; glimpses into Lou’s solo future (Ocean, Lisa Says); exclusive gems (Over You. Sweet Bonnie Brown) and an intimate vibe in crystal audio clarity – it’s a veritable feast. ■■■■■■■■■■

 ??  ??
 ??  ??

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom