The Velvet Underground
The Complete Matrix Tapes (Universal)
Reviewed by Tim Stegall, Fri., Dec. 18, 2015
You can practically count every person in the room by listening to the handclaps on this essential live documentation of the Sixties' most influential, unsung rock & roll band. Sounds like maybe 10 people tops witnessed NYC proto-punk noiseniks the Velvet Underground assaulting a San Francisco club co-owned by the Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin across 18 nights in late 1969. Thanks to the foresight of one of his partners constructing an on-site four-track recording facility, cultists are now treated to the best-recorded live VU documentation ever. This being the post-John Cale lineup with Doug Yule on bass, the 4-CD Complete Matrix Tapes bleeds less distortion than what White Light/White Heat fans might expect, but highlights including a 35-minute "Sister Ray" going through multiple transformations while expanding on Lou Reed's speed-and-homosexuality shock mantra delivers. All three versions of "I'm Waiting for the Man" get slowed down to a creepy-crawl blues, "Rock & Roll" and "Sweet Jane" get aired on their way to appearing on Loaded, and one can finally hear exactly how this band worked together, in full, glorious high fidelity.