The Velvet Underground :: The Complete Matrix Tapes

No other rock n roll band was recorded live in the '60s as frequently as The Velvet Underground, thanks to characters such as 'The Professor' in Boston, and future guitar legend Robert Quine. The Velvets incited such fervor and dedication among their fanbase that a surprising number of folks lugged the large tape recorders of the day out to gigs to capture the magic. Unfortunately, most of these tapes can be a difficult listen, bathed in their lo-fi , no-fi and (a scant few) mid-fi quality. A whole bunch of Quine's lo-fi recordings (more on that later) were officially released a decade or so ago, and several of the other recordings have been released on vinyl in recent years in questionable legality. Being a fanatic, I've devoured them throughout the years -- beginning with tape trading, then on to CDR's. Just like those who taped them back in the day, I find every note played by the Lou-led incarnations to be at the very least a worthwhile listen, at their best a revelation.

The Complete Matrix Tapes release is the greatest revelation of them all; while many of these performances contained here have seen official release over the years (both on The Quine Tapes archival set, the seminal Live 1969 double LP released in 1974, and a controversial truncated sampler as part of the Velvet Underground deluxe edition a few years back), none have been heard in this bulk and/or this superlative audio fidelity. The Matrix was a small, intimate club in San Francisco that was co-founded by The Jefferson Airplane's Marty Balin. After a disastrous first run in San Francisco at The Fillmore Auditorium in 1966 (as part of the multi-media Exploding Plastic Inevitable, as presented by Andy Warhol, which was publicly debased by promoter Bill Graham), the group began making inroads in several cities (including San Francisco) after the departure of John Cale and the introduction of Doug Yule. While the Velvets played the larger Family Dog venue regularly, they were booked to play the tiny Matrix for a weeks worth of gigs in November 1969.

While there is no denying the innovation of the Cale era, the Yule period saw The Velvet Underground morph into one of the greatest live bands of their time. Drawing upon an improvisational style that was far less aggressive than the band had explored with Cale, the 1969 Velvets were right at home on the ballroom circuit, though in a creative league of their own.

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