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The Matrix Tapes [4 CD]

5.0 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews

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Audio CD, November 20, 2015
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Editorial Reviews

In 1969 The Velvet Underground played a residency at The Matrix, a small club in San Francisco and performances from these shows were recorded on a tape deck by guitarist Robert Quine. The band was basically at the height of their powers when they disbanded, and these tapes are further proof of that.
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Disc 2
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (November 20, 2015)
  • Number of Discs: 4
  • Label: Universal Music
  • ASIN: B014WIZP96
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #13,862 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Format: Audio CD Verified Purchase
Back in '74 the appearance of the "1969" double album seemed close to being a requisite piece of the VU canon. The performances were just awesome. I can understand Sterling's complaint that the small venue didn't allow the band to power up to full throttle. Yet, what is lost in sheer head banging jollies is more than made up by an intimacy that gets that much more under the skin. But if intimacy is a chief asset, then even a little lack of clarity can't help but dull the effect. The Matrix Tapes goes straight back to the source, and more than doubles that original 1969 batch with a blessedly simple, intact sonic purity. Requisite? In spades! An absolutely enthralling experience. Happy holidays.
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Believe the hype--the sound is very clean like a studio album but with the intensity of a live album. Mo's drums are pounding. Sterling's guitar is crystal clear. Lou sounds confident. Really going to savor this one.
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When I first stumbled on news that original tapes had surfaced containing high quality soundboard recordings of the Velvet Underground's live sets from their short residency at San Francisco's Matrix Club, during the height of their (at that time) criminally overlooked career - in the late autumn / early winter of 1969, I was frothing at the mouth with rabid anticipation. A considerable amount of wait time was to be expected before these recordings were to be set free from the inevitable legal wranglings. Was it worth the wait? Well, let's just say that in spite of the loftiest of expectations, these recordings quite simply still blew me away. Beyond the Velvet Underground mythos, these tapes were evidence of a hard working band tweaking and experimenting with arrangements of familiar tunes and turning them into something more personal, more direct. Playful banter from Reed makes these captured sets feel even warmer, but it's the reinterpretation of these songs, long embedded in our consciousness from repeat listens, and the fresh treatment the band applies, together with the intimate club setting made evident through the stunning clarity of these live recordings, that differentiates this release from the other Velvet Underground live albums, both official and bootlegged. A most highly recommended artifact indeed.
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"Good evening, we're your local Velvet Underground. I don't want any of you to enjoy the songs frivolously." Lou Reed, the Matrix, 1969.

Was the Velvet Underground (VU) one of the greatest bands of it's period? These tapes (from two nights of an 18 night West Coast stand) just may help you decide 'yes' if you're on the fence. Unlike the Quine Tapes which were low-fi recordings, this set of music is taken from clean soundboard sources that will be a revelation to VU fans that have only heard Quine's tapes. If you're reading this chances are you own at least one of the band's reissued editions, including the recent 5 CD set that includes 18 tracks from this Matrix set, so you already know about the sound quality. So you'll have to decide if having the extra music on this new set is worth it money-wise. Suffice to say this is the best sounding VU you'll probably ever hear. The music is a revelation (turn up the volume on Set 2's "Heroin" (Version 2) into "White Light White Heat" (Version1) for almost 20 minutes of rhythmic guitar intensity), heard now in good sound. Yes, there's a few songs that are repeated, but largely the performances will make you forget that fact--especially if you're a deep VU fan. The discs slip (tightly) into thick cardboard sleeves with nice graphics on the front and a track list on the back cover. The 23 page booklet has a long essay by David Fricke which is interesting and informative, along with a couple of b&w photos of the band on stage and a track list for each set.

The VU was never "popular" during their day--only a few people picked up on the band's lyrics/music and their visceral delivery.
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I am going to write a VERY brief review that will hopefully answer the question on the minds of most people considering the purchase of this new VU box set..."Do I want it?"

And my answer to that is if you are the most casual of DU fans, the ones who own "the banana album" (The Velvet Underground And Nico), and you are most familiar with "I'm Waiting For The Man" and "Venus In Furs" and "Heroin" and that's pretty much all the VU you need and want, you probably won't want or need this.

On the other hand, if you own all the albums...especially the box sets that have been released of EVERY VU album recorded...yes, you want this.

Why?

Two reasons.

Reason #1: "1969 Live: The Velvet Underground with Lou Reed," has been released in a number of formats over the years, from "Volume 1" and "Volume 2" configurations on vinyl and CD to the complete version in both formats. However, if you are at all familiar with the sonic upgrades made to the Peter Green edition of Fleetwood Mac's "Live At The Boston tea Party"...now simply known as "Boston"...you'll know that the original release of "1969" was somewhat flat, muddy, and a recording only for the most hardcore of VU collectors. It wasn't the performances, it was the sound quality, and even with that it STILL was a critics' favorite. Guess what? It's been cleaned up, and on this set, sounds pretty good.
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