Sunday, December 6, 2015


The V.U. Matrix tapes, from a two-night stand in San Francisco in 1969, have been floating around for years on various packages, but this is the first time all available songs have been released, and all in one package. Recorded with a pro set-up installed at the side of the stage by the ownership, it was turned on to grab all four shows the group did those two nights, with some repetition but lots of variety as well.

This is the post-Cale lineup, nothing to sneeze at though, and probably better in focus and reliability. Replacement Doug Yule provided steady bass and organ when needed, plus good backing vocals for Lou Reed, now obviously in charge and the star. The group no longer felt like an art project either. This was a serious show, and could be appreciated by a more mature rock audience of that time. Not that there was much of an audience; anywhere from a dozen to a hundred, at various times in the sets. But those who were there liked it, and were appreciated back by the band.

The V.U.'s sets were still edgy, of course. Reed was still singing about heroin and S&M and NYC street life. And they could wind themselves up into a manic jam, such as the 36-minute version of Sister Ray on set three, the only time it was attempted during the run. But the tunefulness and love of pop songs that Reed also had were on display as well. The basic set featured three-minute hopeful hits We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time Together", Some Kinda Love and There She Goes Again,

Reed was also trying out some of his new stuff that ended up on Loaded, the immortal tracks Rock and Roll and Sweet Jane, the latter quite different, and closer to the speed Cowboy Junkies did it at. Yes, you could pare down this four-disc set to a two-disc one and get rid of lots of repetition (four versions of Heroin, anyone?), but each set has its own distinct charm. Set one has the only Pale Blue Eyes for instance, and closes on Maureen Tucker's always cute After Hours. And while the other three all feature 12 songs, set three only has six, thanks to the epic Sister Ray and the only appearance of Ocean. Might as well have it all.

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