Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

The Velvet Underground: The Complete Matrix Tapes [UMe, 2015]
Four hour-plus CDs, 42 tracks, 20 discrete songs, zero new material, $29.95 list, and when "Venus in Furs" followed "The Black Angel's Death Song" mid-Set One I decided I could happily live out my allotted years without ever hearing either again. But I was wrong. Sonically these four discs comprise the classic Velvets' strongest live recordings. The performances are lively, varied, and engaged, and there's a perverse pleasure in hearing Lou Reed keep the poetry prosaic and crack wise about his bummers before tiny crowds in a San Francisco more post-utopian than it was ready to admit. Although the Velvets had been playing Marty Balin's club off and on for a month, they seem more assured the second night, Thanksgiving 1969. Set Three ends with a "Sister Ray" played as a 37-minute urban slow jam no less hypnotic than a Grateful Dead blues-and-bluegrass trip. Set Four ends with "Sweet Jane." A-