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$51.49

Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

Distinctions Best New Reissue
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Rock - Released March 12, 1967 | Polydor

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Rock - Released January 1, 2012 | Polydor

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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$12.99

Pop - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

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Rock - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

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VU

Rock - Released February 1, 1985 | Universal Records

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Rock - Released August 16, 2013 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

If you stepped out on your back porch one morning and saw Pegasus contentedly munching your crabgrass shortly before taking flight, you'd sound a bit churlish if you pointed out that his figure-eight was not perfectly executed. Similarly, in 1992 the prospect of Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Maureen Tucker burying the collective hatchet and mounting a concert tour as the Velvet Underground seemed only marginally more likely than the previous scenario, so perhaps the most remarkable thing about this live document of the briefly reunited VU performing for a wildly enthusiastic crowd in Paris is that it exists at all. Anyone hoping for a hi-fi re-creation of this band's astounding 1966-1968 live shows is pretty much out of luck; Live MCMXCIII is short on exploration of the outer limits of noise, and long on tightly paced songs, with all of the "hits" featured prominently. What's more, Reed often seems to be having a hard time with his vocals, Cale's singing makes him sound like an especially pretentious veteran of the Old Vic, and Morrison should have spent a bit more time wood-shedding before taking the stage for the first time in two decades. But when they come together, with Tucker's always-steady beat behind them, something remarkable happens -- they become the Velvet Underground, perhaps older and a bit worse for wear, but still sounding like one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and when the spirit is with them, they can still make the earth shake. Neophytes and the casually interested should check out 1969: Velvet Underground Live instead, but for longtime fans, Live MCMXCIII is an enjoyable and unexpectedly moving performance, as four of rock's unsung heroes take one last stroll through the songs that made them belatedly famous...and finally get the ovations they deserve. [Live MCMXCIII is available in three forms -- a double-disc set, an edited single disc, and a limited edition single-disc package. Because it features a full concert, the double-disc set is preferable.] ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 1, 1988 | Island Mercury

Sadly, outside of a handful of audience tapes of extremely variable fidelity, no one thought to make a live recording of the Velvet Underground during their 1967-1968 peak period with John Cale prodding Lou Reed into remarkable flights of noise-rock fancy. However, in 1969, a VU fan who was a recording engineer brought a reel-to-reel tape machine to two shows the band played during an engagement at a club in Dallas called The End of Cole Avenue; a few months later, the band played The Matrix in San Francisco, where a tape machine had been installed into the hall's sound system, and the band was allowed to record their set. Five years later, long after the Velvet Underground had collapsed and Lou Reed's solo career was on the rise, Mercury Records compiled highlights of the Dallas and San Francisco tapes into a two-record set, 1969: Velvet Underground Live, and it is without question the best document of this band's considerable strengths as a live act. While they were a somewhat more sedate band with Doug Yule on bass rather than Cale, they still had plenty of life left in them at this stage of the game; there are few voyages into the sonic unknown here, but Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison had matured into one of rock's most potent guitar combinations, Maureen Tucker was as distinctive a drummer as anyone who picked up a pair of mallets, and with Doug Yule at her side, they comprised a truly superb rhythm section. Sounding tight, confident, and passionate on every cut, this set finds the band visiting highlights from all four of their studio albums, as well as a handful of previously unreleased numbers. 1969: Velvet Underground Live captures the many sides of VU's musical personality with commendable skill, and while it isn't their best album, it's one of the best places for a beginner to explore their body of work. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 19, 2016 | Rhino Atlantic

There's a certain amount of disagreement among Velvet Underground scholars regarding whether or not this album, recorded by Andy Warhol associate and longtime fan Brigid Polk on a portable cassette recorder on August 23, 1970, does in fact document Lou Reed's final appearance with the VU. If this wasn't his last stand with the group, it was certainly close to the end of the line, and while the performance is technically strong, it isn't especially inspired, with Reed sounding more than a bit weary. (At this point, the band was near the end of a three-month residency at Max's, doing recording sessions for Loaded during the day, a schedule that would tax most performers.) The absence of Maureen Tucker on drums (who was pregnant and sitting out the Max's shows) makes an even bigger difference; the replacement of her steady, tribal pulse in favor of Billy Yule's busy, sometimes sloppy style does these songs no favors. But there are a few lovely moments, including rare live performances of "After Hours" and "Sunday Morning," and Reed and Sterling Morrison lock guitars with their usual authority on "Waiting for the Man" and "Beginning to See the Light." The audio quality isn't great, but given the circumstances it's better than you might expect (it's OK by the standards of an early-'70s bootleg), though historical merit seems to be more the issue than high fidelity. And yes, that really is Jim Carroll ordering double Pernods and asking about the availability of Tuinal between songs. Fun for fans, but 1969: Velvet Underground Live is a much stronger document of this band's on-stage prowess. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released January 1, 1974 | Island Mercury

Sadly, outside of a handful of audience tapes of extremely variable fidelity, no one thought to make a live recording of the Velvet Underground during their 1967-1968 peak period with John Cale prodding Lou Reed into remarkable flights of noise-rock fancy. However, in 1969, a VU fan who was a recording engineer brought a reel-to-reel tape machine to two shows the band played during an engagement at a club in Dallas called The End of Cole Avenue; a few months later, the band played The Matrix in San Francisco, where a tape machine had been installed into the hall's sound system, and the band was allowed to record their set. Five years later, long after the Velvet Underground had collapsed and Lou Reed's solo career was on the rise, Mercury Records compiled highlights of the Dallas and San Francisco tapes into a two-record set, 1969: Velvet Underground Live, and it is without question the best document of this band's considerable strengths as a live act. While they were a somewhat more sedate band with Doug Yule on bass rather than Cale, they still had plenty of life left in them at this stage of the game; there are few voyages into the sonic unknown here, but Lou Reed and Sterling Morrison had matured into one of rock's most potent guitar combinations, Maureen Tucker was as distinctive a drummer as anyone who picked up a pair of mallets, and with Doug Yule at her side, they comprised a truly superb rhythm section. Sounding tight, confident, and passionate on every cut, this set finds the band visiting highlights from all four of their studio albums, as well as a handful of previously unreleased numbers. 1969: Velvet Underground Live captures the many sides of VU's musical personality with commendable skill, and while it isn't their best album, it's one of the best places for a beginner to explore their body of work. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released November 20, 2015 | Polydor

The Velvet Underground are arguably the most important American band of the second half of the '60s, but few seemed to think so at the time. The Velvets flew under the radar of public recognition through most of their career, and no one bothered to professionally record their live shows between 1966 and 1970. There have been plenty of authorized and illicit releases of Velvets live tapes (mostly audience recordings) since the early '70s, but one thing they had in common was compromised fidelity; in terms of audio, "pretty OK" is as good as they get, and for fans, listening for the music through the murk is a frustrating challenge. In November 1969, the Velvet Underground played a two-night stand at the Matrix, a club in San Francisco that had a four-track recording rig wired into its sound system; the four sets the band played were taped, and rough mixes of those shows were featured on the fine collection 1969: Velvet Underground Live, and they ranked with the very best VU live documents despite the hiss that hovered over the music. More than 40 years after that album was released, the original Matrix four-track masters have been remixed and remastered, and the four-disc box set The Complete Matrix Tapes marks the first time this material has been released in full. Though extensive excerpts from the new mixes appeared on the expanded 45th anniversary edition of the VU's self-titled third album, and many of these performances are familiar to folks who know 1969: VU Live well, this set's fidelity is a major selling point, even if you're not an audiophile. The Complete Matrix Tapes offers over four and a half hours of the Velvet Underground playing well and recorded with unobtrusive clarity, allowing the listener to hear the details of the performances and the ambience of the room as never before, and it's a remarkably exciting listen. As four sets appear in full, several songs are repeated (each disc includes takes of "Heroin," "Some Kinda Love," and "We're Gonna Have a Real Good Time Together"), but each performance has a personality of its own, and hearing how the band reshaped the longer numbers in repeated versions is a delight for fans into the minutia. (Lou Reed also changes up the lyrics on a few numbers here.) And while conventional wisdom has it that the post-John Cale edition of the band was less fiery and inventive, this lineup -- Reed on guitar and vocals, Sterling Morrison on guitar, Doug Yule on bass and organ, and Maureen Tucker on drums -- plays with strength, commitment, and a sense of adventure that ranks with their best and most purely enjoyable work. The bulk and repetition of The Complete Matrix Tapes will scare away a few casual observers, but anyone who wants to know how this band sounded on-stage on two good nights will find this to be a revelation; it's the best and best-sounding VU live release to date. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released February 2, 1985 | Universal Records

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Rock - Released March 1, 1969 | Polydor

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Rock - Released January 1, 2001 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Rock - Released December 10, 2013 | Polydor

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Rock - Released March 12, 1967 | Polydor

Rock - Released October 30, 2015 | Rhino Atlantic

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Rock - Released November 24, 2014 | Polydor

Upon first release, the Velvet Underground's self-titled third album must have surprised their fans nearly as much as their first two albums shocked the few mainstream music fans who heard them. After testing the limits of how musically and thematically challenging rock could be on Velvet Underground & Nico and White Light/White Heat, this 1969 release sounded spare, quiet, and contemplative, as if the previous albums documented some manic, speed-fueled party and this was the subdued morning after. (The album's relative calm has often been attributed to the departure of the band's most committed avant-gardist, John Cale, in the fall of 1968; the arrival of new bassist Doug Yule; and the theft of the band's amplifiers shortly before they began recording.) But Lou Reed's lyrical exploration of the demimonde is as keen here as on any album he ever made, while displaying a warmth and compassion he sometimes denied his characters. "Candy Says," "Pale Blue Eyes," and "I'm Set Free" may be more muted in approach than what the band had done in the past, but "What Goes On" and "Beginning to See the Light" made it clear the VU still loved rock & roll, and "The Murder Mystery" (which mixes and matches four separate poetic narratives) is as brave and uncompromising as anything on White Light/White Heat. This album sounds less like the Velvet Underground than any of their studio albums, but it's as personal, honest, and moving as anything Lou Reed ever committed to tape. ~ Mark Deming
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Rock - Released September 26, 1995 | Polydor

Does this five-CD box set feature an abundance of essential material? Certainly. It has all four of the studio albums released by the Lou Reed-led lineup, and a wealth of previously unreleased goodies. Is it an essential purchase? That depends on your level of fanaticism. Most serious Velvet fans have all four of the core studio albums already (although the third, self-titled LP is presented in its muffled, so-called "closet" mix), and will be most interested in the previously unavailable recordings, which do hold considerable fascination. The entire first disc is devoted to a drummer-less 1965 rehearsal tape in John Cale's loft, with radically different, almost folky run-throughs of most of the important songs from their classic debut, as well as a song that only made it onto Nico's first LP ("Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams"), and one which makes its first appearance anywhere (the Dylanesque "Prominent Men"). Other big bonuses include no less than seven outtakes from Loaded and other songs re-done by Reed on his early solo albums. And there are sundry other unreleased live and studio items, highlighted by a scorching live 1967 "Guess I'm Falling in Love" and the 1969 demo "Countess From Hong Kong." There are also highlights from VU and Another View, longer versions of Loaded's "Sweet Jane" and "New Age," and an 80-page booklet. The thing is, though, that virtually everyone who's interested in this material has already bought the four studio albums, sometimes several times over. A separate release of the two discs or so of truly new material would have been welcomed by the many fans who aren't interested in paying for a five-CD box of stuff when they already have well over half of it. ~ Richie Unterberger

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The Velvet Underground in the magazine