Good Music We Can Know

Friday, April 1, 2011

"A Horn Player With A Really Fucked-Up Axe": The Velvet Underground- The Legendary Guitar Amp Tapes (1968-69)

Here: a monstrously necessary bootleg of the Velvet Underground playing various shows at Boston Tea Party in '68 and '69-- as heard through the jagged, swirling prism of Lou Reed's guitar amp. Some fan made these recordings by simply plugging into Reed's amp, and there you have it. The results are juggernaut.

The visionary genius of Reed's guitar playing is no secret at this point. From the epileptic free jazz of "I Heard Her Call My Name" to the sparkling, quicksilver rhythm guitar on tracks like "What Goes On" (with the deranged and brilliant "Sister Ray" lurking conspicuously, geniusly, in between), his work has been undeniably influential and largely unparalleled. One doesn't need these tapes to hear the free jazz/avant-garde influences of Ornette Coleman and Sonny Sharrock in Reed's playing-- evidence abounds, especially in other live recordings (especially in the indispensable Quine Tapes)-- but this is a mammoth-sized treat for those obsessed. Along with the marvellous bootleg Sweet Sister Ray, this is one of the most focused and cohesive dissertations on a specialized aspect of VU history.

Reed's guitar is all the way the hell up front, with the rest of the band way back, though not wholly excluded. The drums are actually almost as audible and visceral as ever, and the bass, organ, and second guitar can at least be heard (if more as a support than anything else). The vocals are fairly well washed out, to be sure. So this dynamic works best on the more savage compositions, or at least the more guitar-oriented ones. A selection like "Candy Says" actually suffers from such dramatic reductions. On the other hand, it may come as no surprise that "Sister Ray" takes a truly awe-inspiring form here-- a half-hour of passionate, furious Fire Music, a grand dichotomy of primitive pure expression, and an aggressive deconstruction of the "guitar solo." "Foggy Notion", "Run Run Run", "What Goes On", and a welcome version of the somewhat rare "Move Right In" also fare extremely well, among others. This is pure stuff. Uncut ear scag for your loud days, a real brain-stabber.

Disc 1
1. I Can't Stand It
2. Candy Says
3. I'm Waiting For The Man
4. Ferry Boat Bill
5. I'm Set Free
6. What Goes On
7. White Light/White Heat
8. Beginning To See The Light
9. Jesus

Disc Two
10. Heroin/Sister Ray
11. Move Right In
12. Run Run Run
13. Foggy Notion


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is some shit right here... ROWDY

like getting hit with a taser, at the best of times. Thanks mate