A sprawling triple-disc album featuring over three and a half hours of music, The Quine Tapes
is also an especially historic one. Despite two previously issued live albums, the Velvets' live legacy had suggested more than it revealed. 1969
was a fine, arresting document, but lacked both "Foggy Notion" and "Sister Ray," setlist cornerstones, the two numbers most purely evocative of the Velvets in their live setting. And then there is Live at Max's Kansas City
, a lo-fi, low-key, lackluster recording of the band's last show with Lou Reed. The bootlegs were thus crucial; the best came from a show in New Hampshire and featured six songs, as much a testament to a surreal pairing of band and place as to the Velvets themselves. But with The Quine Tapes
, a revitalization is at last secured.
As will be crucial to both admirers and scholars of the band, The Quine Tapes
has two complete and one medley version of "Sister Ray," the latter fused with "Foggy Notion" and taken from a St. Louis source tape from '69 that rounds out the two principle venue recordings of the set. The first, from November of '69 at the Family Dog in Los Angeles, occupies the opening disc, and labors somewhat. The predominantly hippie-type crowd seems at best vaguely aware of the band's presence, and the Velvets' songs are stripped of their typical verve, sounding instead more apathetic than earnest, save perhaps in presenting an affront to tolerance; droning, laconic, in no hurry to get anywhere, let alone end their songs, the Velvets seem to be indulging themselves. As an extension of the group's peculiar ideology, the album is sequenced so that "I'm Sticking With You" and "Sunday Morning" are performed in succession and even received warmly by the Family Dog audience; a coursing, twenty-four minute rendition of "Sister Ray" follows. One supposes that antipathy has its place.
Omitting the final medley, the second and third discs come from late November/early December '69 at the Matrix in San Francisco and display the Velvets as acutely animalistic, a group in a wretched mood with a sound that would like to rip your throat open. For ten minutes, "White Light/White Heat," with its rhythm guitar pulse, virtually fibrillates, and "Venus in Furs," even without John Cale's viola, possesses a ravaging, eviscerating quality, Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch with seventy-five decibels at his disposal. The Matrix version of "Sister Ray" lasts nearly two-thirds of an hour and was, by then, to the Velvets what "My Favorite Things" had been to John Coltrane, a freeform soundscape presenting songs within a song and ideas within ideas. A vital live album then, and a fretful portion of an afternoon.
Copyright 2004 Discoveries / Krause Publications . Reprinted with permission.
Personnel: Lou Reed (rhythm and lead guitar, lead vocals), Sterling Morrison (lead and rhythm
guitar, vocals), Doug Yule (bass, organ, vocals), Maureen Tucker (drums, vocals)