Posted: July 10, 2005 in Best of file 23, Reviews Archive

OK, so it’s a couple of years old; it’s still new to me.

This is a 60-minute, 12 song performance recorded in March 2003 in London. Most reunion tours are pretty lifeless affairs; these guys have been around almost as long as the Rolling Stones, but man, do they rock! MC5 was pretty much history by the time I was a teenager.

The late John Sinclair,(their original second guitarist) was forced to serve 2 1/2 years in prison for giving a female narcotics officer two joints. And in a later separate trial after a drug deal gone bad, the Man threw the book at Wayne Kramer and sentenced him to a lengthy prison sentence. It’s hard to believe the Government found these guys such a threat, but they got the Charles Manson treatment in general.

They were dropped by Elektra Records, and Uncle Scam thought that was the end of MC5. Close, but no cigar!

But the big bottom line here is the music. Most music from the Sixties doesn’t hold up very well these days. It’s amazing listening to this set how timeless this music is. The influences are all over the place: R&B, rock, jazz etc. There are only three surviving original members, but they fill in the holes with many guest vocalists and a two-piece horn section. Out of the dozen songs here, there’s not a clunker in the lot.

I love watching Wayne Kramer play guitar. In some strange way, he reminds me of watching Adrian Belew; he’s all over the neck of his Fender and even when he’s not center stage, he’s busy. One of their guest vocalists, Motorheads’ Lemmy, reminds the crowd that if it weren’t for MC5, there wouldn’t be a Motorhead, they did it all first. And he’s right.

Forget that hack Ted Nugent, these were the original Motor City Madmen.

Since this is only an hour-long show, the disc is padded with many extras. Unfortuantly the video quality is so bad on a lot of it (due to its age I’m sure) it’s challenging to watch most of it. It’ll make you appreciate how well-filmed the live show is in comparison to trying to watch their old, poorly filmed sixties tv appearances. There’s also some silent footage filmed by the US Dept. of Defense(!) of MC5 at the 1968 Democratic National Convention. But the hour-long show is the real reason to buy this, which you should.

It’s about time these guys got a little well-deserved respect, after 35 years of shabby treatment from the system by and large.

This file 23 Magazine review originally published on 7/10/05


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