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MC5

WHEN A SUPER-stoked Chuck Berry hypothetically met Sun Ra and James Brown in a street fight at the height of the Vietnam War demonstrations, the radical MC5 were born, destined to become the true progenitors of punk. Along with the Stooges, the MC5 were the most influential rock 'n' roll band to emerge from the dynamite Detroit music scene in the early '70s. Boasting 21 brain-melting live and studio tracks (including the rarely heard A-Square label single version of "Looking At You"), as well as informative and colorful liner notes penned by irrepressible rock scribe Jimmy Guterman, The Big Bang! can do absolutely no wrong.

Kicking off with the Nuggets-era garage cover "I Can Only Give You Everything," the Motor City Five never looked over their shoulders or gave a shit what the burgeoning corporate rock world thought of their revolutionary stance to destroy (via their confrontational music) who or whatever stood in their way. This superlative collection, the first ever issued here in the States, offers something for everyone. From the most fanatical must-own-everything MC5 freak to the novice looking to break from the rudimentary confines of the Offspring to discover the primordial roots of punk, The Big Bang! delivers musical and lyrical fireworks at every spin.

Nothing compares to the overall sonic smack-down of the eradicating live tracks taken from the uncensored Kick Out The Jams album (captured perfectly on the rabble rousing R&B cover of "Ramblin' Rose"), released on Elektra in 1969. Rob Tyner's soulful wail pulverizes; the "atom smashing" guitars of Wayne Kramer and Fred "Sonic" Smith search-and-destroy; and the rhythm section of drummer Dennis Thompson and bassist (and low-profile Tucson local) Michael Davis sets a rhythmic fortress as solid as the Taj Mahal. Later studio cuts from Back In The USA (1970) and the slightly disappointing High Time (1971) miss the mark a bit in trying to capture the naked, raw turmoil of the MC5 live spectacle.

More by Ron Bally

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