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Have Faith

NINETEEN NINETY-ONE was not the year punk broke. It was the year punk died. That April, notorious punk-junkie Johnny Thunders overdosed in a seedy New Orleans hotel room. Punk music has not recovered since. The godfather of proto-punk guitar slinging, Thunders is memorialized on this 12-cut live disc recorded in Tokyo in 1988. From his customary '60s trash-surf instrumental "Pipeline" to the cross-dressing outrageousness of "Personality Crisis," by glam-era New York Dolls, to the Heartbreakers' 1977 pro-dope "Born To Lose," Thunders' smack-fiend mystique is revealed here in all its ugly, bare-bulb realism. There's even a couple of heartfelt--though hopelessly off-key--acoustic ballads like "Can't Put Your Arms Around A Memory" and "Joey Joey" to enjoy. Seek and destroy.

--Ron Bally


El Paso
Blue Rose Records

HOMETOWN GUITARSLINGER HOPKINS, colleagues, and guests--former MC5 bassist Mike Davis, ex-Giant Sandworms drummer Billy Sed, and Woodcocks guitarist Dave Seger, among them--concoct a high-energy, high-lonesome pop jangle. Hopkins pays tribute to novelist Cormac McCarthy with the Blood Meridian-inspired "Nacodoches," bows in respect to Crazy Horse--the band and warrior both--with the searing "Love and Death," and unleashes sonic lightning storms with tunes like "Wildweed" and "Soul Leecher." It all makes for a top-flight soundtrack for a long desert drive.

--Gregory McNamee


The Singles
Evidence Records

ALTHOUGH THE SUN Ra craze has died down, Evidence continues to reissue the bizarre and rare music of jazz music's equivalent of Ed Woods, Jr. What separates this from the label's previous 15 Ra reissues is the three-decade overview it offers of the Man From Saturn's career: The late jazzman and his Arkestra moved through doowop, straight-ahead Chicago-style blues and big band music before settling into his better-known outer space jazz. Even in his R&B days Ra was a character, as evidenced by the weird "Teenager's Letter Of Promises." But nothing tops "The Sun Man Speaks," where Ra defends he's God incarnate, and if we want the planet to survive, by God, we'd better listen up. It's incredible stuff to hear and validates the romantic notion that while mental illness may be a bitch to live with, it can sure produce some interesting art.

--Dave McElfresh

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