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Saturday, September 28, 2013

MC5 - High Time (1971 us, rough energy pure r 'n' r, 2013 japan SHM remaster)

It makes sense. Out of the dialectic of the first two albums—the hyped, throbbing excess of Kick Out the Jams, the trimmed observances of Back in the USA—emerges the synthesis, High Time, in which the MC5 ditch the influences of their father-figures, Sinclair and Landau, and pledge themselves at last to the Goddess. “Sister Anne don’t give a damn about revolution!” is the opening lyrical shot, with the boys flinging aside their seditionary pamphlets and going to their knees before some sort of iron-buttocked Catholic Ur-mama who sneers at them through her wimple, a queen of loving punishment. 

They have failed to change the world (Back In The USA didn’t even make the top 100), the world indeed has begun to change them, so they come before her humbly. Her gift to the band is discipline—a groove that anchors all their freakishness in solid, primally familiar rock’n’roll. The playing is hot but precise, snappy. And they can’t stop blowing your mind: the twin divining rods of the Smith/Kramer guitars are trained on the old structures and magical spaces are found, little pockets of the future wherein reverbed interludes can occur, fantasias of brass and percussion, and Rob Tyner can ponder the prospect of a “vaccination against castration” while still keeping to verse/chorus/verse. 

The uniformity of vision means that band members can write their own songs, speak with their own voices as it were, and maintain coherence: everyone but Mike Davis has a song or two, and Fred ‘Sonic’ Smith has four. Politically too the stance has changed—no more the macho righteousness of …Jams, the phallic boom. This new anger is in the key of confusion. Now hooked (according to the rhetoric of the third phase) on “loving awareness,” as opposed to the “defensive awareness” of the old, paranoid days, the 5 open themselves to the general mood, which is a bummer-saturated mess. It’s 1971. But they can’t stop being funky. “Over and Over” is tired, pissed-off, helpless, a litany of futility with Tyner cracking his voice in a merciless high key, but Fred Smith’s quizzical solo takes it somewhere else, empowers it with a kind of lofty bemusement: the cycles of pseudo-revolution may boom and bust, but the 5, says the skewed guitar, will survive. 

Unfortunately of course they didn’t; the band fell apart before High Time had made a dent. In the words of Dave Marsh, “an album about the future by a band that did not have one,” adrift in time, a little storm of excellence, glimmering with holy possibility.
by James Parker

1. Sister Anne (Fred Sonic Smith) – 7:23
2. Baby Won't Ya (Fred Sonic Smith) – 5:32
3. Miss X (Wayne Kramer) – 5:08
4. Gotta Keep Movin' (Dennis Thompson) – 3:24
5. Future/Now (Rob Tyner) – 6:21
6. Poison (Wayne Kramer) – 3:24
7. Over And Over (Fred Sonic Smith) – 5:13
8. Skunk (Sonicly Speaking) (Fred Sonic Smith) – 5:31

*Michael Davis – Bass,
*Wayne Kramer – Guitar, Vocals, Piano
*Fred "Sonic" Smith – Guitar, Vocals, Harmonica, Organ, Sandpaper
*Dennis Thompson – Drums, Percussion
*Rob Tyner – Vocals, Harmonica, Maracas, Castanets, Conga
Guest Musicians
*Pete Kelly – Piano
*Dan Bullock – Trombone
*Ellis Dee – Percussion
*Bobby Wayne Derminer – Wizzer
*Marlene Driscoll – Vocals
*Rick Ferretti – Trumpet
*Dave Heller – Percussion
*Leon Henderson – Tenor Saxophone
*Joanne Hill – Vocals
*Larry Horton – Trombone
*Skip Knapp – Organ
*Brenda Knight – Vocals
*Kinki Lepew – Percussion
*Charles Moore – Flugelhorn, Vocals
*Dr. Dave Morgan - Percussion
*Scott Morgan – Percussion
*Butch O'Brien – Bass Drum
*David Oversteak – Tuba
*Bob Seger – Percussion

1970  MC5 - Back In The USA (Japan SHM remaster)

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