Friday, February 10, 2012

The MC5 - Phun City, UK

This bootleg was recorded at the Phun City Festival in Worthing, UK in 1970. By all reports, the Five slayed at this show and showed the Limeys how it was done in Detroit! Unfortunately, being a boot from 1970 means that the sound quality is pretty spotty, as best. Very muddy, but you are still able to hear all of the instruments (though not with the best mix, by any stretch of the imagination), though the audience is almost inaudible, which means that it doesn’t sound quite as exciting as it might have.

This set opens with their usual Wayne Kramer-falsetto-led “Rambling Rose”, with crude lines such as “the more you suck it, the more it grows” – yes they were cocky (literally!) at this show! Up next is the fabulous “Tonight”, from Back in the USA and an all-too-long pause with some non-sequitor-ish (without the visuals) stage patter before moving into “Rama Lama (Fa Fa Fa)”. The guitars are not quite as fierce as on Kick Out the Jams, so this version is a bit tamer, though still strong and with a good audience interplay and dynamic section in the middle.

The group loses their momentum with the inclusion of Kramer’s ballad, “Miss X”, which was the weakest song off of their then latest album, High Times, but regain their footing with a high-energy “Looking At You”. The highlight of the set, for me, is the feedback-drenched “I Want You”, starting with literally minutes of nothing but noise. Dennis Thompson shows why he got the nickname “Machine Gun” as he barrels into the tune and the guitars are quite powerful and over-driven here. The middle section has more guitar interplay between Smith & Kramer than on their debut and there is much more dynamic work, with a number of builds and releases (appropriate for a song about sex) and a whole new jam portion, making this almost a whole new tune. Pretty damn superb!

“Sister Anne” is also strong, though they seem to be blowing out the recording mic at this point, which mars the sound quite badly, and the solo seems a little off, as well. An incredible song, but a pretty awful recording. They close with their usual “Kick Out the Jams”/”Black to Comm”, which is always anything but “usual”. "KOTJ" is rockin’ as ever – this is the pure definition of high-energy r’n’r – and while BTC sounds like it was probably amazing in person, here the tape starts flipping out and speeding up and slowing down, so it is hardly a faithful document. In fact, it sounds something like a vacuum cleaner in being used while you are trying to listen to the song.

All in all, this would only be recommended to purist fans, as the sound quality is pretty dreadful. But, it is a good document of the group just before it was about to split up.