The Joup Friday Album: MC5 – Kick out the Jams

MC5 - Kick Out the JamsThe Cabaret Metro in Wrigleyville neighborhood of Chicago (well known as just the Metro now) has hosted a great number of stellar acts since 1982. Some of which I have witnessed, and most of them were with our group “The Fish Guys.” Brown and Crosse and Sonny frequented multiple times with me to see a number of acts like Jon Spencer’s Blues Explosion, The Jesus Lizard and The Reverend Horton Heat. The Metro holds about 1100 people. So it’s a larger venue in the city but by no means as massive as say the Aragon Ballroom. And it can get loud…really loud. I remember that from JSBX show…just piercing but somehow cathartic.
That was not the case this past Wednesday when the four of us took in the reincarnation of the MC5 headed by guitarist Wayne Kramer under the guise of the MC50. While it rocked for certain, the sound in the Metro that evening was well, perfect.
Krammer is one of two original members of the MC5 still kicking and has toured as the MC5 in various lineups for good part of the past 15 years. The original MC5 were together until 1973 releasing 3 major label LPs. Then a 20 year hiatus and a reformation of the group in 1993 for a tribute to late singer Rob Tyner. In 2003 Kramer took to the road again and gigged with his two other original band mates Michael Davis on bass and Dennis Thompson on drums. They gigged with supporting members until 2012. This past year Kramer recruited Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) on second guitar, Billy Gould (Faith No More) on bass, Brendan Canty (Fugazi) on drums and front man extraordinaire Mark Durant (Zen Guerilla) to celebrate 50 years of Kicking out the Jams.

Not many rock bands release a live album of their first album, especially in 1968. In the mid 60s albums were just becoming chic because of The Beatles, The Beach Boys and to a lesser known extent Frank Zappa. But no artist really had the balls if you will to release a live album off the bat. And on top of that to have your lead singer shout “right now it’s time to… kick out the jams, motherfuckers!” was unheard of…literally. And to top even that, on the original printing of the of the album sleeve read “kick out the Jams, Motherfuckers!” Now if that ain’t rock n rock, I don’t know what is.

So after Rob Tyner’s call to arms, the MC5 kicks off with the cover Ramblin’ Rose. Kramer sings a falsetto lead. It’s balls to the wall. It’s the pedal to the metal. It’s a sonic assault. It’s a punch to the face. However you want to explain the initial experience of Kick out the Jams, all of those would fit. And Kramer makes his presence felt early not just vocally but on his screaming leads on his stars and stripes Fender Stratocaster.

Tyner takes the mic back for the title track Kick Out the Jams. And yeah there is no let up. Heavy hitting garage rock at it’s finest and Kramer leading the way. Probably one of the most iconic songs the band released and for good reason.

MC5’s Come Together has a bit different feel and lyrics then The Beatles song of the same title. Let’s just say the group didn’t forget the sex in sex, drugs and rock n roll. They didn’t forgetthe drugs either but that is different story for a different day. Again Kramer’s big guitar shines. Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa) opens with yet another big riff from Kramer and another Tyner boast of “I’m the man for you baby.” But the best lyric for me is the “Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa” which Kramer is on record as saying they added that just because it sounded good. Read a full interview with him from 1994 HERE.

Borderline has a terrific call and response of sorts between Kramer and drummer Dennis Thompson. This happens throughout the album mind you but more prevalent in this tune. The haunting howling of Kramer in the background really sell this number for me.

And Motor City Burning cools things off a bit with a bluesy strut. But none the less potent MC5. Long extended blues jam which sets up the remaining side of the record nicely. I Want you Right Now is straight rock no chaser again. Moderate tempo jam with a beckoning for the female kind. To quote Tyner,

“And I hope, that you need me too (mamamama)
I want you right now baby (to get down)
I want you baby yes.. (ah tell me baby yes) (I wantcha I wantcha)”

Simple, effective rock.

Finally Starship closes the live recording and was co-written by Sun Ra appropriately enough. This is group’s psychedelic opus spanning 5 separate parts over 8 minutes with a wide array of effects and noises. Impressive again considering it was done live. An ideal expansion of the MC5 into sonic exploration.

So the MC50 performed the album in it’s entirety along with a handful of tracks from the other two albums as well. It was as close to a perfect rock show you could get. Continuing energy, great crowd, perfect sound by a knock-out line-up. They really did the album justice. And to be able to witness one of the great rock guitarist bring it one more time after 50 years. Another Chicago night at the Metro, it doesn’t get much better then that.

Joe Grez

Joe Grez

Joe Grzesik (JGrez) is still an artist developer trying to keep up with new technologies. Photography still has been one of his strongest passions. However, now his main focus has led him back to music where he teaches guitar, piano, saxophone and percussion privately. Music education can never be short changed.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: MC5 – Kick out the Jams
  1. sonny vitkauskas Reply

    Great show and great friends. Right on Brother Joe. You beat me to it.

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