Motor City’s Burnin’
Vols 1&2 (Alive/Total Energy)
by Jon Sarre
Detroit, Michigan is the undisputed home of high-energy, supercharged rock’n’roll. It’s been that way since the late ’60s. The Stooges, The MC5, ? And the Mysterians and, uh… Bob Seger are the stuff of legend, right? Even Kiss were sufficiently moved to quit countin’ money long enough to write a song about the virtues of the Motor City. Oddly enough, no one’s ever mustered up the huevos to do some kinda compilation showcasing damn near thirty years of the Detroit sound of which the above three icons (I’ll leave out Bob Seger here, I can’t stand “Night Moves”) are only the tip of the iceberg. Until (you can probably see where this is goin’) now, that is.
Alive/Total Energy has recently blessed the universe with this two volume time capsule entitled Motor City’s Burnin’. It’s got Iggy, ?, the 5 (thankfully no Bob Seger, that fat bastard didn’t even mention Raw Power in “Old Time Rock’n’Roll”), plus a buncha other related, unrelated, sometimes almost unrecorded bands of the past and now, some of whom you may never’ve heard of. “Sonic Treasures,” they call ’em, and they ain’t kiddin’.
Volume 1 kicks off with the MC5 and “Looking at You” (circa 1968). It’s raw, noisy and sets the stage for the music of a strongarm industrial city where blue collar punks of all races, colors, and creeds plugged in guitars as a way to avoid the assembly line trap, the draft call, and the unemployment line. The 5’s late ’60s contemporaries, The Rationals and The Up – white soul boys talkin’ that “pigs and honkies” White Panther rap – are included for more of that “Riots in the Motor City” vibe. Also, from a different part of that left wing, ya got The Uprising (basically the Up, give or take a couple members) with some cowbell funk, and ex-MC5 guitarist Fred Smith’s Sonic Rendezvous Band (recorded in ’77 with ex-Stooge Scott Asheton on drums, sounds like Smith had never left the 5). Also ex of the MC5, Wayne Kramer and John Sinclair (the former, the lead axe grinder, the latter, the manager) provide some recently taped jazzy poetry stuff, as well as a hilarious Mya Angelou (sic) impression. Hitting the final exit of the legacy of Detroit’s favorite gun-wielding punk rockers, we got Bootsey X and the Lovemakers‘ 1987 “Pusherman of Love,” complete with “Kick Out the Jams” reference signs. Speaking of legacies, the Stooges (you can’t make a comp like this without ’em, after all) weigh in with “Death Trip” (an outtake version). After that, ya got a few of Iggy’s proxy-kids: The Ramrods, The Sillies (both from the late ’70s), The Motor Dolls (from ’94) and the not-so fresh faces of Crypt recording artists, The Dirtys (probably playing somewhere, maybe your town, right this very minute).
Iggy and James Williamson kick off Volume 2 with “Consolation Prizes” (offa the Jesus Loves the Stooges EP). Original Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton appears in the interest of equal time with his great feedback drenched and femme fronted Destroy All Monsters (circa 1984 with ex-MC5er Mike Davis on bass). ? and the Mysterians are here too with a newer song; “96 Tears” it ain’t, but ya can’t have everything. Mitch Ryder And Detroit offer some classic rock soul with “City Woman” (1973), Guardian Angel follow suit with “Soul Mover,” and the Rockets‘ “Saigon Shuffle” (circa 1972) is a bluesy nugget that predicts, uh… Aerosmith. There’s a short power pop interlude starring Cynecyde and Va Voom (’80s stuff), then punk with The Boners (kinda Weirdoesesque) and Coldcock (don’t wanna make too many L.A. comparisons, but their “I Wanna Be Rich” coulda been on a split single with the Dils’ “I Hate the Rich”). After that, the always amazing Gories (broke up in ’92) lock ya in their garage for “Queenie,” then keep ya there for the duration of The Hetchmen (new stuff) and Ten High‘s (’90s) offerings. Maybe The Silencers will free ya with their surf-styled instrumental rock (recorded last year), maybe not. Either way, you don’t hear Bob Seger. Ever.
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