Category Archives: colored vinyl

Linda McCartney • Wide Prairie [LP, CD, DD]

Lots of insults have been lobbed at LINDA McCARTNEY since the day she entered husband Paul’s life. “She broke up The Beatles,” “she can’t sing,” “she’s a bleedin’ vegetarian,” etc. This reissue of the posthumous compilation Wide Prairie may not go far in turning that tide, but it will – at the very least – go a ways to helping the Macca nerds of the world fatten up their collections a little more.

This 16-track album was first released in 1998, and 21 years later it’s still an interesting yet slightly troublesome undertaking. There’s a number of great songs here, including “Seaside Woman” (recorded in ’72-’73 during Wings’ Red Rose Speedway sessions), “Cook of the House” (which first appeared on Wings at the Speed of Sound in ’76) and album closer “Appaloosa,” but the rest of the material is cute yet not crucial. A few songs are just not good, like “The White Coated Man,” a screed against lab testing of animals (not a bad cause, mind you) and the bulk of the rest is just fair-to-middling. I do like “I Got Up” and “The Light Comes from Within,” both dust-yourself-off-and-get-back-up-on-the-horse ditties, and “B-Side to Seaside” (another previously released track, the [ahem] B-side to “Seaside Woman”), but at 16 tracks this album is a handful of tracks too many. It’s highly likely that this compilation consists of every single track Linda finished before her death, six months before Paulie first put out this collection.

Wide Prairie has a nice lightness to it, with humor abounding, and some nice cover versions (“Mister Sandman,” “Poison Ivy”), too. You even get two tracks that were co-produced by reggae legend Lee Perry (reggae is actually part of the foundation of this elpee)! Whether you care for Linda McCartney’s girlish singing (flawed but fun) or not, it’s not a bad record at all. It’s just not that great. As for the Macca collectors out there, they’ll want the milk/blue vinyl limited edition (may already be sold out), but there’s also a regular black vinyl version and a compact disc. However, there are no more tracks on this reissue than there were on the ’98 release, so you’re gonna have to be an accomplished aficionado to want to pick this version up.

2.5/5 (Capitol 7728542, 1998/2019)

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R.E.M. • In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 [2LP]

It’s easy for us old school R.E.M. fans to dismiss the post-IRS Records era of the band. Those fabled times were unique in our music experience: Band comes out of nowhere – that is, Athens Georgia – and takes over the college radio airwaves, steadily builds a fanbase with their amazing records and compelling yet elusive videos (you had to look pretty hard to find them at first), and eventually signs to a major label. It’s also easy to say, “they were better before they sold out,” but of course, most of us also realize that R.E.M. didn’t actually do that, since their label switch was on their own terms. Still, I definitely prefer the albums up through Document over the Green-and-on elpees. I certainly didn’t stop buying their albums, though, but aside from Automatic for the People, I’d rate the post-1988 albums lower than those before that.

One listen to In Time: The Best of R.E.M. 1988-2003 tells you that Buck/Mills/Stipe(/Berry) & Co. didn’t really lose the plot – they just matured and morphed into a different monster. Their sonic palette got bigger, better, engulfing the scruffy, indie R.E.M. they once were. In this later personae the band gave us epics like “Man on the Moon,” “The Great Beyond” and “Everybody Hurts,” as well as burners like “Bad Day” and the absolutely gorgeous “At My Most Beautiful.” Even the band doesn’t quite know how to sum it all up; Peter Buck wrote the liner notes to each song and he himself is frequently unsure what the songs mean or where they came from. But one thing is sure: R.E.M. weren’t even close to finished having something to say when the ink on the Warner Bros. Records contract had dried.

In Time was first released in 2003, available in a few different formats (including vinyl), but the 2LP version was hard to find. It’s now been reissued by Craft Recordings in a standard double black vinyl version and a blue colored set offered exclusively by Barnes & Noble. The mastering job on this reissue was done well, and it’s nice to have the 18 songs spread over two records. But I do have a minor issue with B&N’s colored vinyl: the transparent blue could’ve been matched better to the color of the blue moon on the cover. It plays and sounds lush, though, so don’t pay too much attention to that part of my critique. The takeaway from this review is that R.E.M. were one of the great American bands of the ‘80s and In Time is the perfect summation of their latter days.

4/5 (Craft Recordings CR00166, 2003/2019)

 

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Devo • Turn Around: B-Sides & More (1978-1984) [LP]

Limited to just 3,256 copies, the latest Run Out Groove release is a collection of semi-rarities from Akron’s finest, DEVO. Turn Around: B-Sides & More (1978-1984) features fifteen tracks on one slice of tomato red marbled vinyl and is something for the devotee who must have everything. I say this because most of the tracks here will be on the hardcore Devo collector’s record shelf and so this limited edition release would be superfluous if it weren’t for the album’s own likely future rarity.

About half of the tracks on Turn Around are B-sides, such as the title track, “Social Fools,” “Penetration in the Centrefold” and “Growing Pains.” A bunch more are remixes, either for single release or as extended mixes, such as “Snowball (Remix),” “Through Being Cool (Dance Velocity)” and my favorite, “That’s Good [extended version].” And then there’s “Working in a Coal Mine,” which is here presumably because it was originally released as a bonus 7″ single that came with the New Traditionalists vinyl album. It’s not very rare, at least not like “Mecha-Mania Boy,” which was the B-side to “Jerkin’ Back and Forth” and is new to me. (I’m not as hardcore as some Devo fans, for sure.)

Turn Around’s fifteen tracks make for an enjoyable listen, yes, and though it’s running time may seem a bit long for a one record set, the mastering job is good and the record itself was pressed at Record Industry in the Netherlands. Mine’s got some surface noise between tracks but that will presumably wear away after a few listens. The cover is definitely of a 1980 vibe, with a painting that looks like something from a 1930s WPA billboard (not counting the energy domes) and was “adopted for commercial release,” whatever that means. To purchase Turn Around – paraphrasing from “Nu-tra Speaks” – “…is not like spending money, but rather it is an investment in the future and a blow against the empire.” Or something.

3/5 (Run Out Groove ROGV-043, 2019)

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The Band • Music from Big Pink (50th Anniv.) [2LP]

It’s taken me awhile to get to some of the current batch of reissues of great rock albums from 1968. One, THE BAND’s Music from Big Pink, has been remixed for its big anniversary and sounds better than ever.

Now, Big Pink is one of those albums that in many people’s books you’re supposed to like. Most folks who aren’t big Band-ophiles will know “The Weight,” a song that was featured in the celebrated movie, Easy Rider, starring Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper. You might also know “Long Black Veil,” “I Shall Be Released” and possibly “This Wheel’s on Fire.” That’s half the album right there – why not get to know the rest of it?

Well, I was one who felt I should at least give it a try, some twenty or so years ago as a slightly arrogant college radio DJ who’d seen Easy Rider (didn’t get it then) and whose parents (mom and stepdad) had the soundtrack. That album had songs from the movie in it but – very lame – did not include The Band’s version of their own “The Weight,” which was the one used in the movie. The album cover said only “specially performed for this album by Smith”; no explanation of why the correct version wasn’t included. (It was probably stupid ’60s record company politics that kept The Band off the actual record.) But, as I later learned, it was on their own album, Music from Big Pink, which I had seen in record stores but knew nothing about. Eventually I pieced together that The Band had been Bob Dylan’s backing band for a few years, and that they had written some of the songs on Big Pink, their debut album, with Sir Bob. Alright, so The Band had great credentials. But what about the band itself? What were they like? You could say they were country rock or even “Americana before it was called ‘Americana’”. To call The Band rock ’n’ roll is a bit of a stretch, but they do fit in there at the country/folk end of the spectrum, and “Chest Fever” certainly has a killer rock groove. Whatever you call them, The Band were an interesting group of guys playing a unique version of rock that embraced country, folk, blues and gospel in a big way. Wiki it if you wanna.

This 50th Anniversary release of Music from Big Pink has been remixed by renowned producer/mixer Bob Clearmountain, who has clarified the, errr, mountain of elements that went into the original mix for a very nice listen. The vinyl version has been pressed on two 45 rpm records, giving more room for the songs to breathe (and giving you a slight workout from getting up to turn over the records a few times). These new mixes really do the record justice, though I don’t have a copy of the original to do a strict A/B comparison. (My memory rarely serves me well!) As pictured above, there is a special version available at The Band’s web site on pink vinyl, which was naturally the version I wanted. It may be sold out by now, but whether it’s pink or black, the vinyl Big Pink is a worthwhile purchase. For a deeper dive into The Band’s most celebrated album, the box set features numerous outtakes, a 5.1 mix of the entire album and the new stereo mix in 96kHz/24-bit high resolution (on a Blu-ray disc), as well as a bonus 7″ of “The Weight” b/w “I Shall Be Released.”

4/5 (Capitol/UMe B0028420-01, 1968/2018)

 

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Various Artists • 3X4 [2LP, CD]

Record Store Day usually brings with it some interesting, if not must-have, releases. This one, 3×4, is definitely the former and quite possibly the latter. With tracks by seminal Los Angeles “Paisley Underground” bands BANGLES, THE DREAM SYNDICATE, RAIN PARADE and THE THREE O’CLOCK, these dozen tracks make a unique set of a batch of great songs.

The idea was actually pretty simple. Each band involved covers songs by each of the other three groups: 3 tracks by 4 bands. As all four groups were contemporaries and fans of each other (frequently playing together on club dates and more back in the day), the concept makes sense and it offers – when it really works – an additional level of appreciation of the original tune or band. I say “when it works” because there are a few here that just feel like straight covers (see the video at the end of this review), adding next-to-nothing to the original tune’s stature. I should also mention that my two favorite bands here, Bangles and The Dream Syndicate, are not as impressive as I had hoped they’d be. The Three O’Clock does a nice job of interpreting “Tell Me When It’s Over” (Dream Syndicate) and Bangles’ “Getting Out of Hand,” the opening track of the album, but it is Rain Parade that actually carries 3×4. Not only are the covers of their songs quite good (Dream Syndicate does a nice “You Are My Friend”), but their versions of the others’ songs are the best tracks here. “When You Smile” is a more somber take of Dream Syndicate’s early tune, while their “Real World” adds some beautiful psychedelia to the Bangles song and their “As Real As Real” is a super sweet version of The Three O’Clock’s neo-psychedelic track.

3×4 is a must-have for fans of Rain Parade, for sure. If you’re not as big on them as the other bands, you might want to get the CD and not splurge so much on the vinyl. For Record Store Day, the release is available as a double purple swirl vinyl set and a single CD, and in January 2019 the album will receive a wider release that will include digital formats. Being a sucker for colored vinyl (especially purple!), I may seek out that version. On the other hand, the CD is a good economical way to go, and holding out for downloads wouldn’t really be as real as real.

2.5/5 (YepRoc YEP 2596, 2018)

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Paul McCartney • Egypt Station [LP, CD]

It’s a given that I’d have both vinyl and CD copies of PAUL McCARTNEY’s new album, Egypt Station, on its release date, because it’s no secret that I hold Macca in the highest regard and have for most of my life. (Visions of “Junior’s Farm” on Apple playing over and over, ’74, or the wall-size Wings poster hung up in my room, flood my brain.) I’ll admit, from the late ’80s into the ’00s I let my fandom slip, but that just happens when you’ve been with a musician or band for decades. Thing is, I initially missed some great McCartney albums then (hello, Flaming Pie!), and once I realized that there are few indispensable records in the man’s canon, I retraced my steps and picked up the ones I missed. This one, his first new work since 2013’s excellent, ahem, New, is quite a good one.

Obviously, at this point in history, there are few who don’t know Paul McCartney by name and probably fewer who haven’t at least heard half a dozen of his songs (especially with The Beatles) countless times. Then again: I stop in my local Barnes & Noble on release day (9/7/2018) to buy the exclusive 2LP red vinyl version they’re selling, one hour after they opened, and they were already sold out. Dang. So the lady at the help desk offers to find me one at another local B&N, which was nice, and she makes the call and says, “Do you have any more copies of the Paul McCarthy Egypt Station vinyl?” I correct her: “Paul McCartney.” She says on the phone, “Yes, the red vinyl Paul McCarthy album.” I think to myself, you’re older than me and you don’t know how to say this guy’s name?? She does secure me a copy, though, so I try not to dwell on this. Next, I go to my local Target because their exclusive CD has two bonus tracks that aren’t on the vinyl or the standard compact disc version. They have plenty of copies and I exit happy.

But there’s always the nagging feeling that I’m gonna be let down. This guy has put out so many absolutely brilliant records, for as long as I’ve been alive, that he can’t possibly top Band on the Run or Ram or “Girls School” or… and on and on. So I have to accept where the man is at 76 (76!), try to remove the new release from the grand historical context it falls in, breathe, and then insert the disc or plop the record down and hang on.

I’m happy to report that Egypt Station is another quite good McCartney album. It’s neither mired in Beatles-era harmonies and descending chord progressions, nor sadly soaked in the sounds of today (autotune, etc.). What’s extra cool about this one is that, though it’s not a concept album, it does have a cohesiveness that New lacked. Where that 2013 release had some excellent songs (“Save Me,” “Queenie Eye”), it felt a little flat as an album. Here we have great songs peppered throughout a lengthy opus that plays extremely well. Of course some songs are kind of forgettable, but it is a long album. And, again: there’s nearly no way to hear anything McCartney does without subconsciously comparing it to everything else he did. Egypt Station’s first “singles” (released online but with no physical counterpart) seemed just okay on their own, but when you hear “Come on to Me,” “I Don’t Know” and “Fuh You” together on the album with “Confidante,” the epic “Despite Repeated Warnings” and “Hunt You Down,” there’s a much stronger case for McCartney to keep putting out new music as long as he can.

Now, there are multiple formats of Egypt Station to consider. And you know I did! I went with the two detailed above to get the most songs, and yeah, because I like colored vinyl. (UK readers, that same Target version is available at HMV where you live.) There is also a 2LP, 2 colors vinyl version with deluxe packaging (accordion sleeve) available via McCartney’s web site, standard double black vinyl, deluxe 2LP and CD (available everywhere), and an upcoming “super deluxe box set” that hasn’t been finalized yet. (And digital download at all the usual sites.) I guess what you pick depends on how big/gullible of a fan you are. You know where I stand in that spectrum!

3.5/5 (Capitol B002874402 [Target CD], B002874601 [Barnes & Noble 2LP])

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The Rolling Stones • Their Satanic Majesties Request [LP]

Why don’t we sing this song all together: I know many are calling this and other recent reissues cash-grabs, but I don’t care. I like Record Store Day and I don’t apologize for it. I’ve always wanted a copy of THE ROLLING STONES Their Satanic Majesties Request with the lenticular cover, but it always costed way too much – at least if you wanted one in decent shape. Now that the album’s hit 50 years old the powers that be issued last year’s deluxe edition (2LP+2CD, mono and stereo mixes only, no bonus tracks, beaucoup bucks), and for RSD 2018, this single record, stereo mix on groovy blue splatter vinyl. Yes!

Released in December 1967, the Stones were late to the psychedelic table – and they moved on pretty quickly, too. For Satanic Majesties was a one-off (along with the single that preceded it, “We Love You”), and the band moved on to their most storied late ’60s/early ’70s/Mick Taylor period. But the delights of this oft-disparaged album are many. From the beginning of side one and “Sing This All Together,” through the rocking “Citadel” and on to Bill Wyman’s “In Another Land” (they must have been short on material; they rarely did any of Bill’s songs), through the sort-of-reprise “Sing This All Together (See What Happens),” the “front side” of the album is worth repeated listenings. “Back Side” (side two) takes off with the exquisitely awesome “She’s a Rainbow” and its strings arranged by one J.P. Jones (who became the bassist for Led Zeppelin!), the illuminating “The Lantern,” which has been stuck in my head for a week, and then proceeds to conclusion with “2000 Light Years from Home” and album closer “On With the Show.” Satanic Majesties gets short shrift from many quarters but it’s not a bad album at all. It just sticks out like a sore thumb because it’s nothing like what came before it or after.

Whether you go for the RSD version pictured and reviewed here, the deluxe version or just a CD, Their Satanic Majesties Request really ain’t too shabby. I like it more today than when I first heard it, so for it I carry the lantern high.

4/5 (Abkco NPS-2, reissue, 1967/2018)

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Los Straitjackets • Yuletide Beat [LP]

[Review originally published 12/10/2009 on Skratchdisc]

A limited edition 10″ vinyl release, Yuletide Beat is LOS STRAITJACKETS’ second holiday hootenanny, and a worthy companion to ’Tis The Season… [which was reissued last year (2016) on red vinyl – ed.]. Sticking closely to the template The Ventures established many decades ago of doing Christmas instrumentals wrapped in popular rock ’n’ roll arrangements, the ’Jackets nail ten (one per inch) instros down perfectly. This is my favorite kinda music for this time of the year: you get the Christmas tunes, alright, but not the boring, stodgy arrangements we used to have to hear every year on records by Andy Williams and Johnny Mathis. Here you get guitars, pounding drums, and even wailin’ sax doing it the way it oughta be done.

4/5 (YepRoc/Spinout YEP SPIN 2813; available as download at YepRoc Records)
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The Dukes of Stratosphear • 25 O’Clock [EP], Psonic Psunspot [LP]

As alter egos go, there aren’t too many as psychedically pspot-on as THE DUKES OF STRATOSPHEAR. The nom de plectrum of Swindon, England’s XTC, it was used as the name of a pfictitious rock group circa mid/late ’60s that was actually a mid/late ’80s “tribute” to the music that Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory grew up on. Thirty years ago this month the Dukes released the second of their two records, Psonic Psunspot; as the successor to 1985’s 25 O’Clock it was the logical conclusion of an exercise that started out as a lark and ended as a favorite pair of platters by both band and fans alike.

By 1985 XTC, a nominally successful new wave/alternative rock group started in the late ’70s, were starting to run out of psteam. The band’s last two albums (Mummer and The Big Express) had failed to capitalize on the momentum gained by hit singles “Making Plans for Nigel” and “Senses Working Overtime,” and their label (Virgin Records) was noticeably worried. To keep their creative juices flowing, the record company agreed to give the band a tiny budget to record what became the 6-song 25 O’Clock EP and for them a fun break from the pressure of trying to write and record a proper XTC LP. Partridge, Moulding & Gregory enjoyed themselves immensely. Free to do basically whatever they wanted (within the reported £6,000 budget), the musicians fuzzed-up their guitars, played tapes backward and did anything else they felt psuited the concept. What they created in 25 O’Clock was not only a half dozen great tunes, but a virtual Trivial Pursuit of Psychedelic Rock. Here there’s a mellotron like the one on “Penny Lane,” there there’s a guitar lick recalling The Pink Floyd. Though the Dukes didn’t do actual cover versions of the psych and pop songs they got their inspiration from, they clearly channeled their heroes in a wholly believable manner.

25 O’Clock did so well for the band and Virgin Records that XTC had a new mandate (and pressure) to make a successful record under their own name. Their 1986 album Skylarking was just that, with the song “Dear God” becoming a ubiquitous track on alternative and college radio in the USA. By 1987 XTC was given the go-ahead to do another Dukes of Stratosphear record, with a larger budget than the first release. Psonic Psunspot, a 10-track album, expanded the Dukes’ influences so much that it actually comes off as more of a hybrid Dukes/XTC album—too current-sounding to be believable as a ’60s release, but too psychedelically inclined to be credited to XTC. Still, some of the songs, such as the Beach Boys-influenced “Pale and Precious” and single “Vanishing Girl,” are XTC in all but name.

This time, XTC’s US label, Geffen Records, took notice and released the album on both vinyl and CD (under the title Chips from the Chocolate Fireball, including the 25 O’Clock tracks). Once more XTC took a backseat, not hopping into the driver’s seat again until Spring 1989’s Oranges & Lemons. Thirty years after their final release, the Dukes of Stratosphear continue to thrill with their recorded righteousness—often outshining releases by XTC proper. If “Little Lighthouse,” “What in the World??” and “My Love Explodes” don’t smother you in their organic guitar goodness, you may well be a lost cause.

In 2009, frontman Andy Partridge’s record label, Ape House, reissued the albums separately on both vinyl and CD (and in a super deluxe box set called The Complete & Utter Dukes). The 180-gram vinyl versions sound even better than the original UK records do (I still have mine), and the CDs added bonus demos and unreleased tracks to fill in the rest of the picture. These days the band members look back at the Dukes fondly, if maybe a little jealously—after all, if it weren’t for them, XTC may have never had another chance to dazzle us with the likes of Skylarking, Oranges & Lemons and 1992’s Nonsuch. Declaring, on their debut record, that “it’s time to visit the planet smile… it’s time the love bomb was dropped… it’s time to drown yourself in soundgasm,” the Dukes of Stratosphear were both of their time and of all time.

4/5 (Ape House APELP023 [25 O’Clock] and APELP024 [Psonic Psunspot])

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MC5 • The Motor City Five [LP]

It’s oh so tempting to start this review with:

“Right now, right now it’s time to… KICK OUT THE JAMS MOTHERFUCKERS!”

But that would be such a cliché. Everyone knows that that’s how they introduce the song “Kick Out the Jams” on the MC5’s debut album, Kick Out the Jams. Have I said “kick out the jams” enough times so far? Well, lucky for you, this album I’m reviewing here is called The Motor City Five, and therefore I won’t need to say “kick out the jams” again for another few paragraphs, I reckon.

This album is one of the first releases on a new label called Run Out Groove, a semi-crowdsourced label that ostensibly lets the consumer pick what they’re going to put out (via voting on their web site), then does a small, “craft” pressing of the winner, limited to however many copies they get pre-orders for. This release, ROGV-003, is limited to 2,668 copies, which can be bought via the above web site (though this one’s already sold out there), online or in-store. I missed out on ordering this one but found one at a local Seattle area plattery. Mine’s number #0989 for those keeping score at home. It’s pressed on high-quality 180-gram audiophile vinyl (clear with subtle red and blue swirls in it) and housed in a heavy duty Stoughton tip-on album cover – this one’s got that reflective silver foil material that’s so cool. (You can see a vague rendition of me hovering above the MC5 in these photos.) Each Run Out Groove release will be a limited edition, and though some will be reissues of existing albums (releases that only came out on CD, for instance), The Motor City Five is a compilation of tracks the MC5 recorded throughout their original run in the late ’60s/early ’70s. Let’s get into more about this specific release, alrighty?

Kind of a shorter version of the CD compilation The Big Bang! Best of the MC5 (from 2000), The Motor City Five is a 12-track, 50 minute compilation with a couple of raw, pre-Elektra singles and then a selection of cuts from their three original albums from 1969 to 1971. Of course you get (you knew it wouldn’t last!) “Kick Out the Jams,” “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Rocket Reducer No. 62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa),” plus later cuts like “High School” and “The American Ruse.” It’s a killer collection and a superb way to get into the MC5. Their hard rockin’, garage-y psychedelic goodness spawned many a great rock, punk and/or metal band (Stooges, The Dogs) – if you’ve wondered if all of those genres could co-exist in one band then here’s the proof. Few bands can or will ever stand up next to the MC5 in terms of sheer strength and energy. I never got to see them live but I can assure you that if the live cuts here – from their first album* – are any indicator, holy shit! I’m sure my whole life would’ve changed.

Overall this is an amazing account of one of America’s most kick-ass rock bands and a great start for a new record label (though it is an offshoot of Rhino). Yes, I found a couple of nits to pick – the notes on the insert refer to Detroit’s venerable Grande Ballroom as the “Grand Ballroom,” which wouldn’t really matter except that “Grande” is pronounce “grandie” by the locals – but they’re tiny little nits! Besides, you knew that I would find something to knock. It’s my job! That being said, I hope the quality of Run Out Groove’s future releases stays at this level. If it does and you buy ’em then you’ll be adding some seriously great records to your rack.

5/5 (Run Out Groove ROGV-003, 2017)

(* Their first album was recorded live and is called, ahem, Kick Out the Jams!)

 

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