Johnny Thunders

Add Water & Stir Live Japan in 1991

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By the time of Add Water & Stir, Johnny Thunders had been milking his act -- the sloppy, drug-addled bad boy of punk rock for over a decade, and the fact that this live double-disc does not contain much new material would ostensibly make it forgettable. Unfortunately, the 1991 tour of Japan documented on the album was Thunders' last tour (he would die from an overdose only weeks after the shows captured here), and that adds a significance that would be missing from any other Thunders' release. The first electric disc, which consists of concert recordings made with Thunders' full backing band, is actually the less significant one, since there are few new songs included on this set (mostly some covers that were never before recorded) and the performances are standard issue Thunders slop rock, even with the rather superfluous addition of a sax player. It's the second acoustic disc that is worth the effort. Though it's saddled with too many pointless covers, it also contains two of the last songs Thunders ever wrote, "Society Makes Me Sad" and "Children Are People Too," among the most poignant and chilling songs he ever wrote, and captured here with superb performances. "Society," in particular, could serve as an unintentional epitaph for Thunders, with its mixture of regret and honesty. (The version of the song on the electric disc, by contrast, sounds much too overwhelmed by the backing band to let the lyrics stand on their own). Here Jamey Heath's saxophone, which just cluttered up the sound on the electric disc, adds much needed textures to the spare acoustic tracks. Both discs are superbly recorded, which will please fans who are all too aware of the less than stellar fidelity of earlier concert releases. Though the electric disc will be of little value to anyone but completists, the acoustic disc is worth hearing and fans should seek this release out.

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