Human Being Lawnmower: The Baddest and Maddest Of MC5


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Human Being Lawnmower: The Baddest and Maddest Of MC5 Review

by Richie Unterberger

If you want more MC5 than the official albums but aren't interested in collecting each and every archival release of additional material, this is one of the better supplementary collections to get. Be cautioned that like all of the collector-oriented MC5 product that's come out on Alive/Total Energy, it is erratic -- it's just less erratic than other such releases. About half of it was previously unreleased, these cuts including a studio outtake of "Skunk" that moves along pretty well in its blend of the band's usual incendiary hard rock with soulful brass, at least once you get past the grandstanding drum introduction. Also previously unissued: a respectable live cover of Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul" recorded live at the same shows that produced the Kick out the Jams album, though it unaccountably fades out while they're still in the midst of a chorus; an instrumental alternate take of their early single "Looking at You"; the blues-soul/rock "Gotta Keep Movin'," a studio outtake from High Time; "Rama La Fa Fa Fa," another outtake from the live gigs that yielded Kick out the Jams and not one of their best early songs, if a characteristic one; and an unreleased instrumental guitar-only demo of "Over & Over." As for the rest, MC5 completists might be distressed to have to buy a bunch of previously issued songs they might already own to get to the unreleased stuff. But at least most of those previously available songs are among the more listenable of the cuts that have already been exhumed. These include "Motor City Is Burning" (another performance dating from the live Kick out the Jams shows), a muffled studio outtake of "American Ruse," and a "Flat Mix" of the early single "Borderline" that, say the liners, are taken for the first time from master tapes. Some of this, though, is the kind of stuff that only diehards will want to sit through repeatedly, like the interminable "I'm Mad Like Eldridge Cleaver," which ends with cacophonous jamming just as indulgent as the worst of the California hippie bands to whom MC5 were supposedly alternatives. Lengthy liner notes by John Sinclair weave details about the tracks' sources with personal recollections of the group.

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