A band who inspires in their fans a sense of rabid admiration, paralleled perhaps only by the adoration of Deadheads for the Grateful Dead, it is no wonder that lo-fi founding fathers Guided by Voices have been the subject of so many live albums. Perhaps highest on the list is the 1996 release Jellyfish Reflector, which offers a 30-song overview of the band's catalog, making it an excellent, if marginally hard to come by, introduction to the world of Guided by Voices. Jellyfish Reflector is also remarkable in that it captures the energy and atmosphere of the band live in a manner that is listenable without being overly produced or sterile. An extremely close second to that live record is King's Ransom: Happy Motherfuckers and Sad Clowns, recorded April 28, 2000, at the Be Here Now club in Ashville, NC, at the last show of the band's tour for their 1999 TVT debut, Do the Collapse. A lengthy affair, King's Ransom contains two LPs and a 7" and checks in with approximately 38 tracks, give or take incomplete renditions of the Rolling Stones' "Wild Horses," the Beatles' "I Am the Walrus," and strangely enough, AC/DC's "Highway to Hell." As far as production is concerned, King's Ransom is a little airier and grittier than Jellyfish Reflector, but as live albums go it is still far above average both in production and performance. Led by the inexplicably British-sounding Dayton, OH, native Robert Pollard, this incarnation of Guided by Voices includes Do the Collapse and Isolation Drills players Doug Gillard, Nate Farley, Tim Tobias, and Jim MacPherson. With a solid musical backing courtesy of immensely gifted ex-Death of Samantha/Cobra Verde/GEM guitarist Doug Gillard, Guided by Voices pulls a wide variety of songs out of their vast catalog of criminally catchy British Invasion-influenced lo-fi indie pop singalongs, including "Shocker in Gloomtown," "I Am a Tree," "Stinking and Unafraid," "Lethargy," "Watch Me Jumpstart," and the minor-radio hit "Teenage FBI." Also included are several songs from Robert Pollard's solo records (hardly solo, as they generally feature several members of Guided by Voices, but are billed as such to access a loophole in the TVT contract) and his co-release with Doug Gillard, Speak Kindly of Your Volunteer Fire Department. On the Do the Collapse tour, Guided by Voices began including several cover songs in their sets, and while Pollard doesn't always know all of the words (perhaps attributable to his legendary on-stage beer consumption), Gillard and company manage to pull through successfully, especially on versions of David Bowie's "Ziggy Stardust" and the Who's "Baba O'Riley" and "Happy Jack," changed to "Jimmy Mac" in honor of drummer Jim MacPherson (the double dose of the Who is not surprising in light of the band's, or at least Pollard's, obvious fixation on that band).
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AllMusic Review by Karen E. Graves