Unlike most CDs with this title, this one is no slipshod, thrown-together, cheap make-a-buck CD. Live & Rare replaces Reagan Youth's first (good but flawed) album as the real document of one of the better-remembered hardcore bands of early-'80s New York. When they were high schoolers, they regrettably didn't have their sh*t together to accept an invitation for the seminal 1981 compilation New York Thrash, as befit their emergence as a beloved group on that genuinely fresh scene. But oddly enough, when Al Pike joined on bass and '60s Who/Jam/Chords fan (such mod leanings were super-rare in N.Y. hardcore!) Steve Weissman took over the drums, they actually became a far more powerful and aggressive unit, twice the previous power. So it matters that Live & Rare is dedicated exclusively to the Pike/Weissman era (a little more than a year) and wisely compiles the best of five 1983 CBGB gigs and a few studio cuts when the band peaked. In contrast to their passable (but not as loud or smashing) studio work, this live stuff smokes as it should from the memory of these hot, sweaty, packed-in, wild, afternoon gigs. This takes you back! Whew! Although you're deprived of the sight of charismatic, hyper-friendly, garrulous, big-eyed, oddly innocent, but somehow also super-intense frontman Dave Insurgent (whose descent into narcotics took the band down, then tragically took his life), his personality still drives this car. Perhaps the anti-system lyrics seem naïve to the more "why bother" youth of today, but his irrepressible spirit was symptomatic of when everyone believed punk to be the true protest music of its time (and hand in hand, the true hot rock & roll of the period!) in that post-Watergate, Reagan-led era, a position history has validated and vindicated. Reagan Youth weren't the best or the brightest in punk or hardcore, but like the other greats of 1982, they had a certain something -- real belief, real distaste, and real camaraderie -- and with the right band/attack this time, it's exciting once more to hear.
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AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid