Machine Gun

Pass the Ammo

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This live in the studio recording by Machine Gun is a prime example of how walking the razored wire of improvisation is both ecstatic and fraught with danger. Here, the band -- Thomas Chapin, saxes; Robert Musso, guitars; Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, bass; Bill Bryant, drums; John Richey, vocals, cut ups, tape manipulations -- create eight tunes spontaneously in studio, all of them first takes. All of them are high-energy, obsessive, electric driving improves that characterize Machine Gun as the MC5 of free electric jazz. When it works, as it does on "Brooklyn Brownout," with a charging funk riff upon which are built layers and layers of saxophone and guitar wailing, there is no better music in the world. It soars above everything of its kind. When it doesn't, as on the first two tracks and the final three, which were in front of an audience, it is an exercise in hollow self-indulgence that drags on seemingly forever. There is precious little middle ground. Judging from the solid material here -- virtually the entire middle of the CD -- the evidence that this band had plenty of ideas, a real dynamic sensibility, and the ability to carry all of that to fruition. The problem was that it took them awhile to get started, they didn't know when to quit, and they didn't know how to edit their recordings.

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