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Are You Ready to Testify? (Live)

MC5

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Album Review

Given the huge glut of semi-authorized (and clearly unauthorized) MC5 material that has surfaced over the years (especially in the last decade), there's been a real need for someone to sort through the many live recordings circulating of the band and edit the cream into some sort of workable box set. Despite its title, Are You Ready to Testify?: The Live Bootleg Anthology is not that collection; instead, this three-disc set simply repackages two previously available albums of lo-fi MC5 live recordings. Disc two comes from a January 1, 1970, performance at the Saginaw Civic Center that the Bomp!-distributed Total Energy imprint released in 1996 as Teenage Lust, while disc one contains an edited and resequenced version of the June 27, 1968, Sturgis Armory show Total Energy issued as Starship in 1998. Disc three is a four-song EP taken from the widely bootlegged tape of a September 1968 concert at Detroit's First Unitarian Church; this material and the version of the Sturgis Armory show appearing on disc one were previously released together on a single disc from Receiver, 1995's Black to Comm. (Receiver also recycled some of the Civic Center material on another live compilation, Looking at You.) In short, if you're already an MC5 completist, chances are excellent that you already have this music in some form, and Sanctuary doesn't appear to have gone to any great lengths to clean up the sound on these aging tapes. Despite the often regrettable audio quality (especially the speed faults during the last few tracks of the Sturgis material), there are some great moments here, especially when the band tears into classic R&B tunes (the versions of "Fire of Love" and "I Believe to My Soul" are brilliant), and it does feature a few otherwise unrecorded MC5 tunes, including two versions of the epochal "Black to Comm" and the mega-rare "Upper Egypt." But newbies are advised that the best place to hear the MC5 live these days is still 1969's sonic firestorm Kick Out the Jams, and while Are You Ready to Testify? does offer further evidence of the band's consistently furious on-stage attack, the sloppy sound quality ultimately blurs the impact — when they call this material "bootleg," they ain't kidding.

Biography

Formed: 1964 in Detroit, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '00s, '10s

Alongside their Detroit-area brethren the Stooges, MC5 essentially laid the foundations for the emergence of punk; deafeningly loud and uncompromisingly intense, the group's politics were ultimately as crucial as their music, their revolutionary sloganeering and anti-establishment outrage crystallizing the counterculture movement at its most volatile and threatening. Under the guidance of svengali John Sinclair (the infamous founder of the radical White Panther Party), MC5 celebrated the holy trinity...
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