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Album Review

For all practical purposes, this is the very first Machine Gun record, comprised of two live performances in New Jersey and New York. Machine Gun was a band that played hybrid forms of rock, jazz, and funk, all from an outsider's perspective. Personnel were the late saxophonist Thomas Chapin, guitarist Robert Musso, drummer Bill Bryant, bassist Jair-Rohm Parker Wells, and vocalist and electronic cutup artist John Richey. Special guests on these dates included the late guitarist Sonny Sharrock and vocalist Karl Berger. From the opening skronk of "In Court," it's obvious that Machine Gun plays high-energy, visceral music. There are riffs and form, but lots of improvisation follows that form, and mutates it further into other forms. Feedback, tape manipulation, and hard rock and punk attitude are at the heart of the Machine Gun approach to music and noisemaking. On "Fancy Products," a striated funk riff is wound around itself and a vocal until it becomes a harmolodic jazz riff that collapses in on itself before remerging as a colossal free improv jam where Chapin and Musso trade out eights for the remainder. On the New York CBGB's date, which covers the latter half of the disc, percussion and guitars create sparkling shards of rhythm as Berger plays a melodica through the center of "Muffy's 1st Date," turning around a small lyric idea until it gradually expands out to involve the entire band in its hypnotic simplicity. Here again, there is little refinement to the approach — just an insistence on energy and forward thrust as the dynamic range collapses by the seventh or eighth track. This is interesting to be sure, and shows promise, but it does grow tedious in large doses.

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