"I want to hear some revolution out there! Time has come for you to decide whether you're going to be part of the problem or the solution. . . . Are you ready to testify?!" With that stirring call to '60s activism, Rob Tyner kicked off one of the most gloriously noisy live albums ever made.
But few are aware of the unadulterated power at the heart of "Kick Out the Jams." Even back in '69, most rock fans missed the boat. This startling debut album was a good eight to 10 years ahead of its time: With its hammering guitar chords, reckless pace and incendiary spirit, it was punk rock before there was such a term. Songs like "Come Together" (no, not the Beatles' tune) and the rousing title track were delivered with such explosive energy that they often feel as if they're about to careen out of control. Eschewing the solos that defined much of the heavier rock of the day, guitarists Fred (Sonic) Smith and Wayne Kramer stuck mostly to the type of intense riffing that would help define the post-'70s hard-core and thrash bands (though the duo does deliver some tasty leads during the slithering blues number "Motor City Is Burning").
The group couldn't have found a more suitable front man than Tyner, whose vocals are sometimes rebellious, sometimes desperate and always passionate and whose soulful political raps resonate with the anti-establishment spirit of the times. Based in Detroit (MC5 stood for Motor City Five), the group was a kind of house band for John Sinclair's radical White Panther Party and was known for wearing American flags and for screaming political slogans laced with obscenities. Indeed, some stores refused to carry "Kick Out the Jams" because of a profanity shouted out by Tyner at the start of the title song.
(After the cobweb-blasting "Kick Out the Jams," the 5 released two studio albums that were acclaimed by critics, but poor sales contributed to the band's demise in the early '70s.)