"Kick Out the Jams" is the debut album by US hard rock act MC5. The album was released through Elektra Records in February 1969. A bit out of the ordinary the album is a live album instead of a studio recording like the case is with most debut albums. Elektra Records felt that the band´s energy and wild performance were best captured in a live setting. "Kick Out the Jams" was recorded live on October 30 and 31, 1968, at Detroit's Grande Ballroom. The album sparked some controversy as the word "Motherfucker" is shouted on the album and also appeared on the inner sleeve of the first pressing of the album. That version was soon pulled from stores and two different versions with censored album covers where pressed after that. Even after that the band had trouble with the major department store Hudson´s, which refused to sell the album. In reaction to that MC5 moved in an add which depicted Rob Tyner and the words "Fuck Hudson´s". Although the band have later claimed that Elektra Records was in on the idea, MC5 was subsequently fired from the label to end the conflict. Damage control.
From the above it should be clear that MC5 weren´t the type of band who gave a fuck what others felt about them and that attitude is very much present in the material on "Kick Out the Jams". The band´s far left political ties and anti-establishment lyrics only further enhances the feeling that these guys were rebels and meant business. And that´s to a point where some of the talking between the songs is close to sounding like a political rally. But the politics out of the way "Kick Out the Jams" is ultimately just a filthy, loud, sweaty and distorted hard rock album that went just a bit further than most rock albums released around the same time. In addition to some of the energetic hard rocking tracks like "Ramblin' Rose", "Kick Out the Jams" and "Rocket Reducer N°62 (Rama Lama Fa Fa Fa)", the album also features the heavy blues cover of John Lee Hooker´s "Motor City is Burning" and the closing sonic experiment "Starship". The latter is the only time during "Kick Out the Jams", where I think the album loses it´s breath and becomes a bit tedious. Back in 1968 - 1969 this kind of experiment was probably considered bold and maybe even mindblowing to some people, but noisy sound collages like this one have a tendency to become tiresome after only a few spins. Quite frankly I always skip this one.
The sound production is raw, distorted and so "live" that you can almost feel the presence of the audience and smell the sweat, smoke and beer in the venue. I doubt if there are any overdubs on the album, this really does sound like the "real" thing.
Compared to their contemporaries in The Stooges and their more nihilistic ways, MC5 almost come off as gentle and today their outspoken far left wing views also come off as more humourous than they were originally intented, but "Kick Out the Jams" is still one hell of a raw and filthy hard rock live album. It´s the kind of album that you´ll remember long after it´s over. Despite the tedious nature of "Starship" which takes up about 8 minutes of the playing time, I still think a 4 star (80%) rating is warranted. A true classic this one.