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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Rewind: High Time - MC5 (1971)

High Time - MC5
Produced by Geoffrey Haslam and MC5
Released 6th July 1971
 Did Not Chart

    Michael Davis – bass, vocals, ka
    Wayne Kramer – guitar, vocals, piano     
Fred "Sonic" Smith – guitar, vocals, harmonica, organ, sandpaper   
 Dennis Thompson – drums, vocals, tambourine, reen, tamboes, acme scraper, percussion
    Rob Tyner – vocals, harmonica, maracas, rockas, castanets, conga

Additional personnel
    Pete Kelly – piano on "Sister Anne"
    Dan Bullock – trombone on "Skunk"
    Ellis Dee – percussion on "Skunk"
    Lil' Bobby Wayne Derminer – wizzer on "Future/Now"
    Merlene Driscoll – vocals on "Sister Anne"
    Rick Ferretti – trumpet on "Skunk"
    Dave Heller – percussion on "Skunk"
    Leon Henderson – tenor saxophone on "Skunk"
    Joanne Hill – vocals on "Sister Anne"
    Larry Horton – trombone on "Sister Anne"
    Skip "Van Winkle" KnapΓ© – organ on "Miss X"
    Brenda Knight – vocals on "Sister Anne"
    Kinki Le Pew – percussion on "Gotta Keep Movin"
    Charles Moore – flugelhorn, vocals on "Sister Anne", trumpet, horn arrangement on "Skunk"
    Dr. Dave Morgan – percussion on "Skunk"
    Scott Morgan – percussion on "Skunk"
    Butch O'Brien – bass drum on "Sister Anne"
    David Oversteak – tuba on "Sister Anne"
    Bob Seger – percussion on "Skunk"
Side 1
A1 Sister Anne (Fred "Sonic" Smith) 7:25
A2 Baby Won't Ya (Fred "Sonic" Smith) 5:33
A3 Miss X (Wayne Kramer) 5:11
A4 Gotta Keep Movin' (Dennis Thompson) 3:26

Side 2
B1 Future/Now (Rob Tyner) 6:23
B2 Poison (Wayne Kramer) 3:25
B3 Over And Over (Fred "Sonic" Smith) 5:15
B4 Skunk (Sonicly Speaking) (Fred "Sonic" Smith) 5:31

High Time was the second Studio Album from Detroit's MC5 and their third overall. It was actually their final album.

Dave Marsh wrote in the liner notes to the 1992 Remastered Reissue CD on Rhino Records:

    "Sadly, High Time's 1971 release represented the end of the line for MC5. Hard drugs had entered the band members' lives, and within a year they'd split up, drifting off into various other configurations. At least two members wound up in federal prison on drug charges, and they never did reunite before the untimely death of Rob Tyner in mid-summer 1992".

Whilst not as successful as their Live Debut Album Kick Out The Jams (#30 Billboard 200 Chart) or as influential as the 1970 release Back In The U.S.A. (it only squeaked into the charts at #137), which was virtually a template for the future musical styling called Punk Rock, High Time seems like the forgotten child sitting in the corner screaming for attention but no one is listening!

The album suffered with poor promotion with the sales so bad it never even got within a sniff of the charts! A plus for the album though was that it had great reviews (and I always say people should never take any notice of reviewers...not that I always follow my own advice! πŸ˜‰).

On Back In The U.S.A. the band had actually sounded quite tame in comparison to Kick Out The Jams. Producer Jon Landau had little affection for Psychedelic Rock (I wonder if he ever saw Springsteen's Steel Mill who themselves were quite heavy with a bit of Psychedelic nuance) and favoured a more Rock and Roll vibe (hence the inclusion of Tutti Frutti and Back In The U.S.A.). With their Second Studio outing they had far more creative control and that heavy sound that was characteristic of the live debut album was back again as the band stretched themselves on a number of songs. They had of course not retained the services of Landau, choosing to produce the album themselves alongside Atlantic Staff Engineer Geoffrey Haslam.

The band did not survive too much longer after the album was released and by the end of 1972 they were no more. Drugs had come into the band in a big way and first out the door was bassist Michael Davis. Atlantic Records dropped them after the poor sales of the studio albums and even a scheduled single from the album Over and Over / Sister Anne never got the go ahead (I read that some Test Pressings of it exist and are no doubt worth a few pounds).

There are only two remaining members of MC5 - Wayne Kramer and drummer Dennis Thompson. Rob Tyner died of a heart attack in 1991 aged 46; Fred "Sonic" Smith died in 1994 aged 45 as a result of heart failure and Michael Davis died of liver failure aged 68 in 2012. I have no idea what Dennis Thompson is doing these days, happily retired maybe as his 69th birthday comes up in September. Wayne Kramer is still active musically (see him here playing Kick Out The Jams in London 2 years ago) which is pretty good for a 69 year old! He's also involved in Jail Guitar Doors USA that provides guitars and music lessons for inmates in at least 50 penal institutions.

Take a moment to have a listen if you like stuff like MC5, I enjoyed listening to it twice through as I prepared this piece last night for publication today.
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