Now Rhino has released a great collection of the important group's live performances.† Released under the title It's Alive: 1974-1996 this two-disc collection contains an amazing 118 songs from 33 concerts.† Running over four hours, this is a must-buy for all Ramones fans.
The Ramones started out in New York City in 1974, playing in clubs on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, including the now famous CBGB's.† Their songs were very short, energetic, and loud, featuring shredding guitars and fast drumming.† As an answer to disco that was currently infesting radio playlists and dance clubs, the Ramones stripped rock down to its basics.† Eschewing the glitz and glamour as well as the overproduced sound that many groups were embracing at the time, the Ramones songs were simple, hard hitting, reminiscent of early rock and roll.
They didn't aim for virtuosity but for energy and fun.† Judy is a Punk, featured on their first album, has an intro that consists of a single cord played over and over rapidly.† Simple but effective, the song only lasts for a minute and a half, but that short time is filled with power.
One of the defining characteristics of the band was their odd sense of humor.† Many of their songs are hilarious such as The KKK Took My Baby Away and Teenage Lobotomy.† In Beat on the Brat Joey sings:
Beat on the brat
Just the sort of thing to make parents gasp in horror and have the kids in stitches.
The group also didn't stray away from songs about drug use.† Many other bands had previously written about drugs, but always couched in slang and metaphors.† The Ramones were never ones to go for subtle, and songs like Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue left no doubt what they were singing about.
This set covers the group's whole career, from early NY club appearances in 1974 through one of their last gigs in Buenos Aries in 1996 and many, many concerts in between.† The band changed line-up a few times over the years, and most of these permutations are accounted for.† (Clem Burke from Blondie joined the group as Elvis Ramone but only performed on stage with the band twice.† Neither performance is included in this set unfortunately.)† There's a lot of repetition of songs, the set has four versions of Blitzkrieg Bop, and three each of Shena is a Punk Rocker and Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue but that's no necessarily a bad thing.† It's interesting to see how the songs change over time and with different lineups.† (I was a little disappointed that their version of the Spiderman theme is nowhere to be found.)
This set contains the following songs:
CBGB - New York, NY (9/15/74):
Max's Kansas City - New York, NY (4/18/76):
The Club - Cambridge, MA (5/12/76):
Max's Kansas City - New York, NY (10/8/76):
My Father's Place - Roslyn, NY (4/13/77):
- New York, NY (6/11/77):
The Second Chance - Ann Arbor, MI (6/26/77):
The Ivanhoe Theater - Chicago, IL (7/6/77):
The Armadillo - Austin, TX (7/14/77) Early Show:
The Armadillo - Austin, TX (7/14/77) Late Show:
Liberty Hall - Houston, TX (7/15/77):
Liberty Hall - Houston, TX (7/16/77):
Don Kirshner's Rock Concert - L.A., CA (8/9/77):
The Camera Mart Stages - New York, NY (9/3/77):
Alive, The Rainbow Theatre - London (12/31/77):
Musikladen - Bremen, Germany (9/13/78):
Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (9/19/78):
"Top of the Pops" - London (9/28/78):
Oakland, CA (12/28/78):
San Francisco Civic Center, S.F., CA (6/9/79):
"The Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (1/15/78):
"Top of the Pops" - London (1/31/80):
Sha Na Na - Los Angeles, CA (5/19/80):
Mandagsborsen - Stockholm, Sweden (10/26/81):
TVE "Musical Express" - Madrid, Spain (11/17/81):
US Festival - San Bernardino, CA (9/3/82):
"The Old Grey Whistle Test" - London (2/26/85):
Obras Sanitarias, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2/3/87):
Provinssirock Festival, Seinšjoki, Finland (6/4/88):
R.I.T., Rochester, NY (10/8/88):
Rolling Stone Club - Milan, Italy (3/16/92):
"Top of the Pops" - London (6/29/95):
River Plate Stadium - Estadio Antonio V. Liverti - Buenos Aires, Argentina
This set comes with the option of a stereo mix or a 5.1 soundtrack.† They were both good.† The multi-channel track threw the audience sounds to the rear and made it seem like the viewer was really in the middle of things.† Quality wise the disc does vary a bit from venue to venue, generally improving as time goes on.† There's a hum in the first CBGB set and the second Liberty Houston gig has an irritating buzz through the songs.† Some of the other concerts also have their problems, most notably a lack of fidelity, but overall this sounds good given the source and age of the cuts.† This set both looks and sounds much better than a lot of the bootleg video tapes that have been circulating for years.
Like the sound, the full frame image (which is shot both in color and black and white) is uneven but overall looks good even though some of the older cuts have their problems.† Some of the material looks like it was taken from fan made 8mm recordings, while a good part of the shows were professionally recorded.† The earliest concert performances generally have a lot of grain and are soft, but none of them are unwatchable.† As time moves on the recordings get better, and most of them are nice solid presentations.† I was surprised at how good some of these looked, especially the CBGB date from 1977.
As if this amazing set of concert footage wasn't enough, Rhino has included a good set of extras too.† They all appear on disc one, and it starts out with a set of interview clips with the band that run a little over 11 minutes altogether.† Recorded of the years, the various members talk about the group's origin, their influences, and what Punk actually is.† There's a five minute montage of their first trip to Argentina, an appearance on a Swedish (I believe) TV show where Joey is interviewed and the band plays The KKK Took My Baby Away, and the intro clip from their appearance on the old Sha Na Na TV show where the group takes part in a parody of Family Feud.† (One of the oddest moments in the set too.)
Three music videos are also sequestered in this section (The KKK Took My Baby Away, It's Not My Place, and Somebody Put Something Extra in My Drink) as well as a reel of photos that lasts over 15 minutes.
Ramones fans and punk enthusiasts are going to love this set.†
Filled with hours of rare Ramones performances it's a really fun set.†
With the image and sound quality varying from concert to concert, this
probably won't win over any new converts, but those who already hold Joey,
Johnny, Dee Dee and Tommy in high regard will be in Ramones heaven.†
For those fans, this comes highly recommended.