New label Run Out Groove aims to be a little different. Rather than just another subscription service, the label’s website features a number of titles which can be voted on by fans. Each month, they list potential projects and ask for fans’ input on which title should be pressed next. The project chosen by majority vote is made available to order for 30 days, after which the title will be pressed. Orders are only taken within the 30 day pre-order window, and once it’s closed, Run Out Groove announces the pressing number; 6-8 weeks later, it’s in the hands of fans.
The first release from Run Out Groove is a compilation of tracks from Detroit proto-punks, The MC5. Titled simply The Motor City Five, the 12-song LP is a mix of tracks from the band’s discography, and comes across like a leaner, meaner version of The Big Bang! The Best of the MC5, which came out on compact disc back in 2000. It kicks off, as that comp did, with the a-sides to the band’s first two singles, “I Can Only Give You Everything” and “Looking at You.” They then fill the rest of the first side with the entire first half of the MC5’s debut full-length, Kick Out the Jams, complete with the intro from JC Crawford.
Really, that’s one of the finest 17 minute sides in rock ‘n’ roll history, and trying to eliminate just one of those tracks would ruin the experience, so the choice is obvious: just let the band rock on and kick ‘em out for the duration, man. Plus, with the two early singles and the live tracks, everything on the first side is all of one stripe, being a little rougher and tougher.
The second side is all taken from the band’s recordings on Atlantic and makes a few decisions regarding track choices I’m not wholly behind. I’d have opted to include “Back in the U.S.A.” at the expense of “Teenage Lust,” for example, and tried to add at least one rarity, such as the excellent “Thunder Express.” Still, the limitations of vinyl do make running length something to consider, and as there’s never been an officially-licensed MC5 best-of on vinyl, this one’s pretty good for a start.
The Motor City Five sounds oddly muted. The first side’s first two songs — the early singles — sound pretty crisp, as well as nicely punched-up in terms of low end, but the remainder of the LP has a sort of flatness to it. “Kick Out the Jams,” even cranked louder than a stereo should really go on a Tuesday at dinnertime, still didn’t rattle the rafters the way it should’ve. The Atlantic-era material on the second side also suffers, but from a certain sort of tinny-ness. Some of that’s obviously due to the recordings themselves, because “High School” has never really sounded particularly great, but “Sister Anne” never quite sounds as if it’s all there. The vinyl sounds a little crackly on first spin, but improves greatly after a cleaning and second play.
The record comes in a silver foil, old-school tip-on Stoughton paper-wrapped jacket. It looks like a deluxe record straight from the ‘70s. Oddly enough, just before this showed up in the mail, I had purchased a first pressing of the Monkees’ Head soundtrack, and even that jacket isn’t as robust or impressive as this one. The Motor City Five LP just looks absolutely cool — I mean, how many labels would go the distance to not only have the cover in silver foil, but also the back of the jacket? That’s the extra mile for this limited edition of 2,668 copies. The vinyl is described as “translucent blue splatter,” but looks more like a clear LP with blue smoke. Add in a tight little history of the band in the liner notes, along with pictures of the original boxes of the tapes to which the albums were recorded, and it’s a wonderful package.