"There is very little of the original Modern Lovers caught on tape out there, at least legally (I'm sure there are plenty of bootlegs floating around). Jonathan Richman and his great band are caught live at two venues, one at Harvard in 1971 and another in Berkeley in 1973, with the inclusion of a great song (Plea for Tenderness) from a Boston gig sometime in 1972(?). The record itself is absolutely essential if you are a Jonathan Richman fan or just looking for something different from the manufactured pop of today's "hit parade". Richman and company don't disappoint, and the record is a unique mixture of the original Lovers' sound. First formed in the late Sixties when Jonathan Richman became infatuated with the Velvet Underground and started his own band, blending the influence of that band with his earlier love for Fifties-era rock. The result, The Modern Lovers, were together in their original format until 1974, and by the time their one album (really a collection of individual sessions which form a cohesive album) was released in 1976, the band backing Jonathan Richman had changed. Jonathan moved towards softer musical styles, and while this would provide some great music, the original band's sound was lost.That's what makes this recording so great: here is the "rockin'" Modern Lovers captured in their primal heat, bringing down the house to a bemused audience who doesn't quite know what to make of them. One of the charms of the live shows is the way Jonathan and the band switch from heavy, fast songs like "Someone I Care About" to slower, low-key numbers like "Hospital" or "Girlfriend". The sound captured on this is pure fun and enjoyment, tempered with Jonathan's own hearbreak-fueled songs about girls who hang around in the Cezanne wing of the modern museums. This is a gem of a record, worth seeking out if you wonder what all the fuss was about. If you have no idea who Jonathan Richman is, this will be a perfect intro. All in all, this along with the original album are perfect compliments to each other, and both illuminate how punk evolved. Get this first, then the album. You can't go wrong..."
Revealing as an artist's sketchbook...
Donald B. Payjack | Calgary, AB Canada | 04/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you already appreciate the unique genius represented by the original Modern Lover's Beserkly release then you will likely find this live collection very interesting and moving... but if you are new to the world of JoJo in general, or the Modern Lovers thang in specific, then this piece would not serve as a good entry point.For one thing, the sound quality is "bootleg"... also, the song selection / running order leans heavily on slow, meandering sad stuff instead of the more upbeat, cutting/rock-edged stuff. This may turn off first-time or casual listeners... but there are definitely some very magic moments for those with patience and determination... you get some "unheard/unrecorded" songs including the phenomenal "the Mixer" which is easily on par with classics like "Roadrunner" and "She Cracked". Also, alternate lyrics for Roadrunner are interesting and the extended "patter" in-between songs really gives you some intense insight into where Jonathan Richman's head was at during this period.The stand-out cut for me on this album though was the monumental version of "I'm Straight". During the spoken intro the pain and scars are so fresh that Jonathon sounds like he is seriously about to break into tears... the band unsteadily slids in behind him and things slowly build in intensity until we get to a point by the end of the song where all the microphones and recording gear overload heavily into the red-line as the whole band shrieks the refrain "I'M STRAIGHT!!" at the top of their lungs. I can't think of anything else in the history of recorded music that compares with the emotional intensity of this track... well worth the price of admission alone!"
Three Chord Salvation Hoedown...
Michel Farmer | Peoria Illinois | 11/10/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My Modern Lover's collection will often sit untouched for months on end but when I dig them back out they don't leave my CD player for weeks.This album captures everything the Modern Lover's stood for. The essential piece on this disc is "A Plea for Tenderness". Call me a bizzare case but that song that may sound like a bunch of unstructured noise to anybody else brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it.When Jonathan begins pleading, he sounds like he's really breaking down from desperation. Jonathan's constant pleas of "play softer" and the bands obvious desire to not comply with his wishes give you a look into the reasons this truly unique band dissolved but it also makes for highly entertaining listening. In my view this is hands down the best live recording of any rock band ever, mainly because it's not about perfection. it's about sincerity and the freedom music can give you to be your own person."
A singularly unique vision
m_noland | Washington, DC United States | 08/23/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Listening to this disk for the first time in a long time, I am struck by just how strange it is. I wonder how Jonathan Richman convinced the other Modern Lovers to publicly participate in his unique musical vision ? after all, these guys were pretty good musicians (later playing in the Cars and the Talking Heads among other bands) so presumably they had other opportunities, and this material was not exactly mainstream or fashionable stylistically, thematically, or any other way in 1972-3 when these recordings were made. Indeed, some aspects of these recordings (e.g. some of Richman?s spoken word introductions) verge on being painful. Some nights it must have been embarrassing to be on stage.So why do it? Well, it?s a pretty thin line between being a crank and being a genius, and some of these songs are brilliant. Anyone could recognize that. And they are unique. Despite their obvious stylistic borrowing from the Velvet Underground, nobody sounded like this either.So how about the disk? Well, the songs heavily overlap with the John Cale produced first album ("The Modern Lovers"), and given that record?s ?live in the studio? sound, the band?s sound isn?t much different, though the audio quality of this disk is worse (no surprise). So, if you don?t have the first album, you?re probably better off starting with it.However, if you?re a dedicated Jonathan Richman nut then this one is worth having ? some of the songs don?t appear anywhere else, the performances are generally strong, and then there are those weird spoken word introductions to remind you just how unique this band was."