AGENT ORANGE: REAL LIVE SOUND (1991)
1) Fire In The Rain; 2) Everything Turns Grey; 3) Tearing Me Apart; 4) Too Young To Die; 5) It's In Your Head; 6) I Kill Spies; 7) Bite The Hand That Feeds (pt. 1); 8) Somebody To Love; 9) No Such Thing; 10) Say It Isn't True; 11) Bloodstains; 12) Pipeline; 13) The Last Goodbye; 14) Police Truck; 15) This Is Not The End; 16) Shakin' All Over.
Agent Orange's only live album tends to get occasional flack from fans, mostly for ideological reasons: it was not entirely «real live», not because the playing was «doctored», but because, apparently, the producers threw in extra audience cheer, making the band's show at the Roxy in L.A. seem like a concurrent pop metal stadium show. The horror!
Fact is, this does not bother me personally one little bit. Already on their second album, Agent Orange were a big-sound-oriented rock band rather than a compact hardcore punk outfit, and their material may be as well suited to the needs of arena-rock as it may be compatible with smaller clubs. If there is a little too much audience screaming in the background, this is, at worst, stupid (The Beatles Live At The Hollywood Bowl is not the kind of experience one needs to associate with an Agent Orange show), but who really cares if all the instruments are captured reasonably well? At least the shouting miraculously goes away during most of the solos.
For the record, Mike Palm is the only surviving original member on here; Brent Liles, originally from Social Distortion, handles the bass duties and Derek O'Brien, originally... also from Social Distortion, is on drums. They are fairly good, though, perhaps, a little less trained in surf-style playing than their predecessors (as can be ascertained by comparing the live version of 'Pipeline' with the studio original — then again, a live setting is a live setting). Palm himself is in fine form, never neglecting the vocal hooks and taking good care to preserve all the captivating build-up tricks in his solos (the solo on 'Everything Turns Gray' is only marginally less breathtaking than in the studio).
Setlist predictably draws heavily on the two studio albums, with nice alternations between the rapid-fire attacks of Living In Darkness and the gloomy creepers of This Is The Voice. We also get two tracks off the 1984 EP, When You Least Expect It..., both of them classic covers betraying the band's fanatic embracement of the Sixties — the Airplane's 'Somebody To Love' is reworked as an «old school punk» number, and for the Pirates/the Who's 'Shakin' All Over' there is not even any true reworking to be done, but both are also stretched out with relatively lengthy solos from Palm — both of which totally rip, by the way.
In short, the album is a must for the A.O. fan and a solid recommendation for anyone interested in seeing the band, or the Mike Palm Project, whatever, as not just a one- or two-album wonder, but as a god-honest representative of the good old force of rock'n'roll: come to think of it, not many other bands around 1990 could sound as close to that force as the Mike Palm Project. Me, I'm perfectly happy with a regular thumbs up. I mean, with the first track being 'Fire In The Rain', and the second being 'Everything Turns Gray' — two of the sharpest-delivered shots of the decade — how could anyone complain?
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