Pitchfork (Website) - "[A] thrilling peak-era performance from one of the best live bands of its time..."
Audio Remasterer: Fred Kevorkian.
Liner Note Author: Mike Edison .
Recording information: DPC, Tucson, AZ (10/30/1994); The Hotel Congress, Tucson, AZ (10/30/1994); DPC, Tucson, AZ (11/25/1996); The Hotel Congress, Tucson, AZ (11/25/1996).
Photographers: Ali Smith; Christian Lantry.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Judah Bauer; Russell Simins.
Love them or hate them, the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion put on one hell of a show. Controversial Negro, originally a promo-only LP issued by the fine folks at Matador Records, has now been given the CD treatment, appearing as a Japanese import much to the joy of hungry fans unable to find a copy of the original limited edition pressing. The record is a document of one of the Blues Explosion's legendary live rock bonanzas, but in the end it is also a case of a "you had to be there" sort of event. Live, ($Spencer)'s wild antics: dancing, preaching, climbing things, and whatnot, come off like a fabulous circus gone awry. On record, the visual element is gone and all that remains is the group's playing, an aspect that, intentionally or not, tends to be pretty sloppy live. This is not to say that JSBX come off like a bad talent show contestant, but more that in the case of a rollicking good time the intricacies of the music often fall to the wayside. On the energetic opening "Get With It," the howling "Skunk," and a number of other tracks, the band rocks pretty forcefully, and though the actual recording is occasionally muddied up a bit due to the lack of any real low end, the songs for the most part are still highly entertaining. Even second guitarist Judah Bauer's turn in the spotlight on "Fuck Shit Up" comes across pretty convincingly, as the screamed lyrics take center stage instead of Spencer's outlandish physical behavior. Controversial Negro is the live record only JSBX could make; like their shows it contains a lot more rock than blues and plenty of noisy howls and bursts of feedback. It's still a far cry from the actual experience, but the record succeeds in transferring as much of the original event's ragged glory as the medium will allow. ~ Peter J. D'Angelo