Legendary Quartet First & Last (Zodiac 095)
The latest Metallica release from the folks at Zodiac collects two very early tapes in the illustrious career of the band. Still in their formative years, the band had just made the move from LA up north to their new adoptive home San Francisco where the music scene was much more conducive to their fast paced pure, no frills metal. Both concerts featured here consist of the short lived line up of James Hetfield on vocals and guitar, Lars Ulrich on drums, Dave Mustaine on lead guitar, and “new” guy Cliff Burton on bass.
The Stone, San Francisco, CA, USA – March 5, 1983
Disc 1 (73:33) Introduction, The Mechanics, Phantom Lord, Jump In The Fire, Motorbreath, No Remorse, Seek & Destroy, (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, Whiplash, Am I Evil?, The Prince, Blitzkrieg, Metal Militia
The tape from the Stone in San Fran features Cliff’s first show with the band, it is incomplete missing the first song Hit The Lights, all that remains of the song is the very tail end so little is truly missing. The recording is a good audience source that does improve as it goes and borders on the edge of very good. The guitars and vocals are clearly discernable and you can hear the bass pretty well but the drums are pushed to the background and barely, if any hiss is present. There is some audience chatter throughout the recording but does not interfere too much and you can crank this up for maximum effect.
The recording starts with some obnoxious chatter from Mustaine that leads to his introduction of Mechanics, Metallica fans know that this is a an early version of what would become The Four Horsemen after Dave’s departure. Curiously he would keep this version of the song and it would make its way onto the first Megadeth record, Killing Is My Business. What gets me about these early recordings is the speed, it is blistering fast and very in your face. Jump In The Fire features some early, alternate lyrics and after Motorbreath Dave tells the audience the band has just moved to San Fran and some crazy punter is screaming for a bass solo.
The tape is very clear and powerful for No Remorse, upon closer evaluation of the playing, the group is very tight and one has to simply listen to the riffing, there is perfect synchronization that is simple beautifully brutal and it takes little prodding to get up and bang your head while playing a bit of air guitar. The audience finally gets what they want, a bass solo. Metallica made a major impact in their sound when they got Cliff, while his official recorded output is sadly small, thankfully there are many bootlegs to showcase his incredible tablets. Introduced as “The Major Rager” he begins (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth to a nice round of applause, his solo is in a primitive stage but the framework is basically there, the bass drum jam starts slow and then the guitars kick in for a fast ending, of course the song is linked with a blinding fast and heavy Whiplash. Mustaine’s solo on the song is really good, and a flurry of notes played soooo fast it’s incredible.
What’s great about this tape is the last bunch of songs, all NWOBHM covers that start with Am I Evil?, the Diamond Head song that Metallica covered and really made their own. There are precious few versions with Mustaine, and this is a full version of the song, unlike future live versions when it would be cut about half way and paired with another song. The Prince, another Diamond Head cover follows, an even rarer cover that the band would record as a B-Side for the Harvester Of Sorrow single some six years later. Blitzkrieg is the last cover, it is a bit loose and does not have that heaviness that the official and later live versions have but is very interesting to say the least. Metal Militia finishes the show proper, a call to the growing legions of metal fans, and a vehicle for a bit of crowd participation, yes James would lead the audience with a chant of “Metal Up Your Ass”, of which the audience fully comply too.
L’Amours, Brooklyn, NY, USA – April 9, 1983
Disc 2 (45:34) Hit The Lights, The Mechanics, Phantom Lord, Jump In The Fire, Motorbreath, No Remorse, (Anesthesia) Pulling Teeth, Whiplash, Seek & Destroy
Fast forward to just over a month later and we find Metallica on their first sojourn to the East Coast and the famous New York City metal club, L’Amours. This concert was taped by a music fan who visited NYC for the purpose of going to record conventions and recorded the band on a realistic recorder and microphone on a Maxell 90 cassette. What that metal fan provided us is priceless, the earliest known recording from outside California and Dave Mustaine’s last show with Metallica. The recording is a very good audience source, a bit fuller and crisper sound than the Stone show, the instruments are better balanced and you can clearly hear all the action. There is however more hiss but it is easily forgotten once the music takes hold.
The recording starts off rough, and a house announcer introduction of “California…Los Angeles” that leads into an assault on the recording device as the band takes the stage and once the band are into the main riff of Hit The Lights the recording clears nicely. This is New York City and the band does not hold back and the playing is even more in your face than the San Fran show on the first disc, you can simply feel the power and excitement of the concert. Some old British dude named Metal Joe gets a shout out before Mechanics, the recording gives you a great punch largely due to Lars drumming. While his skills do come under fire, one only has to listen to these older recordings to get a full appreciation of his playing.
The audience chants “Metallica…Metallica…” as they are familiar with the material thanks to the band’s demo tape and support from record shop owner Johnny Z, who would help the band record and release their first record, Kill ‘Em All. Phantom Lord sounds incredible on this recording, the middle slow section is doom laden then turns into a Mustaine lead orgy of speed to incredible effect. The audience sound rabid, James does the between song talking, surprising since Dave did the majority on the other tape and one could assume that the band was growing wary of the guitarists alcohol and drug fueled tirades that would ultimately lead to his sacking from the group.
James prematurely introduces “new bassist” Cliff Burton prior to No Remorse, then covers his flub by saying “well I guess we’ll do that later”. The song sounds much more confident that the month previous, the band is really starting to gel and you are starting to feel a certain swagger in the music. Halfway through James screams “Let’s hear ya” and the band locks in on the riff and it is simply metal pummeling perfection. The Metallica chants start as James tells them to get ready for Cliff, I am sure that many heads were blown watching a tall, lanky long hair guy playing a bass solo through a wah petal, you can here total silence save for bottles clanking as they are thrown in the garbage. The transition into Whiplash is smooth than the other show and more effective for it, the chain saw riff sounds like it comes from the depths until the band again lock in and lay waste to the place. James tells the audience they will need to scream the chorus to “Seek and…” the audience answers with a resounding “Destroy”. Sadly the recording cuts as the last note of the song is played so we do not get any closing comments, but we did get one hell of a concert.
Within a few weeks time Dave Mustaine would be asked to leave the band and was given a one way bus ticket back to LA where his anger, and immense talent, would propel him to form Megadeth a few months later. Mustaine would keep the sound he forged with Metallica and for a time was a bit more technical and certainly faster than his former band, who would go for a bit slower and far heavier sound. This set is an excellent glimpse into the beginnings of a new genre in music, born from the late 70′ and early 80’s NWOBHM, that would be called American Thrash Metal.
The packaging features live shots of the band that have been washed out a bit to look old, the graphics are done to perfection using the old Metallica logo, these excellent inserts and Cd’s are all housed in a slim line jewel case. What we have here is one hell of a release, best quality I have heard of these legendary gigs, the folks at Zodiac have given this essential material the release it deserves. For a metal fan this is a must have, two thumbs way up.