Devo - Miracle Witness (Live In Ohio 1977) - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Devo - Miracle Witness (Live In Ohio 1977)

by Steve Taylor Rating:7 Release Date:2014-11-17

Even at the height of punk weirdness in the late 70s, Devo succeeded in out-weirding everyone. As usual, it was John Peel who was responsible for introducing them to most British listeners, when he started playing their first single in 1977. The tunes sounded like they had come from outer space and, before long, 'Jocko Homo'/'Mongoloid', released on the marvellously-named Boojie Boy Records, was part of this teenager’s burgeoning record collection.

Miracle Witness Hour, a recording of a show that Devo played at the Eagle Street Saloon in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1977, is a curious period piece that will appeal to the confirmed Devo fan rather than new listeners to the band.

Available on red (Hot Dust), white (Ultimate Virgin) and what can best be described as vomit-coloured (Atomic Party) vinyl for £22.99 each (though if you can’t decide which shade of vinyl to buy, there’s a boxed set containing all three of them for £64.99), or on CD (£10.99) for the budget-conscious, the marketing of Miracle Witness Hour is clearly aimed at record collectors and, to be perfectly honest, with most Devo fans probably well into their 50s, those are the consumers most likely to want to get their hands on this album.

The 10-track album comprises numbers from what would become Devo’s first two albums (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! and Duty Now for the Future), a b-side ('Soo Bawls'), a song that eventually turned up on Chef Aid: The South Park Album in 1998 ('Huboon Stomp') and an improvised jam entitled 'Polyvinyl Chloride'.

Having seen Devo when they reformed in 2008, the band’s live shows were an invigorating jumble of great tunes and tongue-in-cheek humour. The band still wore the jump-suits and plant-pot hats, yet these were discarded after a few numbers to reveal the incongruous sight of a bunch of middle-aged men wearing long shorts and T-shirts for most of the show. Nevertheless, I can’t recall seeing so many people at a gig beaming from ear to ear from the uncontainable joy at what they were seeing on stage.

In 1977, Devo were a bit edgier, and this comes through on Miracle Witness Hour. From the opening salvo of the first three tracks, 'Be Stiff', 'Uncontrollable Urge' and 'Mongoloid', this album shows that, for all of Devo’s quirkiness and eccentricities, they had some great tunes, with 'Jocko Homo' the pick of this collection of live gems.

While the sound quality is not fantastic - though better than most bootleg recordings I’ve ever heard - Miracle Witness Hour is a fascinating document of Devo before they gained international recognition in the late 1970s/early 1980s and, if you were a Devo-tee in those days, this album is probably worth a listen, especially as it includes brand new liner-notes from founder member, Gerald Casale.

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