Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 December 2014

The Ramones

It's Alive 1974-1996 (Warner Music/Rhino)

This exhaustingly complete live video history of The Ramones has been four years in the making by drummer Tommy Ramone, and if you manage to plough through both discs (four hours plus and 119 songs) in one sitting it'll feel like you've lost four years of your life you'll never get back.

It hoovers up just about every available scrap of live footage of the band, beginning with three songs from the legendary CBGB's in New York from September 1974, and ending at the River Plate Stadium in Buenos Aires 22 years later. As an archival and historical document it is undoubtedly important and just about unbeatable, but with multiple versions of songs and sound and picture quality that on much of the early footage is worse than amateurish it leaves a lot to be desired as a musical experience.

It is completeness for completeness sake. In just about every sense - sound, look, performance - The Ramones were a one-trick pony; it was a trick of a certain dumb genius and hugely influential on a whole generation of bands, but it was just the one trick and, at this interminable length, it soon becomes wearing. Did nobody get the irony of a four hour plus retrospective for a band who made a speciality of saying all they needed to in two minutes of concentrated energy and attitude?

Disc one takes the story up to New Year's Eve 1977, and previously unseen film of their Rainbow Theatre gig in London, but the second disc has the one performance that distils the purest essence of their magic - 11 songs, and 21 minutes, on German TV show Musikladen in 1978.

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