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A fine curtain call.
on 17 April 2006
By 1999, RATM felt like a spent force. Having spent aeons producing their second and third albums (four years between their debut and Evil Empire; three years between that and The Battle of Los Angeles) the cracks were starting to show. But the band confounded all expectation, releasing a covers album in tribute to the artists that influenced them growing up, produced by - who else, for a record of this nature? - Rick Rubin.
All told, this is a patchy album, but the better tracks more than make up for it, and a good way for the band to bow out. Springsteen's 'The Ghost of Tom Joad' is a gloriously echoing epic that made it justifiably into their latter-day setlists. 'How I Could Just Kill A Man' is a faithful, if slightly rocked up, Cypress hill song that feels like it was written for RATM. 'Kick Out The Jams' is one of the weaker moments due to Tom Morello's outlandish solo; always an inventive player, just this once the song would have been more suited to a normal solo.
There are less enjoyable covers here as well - 'Pistol Grip Pump,' 'Street Fighting Man' - but all the songs here, good or bad, are blown away by the closer, 'Maggie's Farm.' Previously one the standouts of Dylan's wondrous Bringing It All Back Home album, it's the song the band rework to the best effect. The song is almost completely unrecognisable except for the fantastic lyrics, with Morello's multi-textured, explosive solo replacing Dylan's wheezy harmonica with ease. It's six and a half minutes in length, and - just like 'Freedom' on their first album - is a fitting closer to the album and the band's career.
This album is not perfect; it may not even have been necessary. But if you want to complete all the pieces of the Rage Against The Machine picture, you need to buy this album, to see where the ideas came from for the most incendiary band of the 1990s.