REVIEW: Motley Crue – Motley Crue (Remastered edition)

MOTLEY CRUE – Motley Crue (1994 Elektra, 2003 remastered edition)

It is hard to forget that day in the winter of ’92 when I heard Vince Neil had been fired from Motley Crue. Or quit. Whatever. It was disbelief! I was so into their previous albums, Dr. Feelgood and Decade of Decadence with its crushing single, “Primal Scream”. The Crue were at the top of their game! How could this happen?

But it did happen, and when the spring of ’94 finally rolled around, I picked up Motley Crue (self titled, no umlauts).  I picked it up at the store that, in only a couple more months, I would be working in myself.  I realized after only two listens that Motley Crue had gone from strength to strength. They had produced what was and still is their heaviest album, the most uncompromised, groovingest (is that a word?), serious piece of metal they’d ever done. Sabbath-esque at times, this was one heavy album. John Corabi was in on vocals and (for the first time in this band) rhythm guitar.  John added new dimensions to a band that now demanded to be taken seriously.

The problem was, no one did. While I was working at a record store in ’94, I had a lonely stack of Motley Crue discs (sitting right next to a stack of David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth), going unpurchased. If this album had come out in ’94 by anyone else — Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden — it would have been a #1 smash hit and spawned at least 4 hit singles. It didn’t.

Originally just 12 tracks and now expanded to 15, the Motley Crue CD was heralded in by the grooving riff that was “Power To The Music”. A simple song accented by some of the best drum fills ever on a Motley disc (expertly captured by Bob Rock), “Power To The Music” was a rallying cry, something that the fans could relate to. Especially when Corabi shouts, “Don’t tell me to turn it down!” Lyrically this was not all that different from the old Crue. Musically, it followed the path set out by “Primal Scream”. Sound wise, this was a new different Crue, downtuned, with a gritty vocalist with power to spare, more guitars, clearer and louder drums, and sound effects.  Just more of everything.

Some backwards guitar introduced “Uncle Jack”, a song about a child molester, with a distorted Corabi screaming, “I wanna rip your god-damn heart out!” This, friends, was the new Crue for a darker and more serious time. Corabi’s gritty, bluesy vocal melodies were anchored by Sixx, Mars and Lee, grooving as they had never done on record before (with additions from Bob Rock). The new Crue was on fire after only two tracks!

The single, “Hooligan’s Holiday” was next. At 5:51, this was an odd choice for a single. It boasted a strong chorus, some unusual (for Crue) guitar drones, and some more amazing sounding drum fills. Rock really outdid himself on the sound of this record.  I think it’s the best sounding record that either the Crue or Bob Rock have made.

“Misunderstood” was the first epic piece and the second single. At nearly 7 minutes, it was again hardly a commercial song. It was the first song the band wrote together for the album.  It reflected a lot of Zeppelin influences.  It starts acoustic and somber, about a “little old man, left alone in desperate times, life’s passed him by.” Then it slows down, there’s some backwards parts, and the heavy riff kicks in. An orchestra backs Motley Crue, and the amazing Glenn Hughes joins Corabi on vocals.  Perfection.

From there the Zeppelin influences continue. “Loveshine” could have been on Zeppelin III. I’m not sure how many different acoustic instruments are present, but there are a lot, layered here and there.  There are also some odd percussion instruments that I have trouble picking out. This could have been another single, in a perfect world. One of the best songs on the record, “Loveshine” defied expectations by slowing the pace.  I didn’t expect there to be any ballads at all.

The pace picked up again with “Poison Apples”, which begins with a tinny transistor radio sound before kicking into gear. The only glam rock song on the album (the chorus contains the line, “We love our Mott The Hoople”), “Poison Apples” is really the only possible mis-step on a great record. It simply sounds too much like the Motley Crue of old, which to me confused the direction of the album. I would like to hear Vince Neil tackle this one someday (when hell freezes over).

Side two of the record began with “Hammered”, one of the earliest pieces of music written. I believe the riff and groove go back to when Vince Neil was still in the band. “Hammered” is one of the most Sabbathy moments on the album. I used to play the outro riff on my guitar all the time.  I loved that riff. This is a truly great song.

Another epic followed, this one “Til Death Do Us Part”. An ironic title considering that this was to be the only album with Corabi, it was also once the title track. Very Sabbathy once again, “Til Death Do Us Part” contains a slow droning riff, some clear and crisp cymbal work by Tommy, and some of the heaviest kick drums I’ve ever heard. A classic in any parallel universe.

My two favourite songs followed. “Welcome To The Numb” brings back more Zeppelin influences (think a souped up “Travelling Riverside Blues”), with Mars’ virtuoso slide guitar. The groove here is unbeatable and the guitar work ranks with Mars’ all-time best. Coulda woulda shoulda been a single.  I recall Nikki Sixx saying that this song barely made the album, as it had too much of the “old Motley vibe”.  I disagree; I think it was modern and cool.

“Smoke The Sky” is the “drug song”.  “We love our THC, when it’s time we smoke the sky!”.  It borders on thrash metal. Fast, riffy and heavy, this was single #3. The pace is incredible and the song will put you into a sweat.  Corabi makes absolutely no bones about the subject matter:

Marko Polo hailed it heaven,

Socrates inhaled it too,

Mr. President, tell the truth!

“Droppin’ Like Flies” brings back the Sabbathy grooves. Another slower riffy monster, it too is not brief at 6:26 with a long guitar oriented outro. It is followed by the final track on the original CD, “Driftaway”, which is another ballad. I think it took a lot of guts to end a CD this heavy with a ballad. This song too, perhaps, could have been performed by the original band. After banging your head for nearly an hour, this track acts as a comedown of sorts.  It’s my least favourite song, but it’s not a bad ballad.

The bonus tracks on the reissue include the first B-side, “Hypnotized”. This sounds like a demo to me. It is very heavy, very Sabbathy, and very raw. It has a long, drawn out droning outro. “Babykills” has a funky groove and clavinet. This has a bit of a glam metal sound, and was originally released on the mail-away EP Quaternary (which also contained 4 solo tracks, one from each band member). I am glad it has been returned to its rightful place on the Motley Crue album. Finally the CD ends with “Livin’ In The Know”, from the Japanese version of Quaternary. Not an outstanding track, it is clear that Motley Crue included the best material on the album itself. All killer, no filler — and “Livin’ In The Know” is admittedly filler.

It is very unfortunate that this album did not sell, and the fans couldn’t accept a Crue without Vince. In hindsight, it is great we got Vince back to (eventually) make the decent Saints Of Los Angeles CD. However, with Vince Neil solo at the time with his great Exposed album, and the Crue delivering this masterpiece, I was content for them to stay apart. While grunge had certainly taken over, Motley Crue did sabotage their own chances with some terrible interviews including one on MTV where they expressed indifference to their former lead singer being injured in a surfing accident.  They later walked out on the interviewer, and MTV played that clip ad nauseum. Stunts like these, and having swastikas on stage, tanked any chances this album ever had.

Once again I must give special mention to producer Bob Rock, who also played some additional bass and guitar on this CD. He managed to produce a heavy package without overproducing. There is heaviness, there is amp hiss, and yet the clearest crispest drums I’ve ever heard. He captured the downtuned guitars without making them muddy.

Pick up Motley Crue, turn off the lights, and get ready to rock to the heaviest and best album this band has ever made. It is a true classic in any just universe.

I even bought it twice, to get both booklets!  (And then again, in the Music to Crash Your Car to: Vol. 2 box set.)

5/5 stars

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70 comments

      1. I suppose some may blame him for the transformations some groups took when he produced (Our Lady Peace, 1991 Metallica) but in both those cases at least, they were career rejuvenations as well

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        1. Absolutely. And there’s some great gems that a lot of people forget about. The second Veruca Salt album! It blew away their first, and those drums are pure Bob Rock.

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  1. Next to the debut ..Mötley Corabi is right up there,can’t argue with the 5/5 rating either….
    But I have said it before ..Sixx was following what was current in musical trends back in 94…
    But man the vocals are insane it’s like Corabi swallowed a bunch of razor blades and just went at it….
    Good writing/good songs/good production….
    And there career went into the toilet over this album….
    Finicky record buying public in 94……
    Except for us!
    The bonus songs I never did track em down but I may now Mike….
    As always great early Am read!

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    1. Thanks man!

      As Uncleb13 pointed out Quaternary is also an essential release! 1 Motley Crue track, 4 solo tracks (1 from each member). I have the Japanese edition which also has 4 bonus Motley Crue tracks, so that will be a review in the future.

      Corabi knocked it out of the park on this one. He knew he had to deliver and he did!

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  2. Always my favorite Motley Crue album, I remember this thing landing with a decided THUD in my favorite record store! If I remember correctly, there was an aggressive, expansive arena tour planned for this album, yet as sales tanked it was scaled back to theaters and/or cancelled altogether. Corabi is a beast on vocals on this thing, and I always loved the concept of “Quaternary”: mail-in coupon, one track from each member, more than the four tracks themselves! Some of the finest Bob Rock-massaged Tommy Lee drums can be found on the main album, too! Though I shouldn’t speak for the man himself, the experience John Corabi had of being snatched up from his bar-band background, and thrown into this MC soap/dope opera musta been a huge freak show! Sadly, he seemed to be blamed by the machine for this album’s failure, but, certainly, as long as the check clears…it’s all good.

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    1. I definitely want to review Quaternary on its own! It was such a cool release for its time! I mailed away for it and then 2 years later, found the Japanese at Sam the Record Man in Toronto with 4 bonus tracks.

      Can’t blame Corabi for what happened…you can only blame the 1990’s.

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      1. Kinda calling BS in the “Music To Crash Your Car To Vol. II” box set: not one photo of Corabi in the booklet that comes with it. And nary a mention of his name, other than once in the copy and the song credits. I know the Crüe has millions, and it doesn’t matter what we think, but I think the true fans feel very strongly in a positive manner towards this era/album and specifically, John Corabi.

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        1. YES, MTCYCT I and II suck for packaging, but II more so. Not one picture or mention of Corabi, and then Van Halen basically did the same thing on their Best of Both Worlds fiasco! Not one pic of DLR.

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  3. This is, without any doubt, the best Crue album ever. And that band has made some killer shit in their days. But this album doesn’t hold one weak second. But I agree on Drift Away, it’s the least awesome song here and could easily have been replaced by 10 000 Miles from their Quartenary album. Also, on this album, Mick Mars totally rules and gets to show the world what an underrated player he his. The man is a complete beast when it comes to heavy riffing. And speaking of ruling, hallo John Corabi. The guy has been one of my favourite singers since the The Scream days and here he outdoes himself. It must have been such a relief for theother guys to finally get a singer that could actually sing. I mean, Vince has a personal voice, but as a singer, he blows. Always has, always will. I have bootleg CD from a gig they made with Corabi in Hiroshime, Japan and the way he tackles the old songs is just fantastic. He didn’t just better them, he gave them new life.
    I love all the tracks but my faves here are Uncle Jack, Welcome To The Numb and Smoke The Sky. And Misunderstood.
    I would love to hear what Personality # 9 sounds like. As far as I know, that album was more or less done when they were forced to bring Vince back and then it came out as Generation Swine.

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    1. Agreed with everything you said here. Mick was one of the heroes of the day on this album. Let’s not forget who one of Mick’s biggest fans is — Steve Vai! A guy who knows his guitar players.

      I was always hoping that Personality #9 would have had a couple tracks show up on the Generation Swine remaster, but it was not to be. Let Us Prey is clearly an earlier song though. Corabi says you can hear him scream on it. (Tommy says it was his own scream.)

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      1. Tommy’s full of it. It’s easy to hear that the scream comes from Corabi. One of the first things I noticed when I first heard the song. Or did you mean that Tommy agrees on that it is Corabi’s scream?
        Another big fan of Mick’s is Steve Morse. I read an interview where he says that he believes that Mick is one of the most underrated guitar players ever.

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  4. Cool review. Believe it or not, this was the first Crue album I ever bought. On cassette the week it came out! I read some great interviews with them and some great reviews in either Kerrang, Metal Hammer and/or Raw (can’t remember exactly). But anyway, I really enjoyed it and it’s a shame it didn’t do better.

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    1. Very cool story HMO. Quite a first.

      I read very few great interviews with them at the time. Most of them were either dull or slightly antagonistic and I wondered why they were being such dicks!

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      1. Really? I can’t remember any specifics about how they come across. I just recall reading interviews and reviews and wanting the album. At the time I wasn’t a fan so something about the pre-release hoopla must have intrigued me… I can’t remember what it was though!

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        1. They were really towing a line of, “Forget everything you think you know about Motley Crue,” which is fine, but I recall reading interviews that were very disparaging towards Vince which turned me off. Corabi was the only one who wasn’t like that.

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        2. I had heard a few songs off Girls and Feelgood but they just never grabbed me until later on.

          There were very few exciting releases at the time I guess this just stood out to me at the time. Like “hey, I know these guys!”

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        3. Yes but that was icing on the cake cause (then) I thought Vince Neil wasn’t all that impressive and I thought Corabi seemed much cooler. I’m fairly sure I heard Hooligans Holiday before the album came out and liked it too.

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  5. By now I won’t surprise anyone by saying I don’t own any Mötley (or Motley), but I’ve heard most of the early records, here and there, at friends’ places. You’ve told me about this one before, several times and I played the video tracks and, hell yeah, I think I need this one! Add it to the friggin’ list for Taranna… that thing’s getting frightening…

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      1. If you find this for $2 or less, get it and I’ll pay you back when I see you.

        And honestly, if you find anything for $2 or less and you think to yourself “Daaaaamn, Aaron needs to hear this!” then the same request applies!

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        1. Well man, I have the defibrillator on stand-by. Full crash cart maybe my next requisition.

          Haha yeah, I suppose I did send you a bunch of those, when I was done with them. But I kept a pile of them, too. Man, I often wonder how many CDs I would have if I hadn’t ever sold them off as I went along. Tons, but not as many as expected, ‘cos I used to sell ones off and trade ’em for others… it’d probably even out to a metric shit-ton, either way you slice it.

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  6. No one here can argue otherwise: love ’em or hate’em, whatever line-up or album, The Crüe brings out the comments! That’s the kinda passion we need in music fandom today!

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    1. Agreed! Me personally, I’ve always loved the Crue but I won’t worship every album they do…New Tattoo was shit!

      I’d like to see them do what Kiss does now — no outside writers, no outside players. I’d like to see Nikki, Tommy, Vince and Mars write and record one more kick ass Motley album together. Sure they hate each other, but they’ve done it before.

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      1. What did u think of Girls Girls Girls and Theatre Of Pain, Mike? I believe that they are both pretty lame and you could make one really good best of album out of those two. They both contain maybe five good songs each. Or so.

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        1. Yeah I would agree fully with that. In fact I could do my album right now:

          City Boy Blues
          Louder Than Hell
          Tonight (We Need A Lover)
          Raise Your Hands To Rock
          Home Sweet Home
          Wildside
          Girls Girls Girls
          All In the Name Of
          Sumthin for Nuthin
          You’re All I Need

          We may disagree on the specifics, but I think you can make a good album from the two.

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        2. Almost the exact songs I’d choose also. I’d chose Keep Your Eye On The Money instead of Raise Your Hands To Rock and I’d go for Dancing On Glass instead of All In The Name Of.

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        3. Theater Of Girls?

          Sure, I have read it. Horrible book. Not as in bad, but its content is really horrible. Filthy stuff. I can’t imagine anyone wanna get into heroin after reading that. But yeah, you’re right, it’s a miracle. But the real good stuff were written while off heroin and that’s probably why there are so few great tracks on those albums.

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        4. Yeah — horrible as in content is horrible. And agreed, I can’t imagine anyone romanticizing heroin after reading it. At least I finished it quickly — one day.

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        5. Wow. High praise. Another one for the list.

          There was just a story yesterday regarding Corabi joining the Crue, an interview with Bruce Bouillet. He said they were on tour when they heard about Vince Neil being fired, and they were all a little stunned. Later on, they get to a show, and the crowd is all abuzz already. They then heard that Tommy and Nikki were in the crowd that night.

          They knew immediately what that meant. They wished John all the best of luck, and were happy for him, although bummed since they were already thinking forward to the next The Scream disc.

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        6. I actually managed to get a copy of The Scream’s second album, by accident. It was never released so someone close to the band must have leaked it. I was searching through a site for something completely different and it popped up. It wasn’t very good though and the singer they had couldn’t hold a candle to Corabi.

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        7. Not surprising. Did you know Corabi was so scarred from the experience of doing Personality #9 that he didn’t want to sing anymore? I read in a Metal Edge interview that when Union formed, Corabi told Bruce he just wanted to play rhythm guitar. He was told he sucked so much by Sixx and Lee and Scott Humphrey that he’d lost that confidence. Bruce said, “Dude you’re fucking high,” and as you know, Corabi sang and that Union album is pretty good!

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        8. Really? That explains why he ended up as the rhythm guitarist for Ratt and Brides Of Destruction. Talk about wasting talent.
          And yes, those Union albums are great, I especially like The Blue Room.

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        9. And it’s funny, I was kind of hoping you’d say that. Because that album didn’t impact me and it’s gathering dust right now. So you have to now tell me why I need to revisit it! Might be worth a shot.

          You guys have been giving me so much to listen to, I won’t have time to listen to my old Zeppelin albums anymore :)

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        10. I think that even though their debut was great, it was a bit too dark and had too much grunge influences, while The Blue Room has that kind of style also, but are more towards a more straight forward hard rock sound with a lot of 70’s input. Also, I find Bob Marlette a better producer than Curt Cuomo.

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        11. I’m hit or miss on Marlette. I’m not too keen on some of the work he’s done with Iommi or Sabbath. But that first Union album wasn’t the greatest for sonic clarity and as you said you could hear the grunge. Very similar to Carnival of Souls in ways.

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        12. Yeah it’s hard to argue with that. I don’t consider that a “bad” thing per se. I think Union did a great debut album. I have one of the reissued versions where they covered Hey Darlin’ by the Beatles. Corabi nails that McCartney rasp (was there any doubt).

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  7. Well, Carnival Of Souls was a brilliant album, at least extremely underrated and the debut Union album is a lost gem. Or something.

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  8. I remember Slipknot’s Corey Taylor saying “Corabi Crue” in the same sentence as “Disney Elton John” in a documentary. He made it sound like “Corabi Crue” is absolutely disgusting.

    My friend absolutely loves “Smoke The Sky” though, I’ve heard it a lot; reminds me of Pantera.

    I’m quite tempted to give it a try now.

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  9. Count me in, more cult following here too! And man, this is hands down the best online review yet for this record (the hard print winner found thus far being of course Popoff’s), yet again an informative review, lotsa nostalgic value too and many the comments were informative and fun reading too!

    This came out during a period where these ears struggled finding the next big record, having come off a high of quality music prior to a noticeable lull, this self titled Crue album was the perfect fix. Perfect! And having not been a fan as such prior to this release, Corabi’s talents provided by Let It Scream were the drawcard and the results were instant and life lasting.

    The label support for this record was evident from pre-release exposure and label intentions so looking back Motley Crue really was the quintessential ‘overlooked and ignored’ record for a narrow minded public not wanting to step outside of their comfort zone (was it really just that or perhaps many were leaving the Crue behind anyways after the onslaught of grunge?) Anyway hindsight tells us this was indeed unfortunate because as mike and others above quite rightly pointed out, Motley Crue S/T was superior songwriting and superior performances from the band, finally proving there was far more behind the persona and (with respect – to each their own and whatnot), the casual glam rock affair that had come before). Criminal then we never got a true sophomore from this lineup, the mighty dollar be damned :(

    Corabi’s the key but the rest of the band step up to the plate, bottom line is of course the songs which were aptly explained by mike above ;) Personal favorites are most but of particular note these ears rarely get past Power To The Music, Uncle Jack, Hooligans Holiday (a late comer to the fave list), Misunderstood actually scrap that probably easier to list the least favorites of which they are very few ;)

    Phew, a little long rant here but to conclude will say however that reckon Poison Apples sits well has its place on the record, plays out as a small treat fer old Crue fans (THE CRUE perhaps being a name the band shoulda gone with to avoid consumer casualties?)

    Hadn’t considered 10,000 Miles a substitute closer for Driftaway (as suggested above), but boy that certainly has merit fer sure but probably never considered it because have always thought Driftaway a magfarkingnificent conclusion to the head kicking provided by most the rest of this essential record.

    5/5 sounds about spot on for this self titled Motely Crue record \m/

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    1. Thanks man! I appreciate all these comments and the comparison to Popoff :)

      It’s a real shame that this lineup never managed to stick to their guns and finish a second album. However…having said that…I wonder if that’s a bad thing or not. They were really searching for a direction on the next album and Corabi said that was also the case when he was in the band. Nothing he sang or wrote was good enough for the album, and the direction kept changing. Maybe if they had ever released a second Corabi album, it would have been so bad that it changed our memories of this period!

      One other thing…regardless of Corabi being the superior singer, I don’t think he was the greatest frontman for Motley Crue. Watching Youtube videos, he really didn’t seem to be able to really get the crowd going with any charisma. Vince sings like shit but has the crowds in the palm of his hands!

      Man it’s a shame they never did the five-piece lineup with both guys.

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