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Rage Against the Machine

Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium (Epic)

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Before Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk became Chris Cornell's backing band and started writing above-average radio rock, they were three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine, the only rap-rock band that mattered. Skilled and informed, Rage frontman Zack De La Rocha spat political vitriol over the most violent funk in the history of rock, a two-kiloton bounce made by live instruments played nontraditionally until they shrieked the kind of noises usually only generated by dexterous DJs.

Rage's interpersonal chemistry was famously volatile throughout the recording of the band's first two LPs -- rap-rock masterpieces unrivaled by any of the cracker-barrel rap they inspired. That tension was absent during The Battle of Los Angeles, an insipid record that spawned two radio hits. The goodwill dissolved during the ensuing arena tour. At each other's throats but faced with contractual obligations, the disintegrating group recorded Renegades, a bloodletting covers collection that sent Rage out on top. Recorded in the midst of the band's final fights, Live at the Grand Olympic Auditorium captures performances from the conflicted collaborators' last two concerts. Pioneering rap-rock producer Rick Rubin assembled these letter-perfect renditions of most of Rage's better tracks, drawing heavily from BoLA. Thanks to the flying sparks, the songs from that limp album are no longer their weakest.

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