"A snapshot of a guitar man at the height of his powers": The first MC5 album in half a century is confirmed – first single out now

Wayne Kramer studio portrait
(Image credit: Jim Newberry)

Two years after it was originally announced, a release date for the fourth album by Detroit legends the MC5 has been announced. Heavy Lifting, the follow-up to 1971's classic High Time, will be released via earMusic on October 18, the day before the band are inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. A single, Boys Who Play With Matches, is out now. 

In March 2022, late MC5 guitarist Wayne Kramer announced that Heavy Lifting was on the way, produced by Bob Ezrin and fronted by Bay Area singer Brad Brooks. Slated for release in October that year, it never materialised. In late 2023 Kramer revealed it was scheduled to drop in the spring of 2024, but again the album didn't arrive. But earlier this year, in the wake of Kramer's death, Ezrin told Classic Rock that those involved in the recording, "feel a responsibility to make sure that his work is heard and he is celebrated."

"It's very heavy," Ezrin said. "It has a kind of sense of revolutionary message but also a good sense of humour. There's a little bit of heavy metal. There's quite a bit of funk. But it is a heavy record, and it's a guitar record left, right and centre, just a wall of guitars most of the time, and mostly driven by Wayne and his ethos. It's a snapshot of a guitar man at the height of his powers."

The album features the final recordings of late MC5 drummer Dennis 'Machine Gun' Thompson, who died last month, while Slash, Tom Morello, Alice in Chains frontman William DuVall, Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid, Don Was and Rise Against's Tim McIlrath all guest. Other musicians on the album include Vicki Randle (Aretha Franklin), Stevie Salas (Parliament Funkadelic, Rod Stewart), Abe Laboriel Jr. (Paul McCartney), Winston Watson Jr. (Bob Dylan), and Joe Berry (M83).  

“I wanted to kind of pick up where we left off with High Time," Kramer told MOJO last year. "Pushing music forward, carrying a message of self-efficacy and empowerment – and just to have fun. It’s all in the MC5. Creativity is the solution for the challenges we face. I put everybody to work. The record is a guitar extravaganza – everyone, and yours truly, all bashin’ away on electric guitars. That’s my goal – to overload the guitar."

Heavy Lifting will be available in single CD and LP editions, as well as double CD/LP sets that include a live album recorded by the MC50 live band, created in 2018 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the band's debut album, Kick Out The Jams. The band starred Kramer alongside Soundgarden guitarist Kim Thayil, Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, Faith No More’s bassist Billy Gould, and frontman Marcus Durant (Zen Guerrilla). The album also features a guest appearance by Mudhoney's Mark Arm, who fronted the touring DKT/MC5 version of the MC5 in 2004. 

MC5: Heavy Lifting tracklist

1. Heavy Lifting (feat. Tom Morello)
2. Barbarians At The Gate
3. Change, No Change
4. The Edge Of The Switchblade (feat. William Duvall & Slash)
5. Black Boots (feat. Tim McIIrath)
6. I Am The Fun (The Phoney)
7. Twenty-Five Miles
8. Because Of Your Car
9. Boys Who Play With Matches
10. Blind Eye (feat. Dennis Thompson)
11. Can’t Be Found (feat. Vernon Reid & Dennis Thompson)
12. Blessed Release
13. Hit It Hard (feat. Joe Berry)

Additional Tracks (2CD/2LP)
1. Ramblin' Rose
2. Kick Out The Jams
3. Come Together
4. Motor City Is Burning
5. Borderline
6. Gotta Keep Movin'
7. Future/Now
8. Poison
9. Shakin' Street
10. Sister Anne

MC5 - Heavy Lifting cover art

(Image credit: earMusic)
Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.