Live at Montreux 2001 (Eagle Rock )
From Hollis, Queens, N.Y., to Switzerland, Run-DMC rocked the house party eight days a week until Jam Master Jay's murder in 2002. This hourlong Montreux Jazz Festival performance sold separately on both CD and DVD packs extra poignancy as a result of the DJ's violent demise, but it's a mighty fun ride still. That's because Run-DMC were hip-hop pioneers in both style and execution, delivering the monster rock balls of a full ensemble without having to hire instrumentalists to beef up their sound. Implored repeatedly to bounce to the rhythm, the Swiss audience screams as if they're about to lose their collective chocolate. Despite an elongated introductory vamp that loses its punch well short of its almost five-minute running time, all is forgiven once the Rev. Run and Darryl launch into "It's Like That" and "It's Tricky." Better yet, though unabashedly old-school, it's impossible to overstate how revolutionary "Rock Box" sounded in the mid-Eighties. The cavalcade of hits keeps coming with "King of Rock" (R.I.P., Larry "Bud" Melman) and "Walk This Way," a watershed collaboration that Aerosmith now owes the temporal majority of their career to. 1988's Tougher Than Leather is well-represented with "Beats to the Rhyme" and the Michael Nesmith nod, "Mary, Mary." Surprisingly, both pack more of a punch in retrospect than they did at the time, as does 1993's post-salvation hit, "Down With the King." Like all good arena rockers, each member of the trio takes a solo turn to unleash formidable if not revelatory skills. Some fans might smart at the omission of "My Adidas" and "You Talk Too Much," but it's hard to imagine a more potently distilled showcase set.