Following the success of the two live LPs bookending Mars's trajectory through the skies of NYC, Mark Cunningham was convinced to return to his legendary box of cassettes. Even he was surprised to discover the band's earliest shows (done under the name China) were there, amidst a tumble of other tapes. Thus, the idea was born for a trilogy of LPs tracing Mars's development from their first audition gig at CBGB through the shows following their 1980 Lust/Unlust EP. China to Mars is the first volume, and really displays for the first time how much the band's earliest music was a mutated variation on some of NYC's extant juggernauts, in particular Television and the Patti Smith Group. While their sound was clearly their own, the textures and techniques they're using to achieve them are far less alien than they'd become. Side one was recorded at China's audition night at CBGB in Feb. '77, and their follow-up show in June. It's amazing how good it sounds. And the songs are almost all unheard (apart from 'Cry,' which appeared on the 2012 Anomia tape box). Even 3E is nearly unrecognizable from it's released version recorded the following year. The second side is from Sept. '77, once they had started calling themselves Mars. The shuddering blocks of sound for which they are known are beginning to coalesce, and Sumner's dark vocals are pushed to the fore. The music is stunning. You can hear the band on the very cusp of transforming itself into the group that recorded those incredible early sides. Wow, can't wait for the next two volumes -Byron Coley, 2015. Edition of 800.