Share  JAMES WILLIAMSON WITH THE CARELESS HEARTS – James Williamson with the Careless Hearts (Easy Action)
The immediacy of the event - James Williamson's return to playing live after 35 years - has declined somewhat since this was recorded as he's gone on to re-join Iggy & the Stooges proper, but it's still an exciting release. It finds Strait James backed by a local band, the Careless Hearts, going through a set of Stooges classics in The Blank Club, a smallish venue in San Jose.

From what I can work out, the Careless Hearts play pop-rock which well removed from what the "Raw Power" era Stooges used to dish out, but the experience of various members and punk rock aren't mutually exclusive. In other words, they take to these songs like brewery workers to free beer.

The Hearts' pairing with Williamson came about a few years ago because the band's guitar player, Derek See, worked in the shop where James bought his guitar strings. The line-up already had a piano player but was augmented on this night by two female backing vocalists on three songs and the indomitable Steve McKay on sax (and sleigh bells), himself a Stooge of long standing.

Vocalist Paul Kimball makes it clear at the top of the set that "the shirt's staying on" so he must have been aware of expectations. The news is that he does a more than respectable take on the baritone vocal phrasings of You Know Who without sounding like a copycat.

The Careless Hearts are up to the task as well, rocking and reeling their way through these songs with minimal restraint and a lot of, er, heart. There are some odd moments ("Funhouse" struggles to approximate the loose-limbed stomp of the original) but on the whole, it's a fun trip.

As for the Man His-self, he's in awe-inspiring form with the choppy chording and lightning jolt lead breaks permeating the songs like chlorine in a heated pool.

This is a feed off the desk presumably, so it's not an audiophile recording. Nor does it have to be; the charm of this disc is hearing a legend and his friends blasting away a small room in front of a crowd of their homies. The disc takes you there.

And in case you're like those conspiracy theorists who think man never landed on the moon, there's a "no frills", fixed camera DVD of the evening completing the package. - The Barman


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Three things: 1) Fitzgerald was full of shit about there being no second acts in American lives. 2) Living well is the best revenge. 3) The Stooges always win.

“Straight” James Williamson’s return to the Stoogefold after retiring from a career as a Sony exec is one of the more unlikely rock ‘n’ roll surprises in recent memory – surpassed only by the fact that he returned from CorporateAmerica with his guitar chops fairly intact. Being a prudent man, however, James broke the ice before leaping into Stooge rehearsals by teaming up with a San Jose band, the Careless Hearts, to practice the material. Together, they played a single gig at a local club there, with Funhouse saxophonist Steve Mackay also on board. The event was recorded and video’d, and estimable Brit label Easy Action has reissued the resultant document in limited double vinyl- and CD-cum-DVD formats.

While not as polished as the 2010 Stooge lineup’s widely circulated Sao Paulo, Lille, and London shows, this hot club set has more than just historical significance to recommend it. I don’t know anything about these Careless Hearts, but I do know how exciting it is to play these songs from my own experiences in a Stooge (and other proto-punk) cover band, and how exciting it is to hear them played by anybody with the correct spirit – which is to say, not “respectful,” but rather, similarly abandoned (e.g., the recent Hitmen/Niagara collaboration). These NoCal boys (and girls – members of San Francisco’s The Bang contributed background voxxx) must have been over the moon to be playing these songs with two of the Real Guys, and they kick out the proverbial jams with plenty of energy and verve.

The set list includes songs from Funhouse and Kill City, as well as the Williamson-era Stooges, then they encore with “Dog” and “Louie Louie.” The recording is of good-board-tape quality. The crowd sounds like they were having a real cool time. Makes me wish I’d-a been there. - Ken Shimamoto



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