READY TO DIE - Iggy and the Stooges (Fat Possum/Warner)
This one's just for the fans. By which I mean, if you're new to the Stooges, don't buy this record. Instead, buy Funhouse, then The Stooges, then Raw Power.
If you've already got those, plus Metallic K.O., Kill City, all those quasi-legit James Williamson-era recordings on Revenge/Bomp/Easy Action, maybe even Rhino's Funhouse box set and Live At Ungano's, Easy Action's A Thousand Lights and You Want My Action, and especially the post-reunion audio and video artifacts, pull up a chair. Because if you're a dyed-in-the-wool Stooge obsessive, you're probably still dubious after the disappointment that was The Weirdness, and wondering whether this'll be worth it.
I feel you. I was there, too. I tried hard as hell to like The Weirdness, wrote a highest-rating review of it for the I-94 Bar, even learned a song from it that the Stooges cover band I used to play in performed a couple of times before we realized there was a shit-ton of material we liked playing better than "My Idea of Fun." But I've never been motivated to listen to it since then, not even once. That album is not a fitting epitaph for Ron Asheton. But now there is one; I'll get to that in a minute.
But first, realize that this is a whole different band than the one that made The Weirdness. Ron was the greatest at playing a certain type of bare-bones fundamental psychedelic blues-based rock guitar, which he perfected in the spring of 1970, and the songs that he and Iggy cooked up for the first two albums encapsulate the anomie of young 'Meercuns better than anything since Eddie Cochran. That said, Ron's track record post-Stooges was somewhat less than stellar (slight exception: New Race, but that was just for two weeks in Orstralia).
The partnership between James Williamson and Iggy was more long-lived and fecund, including Kill City and New Values, my pick for the last good Iggy album prior to the Oh-ohs' Stooge renaissance. James is a more developed songwriter than Ron, although you couldn't always tell on Raw Power. The fact that the lion's share of the material he and Iggy wrote for the Stooges wasn't released until after the band's '74 implosion has forced fans to listen to Williamson-era Stooges the way Paul Williams listens to Bob Dylan. That is, since no "official" release exists, one is forced to become attuned to nuances of performance between the myriad bootleg versions.
Indeed, some of us were hoping that with Williamson back in the fold, Ig 'n' James would pull a maneuver similar to what Rocket From the Tombs did with Rocket Redux before David Thomas broke terminally bad with Cheetah Chrome -- e.g., laying down the old repertoire with contemporary studio sonics. But boy, did we have something else coming.
Because in the same way that the Stooges never played "old shit" back in the day -- by the time you caught 'em live, they were playing a whole new set from the one you expected based on the current record -- so they went into this project determined to prove that they weren't just reliving former glories and counting the money. Rather, Iggy insisted, they're a real band with something to say in 2013.
On the basis of the first couple of spins, I'd say he wasn't bullshitting. Most crucially, the retired Sony VP behind the cherry sunburst Les Paul doesn't sound like he's lost a step since he walked out of the Soldier sessions wa-a-y back in 1980. James has grown as a musician in ways that Ron, bless him, never did, developing an interest in Hawaiian slack-key guitar, among other things. His guitar style remains equal parts propulsive chording a la Keef Richards and jagged-edged soloing, steeped in the mid-'60s masterwork of Jeff Beck and Mike Bloomfield.
More to the point, Williamson's more into the craft of songwriting; besides writing rockers with more chords than anybody's this side of Blue Oyster Cult, his slow songs like "Johanna," the "St. James Infirmary" rewrite "I Need Somebody," and maybe best of all, "Open Up and Bleed," were the most complete expression of the '72-'74 Stooges' psychodrama. While there's nothing here that sounds as terminally desperate as those excursions into the soul's dark night, there are a couple of opportunities for Iggy to explore some atypical emotions -- copping to some vulnerability in the acoustic slide-driven "Unfriendly World," expressing a sense of exhaustion on the Exile On Main St.-ish "Beat That Guy" (which features lovely, ethereal backing vocals from Petra Haden and a tortuously lyrical solo from Williamson).
The album's spiritual center, though, is closing track "The Departed," an elegy for Ron that was first performed at a 2011 memorial show in Ann Arbor (the DVD release of which is delayed but imminent). In it, the signature riff from "I Wanna Be Your Dog" is recast as a dirge for its author, played by Williamson on slack-key guitar, giving way to heartfelt lyrics, tinged with regret, which Iggy intones in his blasted sexagenarian's voice -- recorded with the same extreme-close-up quality as it was on "1969" -- over martial drums: "There's no one here but us / By the end of the game / We all get thrown under the bus." Listening to this song, I remember hearing Iggy interviewed on a local Detroit station immediately after Ron's death. He sounded dazed, and mainly talked about their early acquaintance back in the '60s. It occurred to me that that interview was probably the first time I'd ever heard Jim Osterberg speaking, rather than Iggy. That voice is in this song, too.
The rockers are a mixed bag. "Burn" fulminates with Williamson cranking out the chords and wrestling off-kilter solos from his axe. "The man of the future's a bully and loser," sings Iggy in a voice more seasoned and nuanced than his '70s snarl, but not as operatic as his post-Bowie incarnation. "Sex and Money" and "Job" echo the Ron-era Stooges in the same way as some of the songs on the first side of New Values did, but they provide a much rougher ride, with handclaps, Haden's sultry backing vocals, and Steve Mackay's sax adding a Roxy Music/Mott the Hoople pop veneer to the former. On the latter, Iggy sings, "I've got a job and I'm sick of it" -- a clue that he's contemplating retirement, perhaps?
The Stones influence on "Gun" is reminiscent of Raw Power's uptempo numbers, while on "Ready To Die," with its strutting riff, Williamson layers on the crunchy guitars the way Keef used to back when his well of inspiration still seemed bottomless. "DD's" -- yes, folks, it's a song about tits -- has a Memphis soul groove, while "Dirty Deal" sounds cut from the same cloth as "Death Trip."
By now, Mike Watt's worked the four-string axe longer than any other Stooges bassist, and while Scott Asheton is more workmanlike here than he was in his adventurous younger days, when the tension between his reach and his grasp provided palpable excitement, he's still an original and it's a drag that he's been replaced for touring; his traps still cut it on record.
Bottom line? Comparisons being odious, I think Ready To Die is actually a more consistent record than Raw Power was. It's not as ground-breaking -- how could it be? -- but I'm betting it'll hold up to repeated listenings, the way The Weirdness didn't. Come back and ask me again in six months. Or...you could try it yourself.
- Ken Shimamoto
Most bands only get the window propped open long enough to shoot for greatness once. The Stooges, in their two major original configurations, hit the bullseye twice without even realising it. Should we really expect them to do it a third time?
Six years ago, the "comeback" album "The Weirdness" wasn't only weighed down by unrealistic expectations. It wasn't up to the mark - in songs, delivery or that undefinable thing called attitude. Iggy is inevitably the focal point of any Stooges line-up and his words, and singing, seemed forced. The original Stooges were juvenile delinquents - stoners and slackers before either term existed. Iggy is a smart and well read guy but "The Weirdness" had a sense of feigned dumbness.
"Ready To Die is not "Raw Power" and it's certainly not "Fun House". Nor should it have to be.
So that's what it isn't. Let's talk about what it is. "Ready to Die" is good. It becomes very good with repeated listenings. It's billed as Iggy & The Stooges and it's worthy of their oeuvre. It's raw (in parts) and ragged. The thwack of Rock Action's snare locks in with the grind and grooves of Mike Watt, the longest-serving bassist in any of their line-ups. James Williamson's sonic assault is brutal in all the right places.
As an album, first impression is that it's disjointed, flitting from straight-up rockers to a blues song to an off-key ballad, but somehow it still hangs together. It's the sound of Iggy - and The Stooges - facing up to mortality. They're not exploding. Their hides are not full of napalm. They're not lining up to buy a ticket for a seat on a Death Trip - at least not the express route. No songs about ATMs this time or alimony. Sex, money, gun policy and life, however, all get a look in. Iggy's lyrics are helpfully provided on an insert but you can hear them well enough and they're pretty good.
Remember when the Stooges were hated? Iggy does. These are the lyrics of is a man who's been out in the cold for so long that he can't believe that they've finally let him in. He's not entirely sure how he got there, he's not remotely comfortable with some of the people (industry types, mostly) who are in that room, but he's going to hang in there anyway.
"Burn" is the opener and lead single. A song about the whole shithouse going up in flames, it's burned to a crisp by Wiliamson's flamethrower guitar before Iggy's baritone drops in. Now, I know people who can't abide Pop's grown-up croon and long for the demented howl of his strung-out-on-the-road days. Iggy's older and so is his voice. It has its limitations. At times, Iggy sounds tired and dangerously close to lacking energy (something you could never accuse him of in the live context.) As someone who knows him recently pointed out: "Iggy's not a singer - he's more of a character." Understood.
"Sex and Money" next and it's a supercharged rocker with handclaps and female backing vocals that recalls "Kill City". Steve Mackay's sax weaves its way right through this one and his solo is a killer. Pop's vocal is also right on the money.
Some of these tracks are insistent growers that sneak up and sink their teeth in only after a handful of plays and "Job" is at the top of the list. You could take the song literally and bemoan the ridiculousness of a man with three houses singing about his pointless working day existence when we all know the last conventional job he held down was selling LPs at Discount Records in Ann Arbor in 1965. You'd also be a fucking knucklehead. This is Iggy role-playing. You never heard of that? Ask your brain to move on, there's nothing to look at here. "Job" does its job.
"Gun" is absolutely a pop song. It's about gun proliferation and maybe the self-centredness of American society and foreign policy and chickens coming home to roost, but where the Stooges stand on all this isn't clear - or all that important. It's sing-songy with a "freaking out in the USA" chorus and economical solo. A pop song not destined for commercial radio anywhere near you.
"Unfriendly World" is the surprise ballad. Languid and a respite of sorts after the four-song barrage that precedes it, it's also the point where all your preconceptions and pre-conditioning get kissed goodbye. The Stooges never sounded like this, you say. No shit, Sherlock. Deft, almost delicate, guitar sees us out.
And right into "Ready To Die", which on the other hand is an unbridled monster. Layers of scorched earth guitar, a defining moment on the album for James Wiliamson, and a Rock Asheton feel so heavy it could leave a hole in your stereo. It makes "DD", the bouncy ode to fun-bags that follows, sound like the horny/horns-tinged throwaway it is.
"Dirty Deal" is the second of the pigeon pair of "Kill City" songs. Ig's vocal doesn't quite cut it here but Mackay's sax and Williamson's stabbing guitar get it home.
An acoustic bed runs deep through "Beat That Guy" and for 30 seconds you're ready for another introspective blues trip. Then the drums kick in and the song builds. Keys (from no less than ex-Stooge Scott Thurston), strings and female vocals position the song on the crest of a wave before it surfs home on a minute of intense Williamson guitar.
The band debuted "The Departed" at the Ann Arbor tribute concert to Ron Asheton. It's also a tribute. Book-ended by the "I Wanna Be Your Dog" motif (thanks due also to Yusef Lateef) and flavoured by pedal steel, Scott Asheton's martial fills and Iggy's worn vocal, it's touching and entirely appropriate. "And by the end of the game/We all get thrown under the bus".
That would be the album - unless you bought the Australian edition which includes "Dying Breed". The vocal melody's wonky and the song sounds a touch under-done, but all you completists will want it. Strait James' six strings propel the thing and the fact is that Iggy and his compatriots s one of a dying breed. God bless The Stooges. - The Barman
There has been a high level of anticipation about this release with most of the focus directed to the tag line; the follow up to “Raw Power”. The thing is, this is also the follow up to “Kill City”, “New Values” and the bust up that was “Soldier”. Of most concern is the fact that this is also the follow up to “the Weirdness” no matter how you dress it up.
“The Weirdness” was pretty much written off by everyone upon its release. Frank, when he was down at Mojo, told me he couldn’t sell it to me in all good conscience. When the guy in the record shop feels dirty selling you something, you have to worry. There was a universal critical panning. I found myself backing away slowly. Then I spotted a copy going sub bargain bin cheap and I picked it up and gave it a day in court. I didn’t like it. And then an hour later, I wanted to hear it again. Slowly but surely, the damn thing worked its way into my heart.
It just hadn’t sounded like it was expected to sound. It was not the follow up to “Fun House” that the punters wanted. Christ did not walk on water and the blind did not see. Musically, the whole thing had more in common with Ron Asheton’s New Order than traditional Stooges. (In hindsight, some might say that is not a bad thing.)
The major problem that “The Weirdness” had was its lyrical conception shift. Iggy no longer wrote about feeling something. He wrote about observing something. And that marked the major attitude change. Iggy no longer rolled in broken glass, telling us what that felt like. He wrote about a sad, sick world that had once made him want to roll in broken glass. And, whilst I guess it is probably more appropriate for a man of his age to deliver wisdom, it is a fuck of a lot less immediate.
Furthermore, Iggy seemed to supply his wisdom without wit but drove the trauma home with blunt force fury. There was irony. There were different character voices. It didn’t quite match up to Bruce Springsteen’s use of such techniques.
Cutting to the chase, if you come at “Ready to Die” expecting “Raw Power” mark 2, you are going to be one unhappy camper. This disc is as different as “Raw Power” was to “Funhouse”, “Kill City” or “The Idiot”. The album this sounds most like is “The Weirdness”. There is no escaping the similarity of sound and lyrical structure and content. I know that is the excuse a lot of people have been waiting for to write this thing off but bear with me. If I tell you I have listened to this 10 times in the last couple of days, that has to mean something. It has to mean they have got something right this time. Hell, I woke up singing some of these songs. It’s been a while since I can say an album by anyone had that effect on me. This disc has pulled me over to the side of the road and demanded my full attention. Tick one in its favour.
The album clocks in at 34 minutes, another tick in its favour. The advent of the CD pushed the size of albums up to ridiculous proportions. In the ‘70s, all you needed to do was string four or five decent songs across one side of plastic and you had an album. Side one of “Fun House” got a hell of a lot more plays than side two! Recognising that too much really is too much benefits this disc enormously.
The album makes its points quickly and cleanly and moves on. The choruses are stronger than those of its predecessor and, predictably given James Williamson’s involvement, the songs are better structured. There is a good variation in style and mood but the albums presents as a unified whole. You’ll hear touches of “Raw Power” and “Kill City” in the overall sound but essentially this is a band that has had the presence of mind to move on and not hark over past glories. Studio recordings of “Open Up and Bleed” or “Cock in My Pocket” would have slid nicely into this package and improved accessibility and those songs were certainly highlights of recent live performances. But the Stooges don’t do accessible well. As an album, “Ready to Die” remains wilfully forward facing (albeit facing towards an inevitable decline towards death). The cover depicts Iggy posed to go out with a bang and not a whimper.
“Ready to Die” leads out with its greatest stab at brute force. “Burn”, “Sex Money”, “Job” and “Gun” chase each other’s heels. James Williamson’s guitar is at its perfect stabbing best. If any other band on Earth lined these four songs up in a row, you would raise your hands in the air, slap your money down on the counter and cry hallelujah. The temptation a lot of people seem to have upon hearing this album is to say “but there’s no Search and Destroy here” and claim disappointment. I fail to see how anyone could write these songs and performances off as second rate. I am frankly astounded.
Even the most cynical listener would immediately point to this as Iggy’s best album since “New Values” and most would point at albums long before that. This is a band that is absolutely shit kicking. Okay. The lyrics still suffer from a certain sledge hammer dumbness with “Gun” being worst offender. Maybe that’s my cultural prejudice. I still cannot believe the critical accolades Green Day received for their “visionary” (ie hackneyed, crass and speaking the bleeding obvious) lyrics to “American Idiot.”
It is the second half of the album where things start to get really interesting. Suddenly, the Stooges give up the pretence of being the Stooges altogether. The band branches off into wider vistas just as “Kill City” had done post the Metallic KO of their mid seventies demise. The mood turns introspective and not the loud introspectiveness we equate with the Stooges’ brand. We are used to a band on a Death Trip; young men flirting with death. The romance of living fast, taking drugs, dying young and good looking corpses. Well, they flirted in youth and to everyone’s surprise, Death didn’t take them as a job lot. Now they are staring that bad boy again for real and Iggy has some different tales to tell.
“Unfriendly World” might just be the best song Tom Waits never wrote. “The Departed”, a song top and tailed with a dobro version of “I Wanna Be Your Dog” is a tribute to Ron Asheton. Title track “Ready to Die” is as good a song as the Stooges ever recorded in any incarnation. “DDs” proves that Iggy remains a smutty little bastard. I could throw some adjectives around but you should explore these songs for yourself.
When the Stooges’ first album came out, critics called it primitive and beneath contempt. When “Fun House” came out, it was similarly dismissed. “Raw Power” was considered a sell-out by the band’s original fans. “Kill City” was considered a sell-out by punks who expected “Raw Power”. “The Idiot” upset just about everyone. Since when were the Stooges supposed to give people what they want? So I’m starting the backlash against conventional wisdom early on this one. I’ve been writing this for a couple of hours now and listened to the album three-and-a-half times while doing so. It gets better every time.
Why am I giving it five bottles? Because it fucking deserves it. Not out of any kind of misplaced sentimentality. Not out of nostalgia. Not out of wishful thinking. It is just a fucking great album. - Bob Short
RAW POWER LIVE: IN THE HANDS OF THE FANS – Iggy and the Stooges (MVD Audio)
The last couple of years have been a bonusburger for Stooge aficionados who just have to own every last artifact (which presumably you are if you're reading this). Easy Action brought us live documentation of the original Pop-Asheton-Asheton-Alexander unit (the deluxe "Popped" and pristine "A Thousand Lights"), as well as the seldom-heard Pop-Asheton-Asheton-Williamson-Recca lineup ("You Want My Action") and even James Williamson's waters-testing stand with his guitar tech's y'allternative band the Careless Hearts. Rhino contributed recordings of the hitherto undocumented Pop-Asheton-Asheton-Cheatham-Zettner configuration "(Have Some Fun: Live At Ungano's"). "Kill City" got the whole reissue-and-revisionist-history treatment. Even Williamson's reform school band, the Coba Seas, have an imminent release.
Recorded at a country club in the Catskills (where else?), "In the Hands of the Fans" documents a performance of the flawed-but-seminal 1973 masterpiece in its entirety (although not in its original sequence), plus "I Got A Right" (still hard to believe that one was written in 1971). What elevates this set over other Williamson-era reunion recordings you might have heard is the absence of Scott Thurston's keys, which tend to make things sound a little too Mott the Hoople-ish for these feedback-scorched ears, especially when Steve Mackay's playing sax on every song.
Mackay's low in the mix here, an advantage on non-"Fun House" repertoire, and Straight James shows that he's more than capable of carrying the load sans another chordal instrument, even adding some woozy slide to "I Need Somebody"'s mutated "St. James Infirmary" blooze. His chaos-lead on "Death Trip" is particularly lethal. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Mike Watt's such an assertively in-your-face player on bass; he plays Ron Asheton's lines in a way that'd make their originator proud, and is better recorded to boot. (It's worth noting that Watt has now been a Stooge longer than anyone else that held down the low end for 'em besides Ron.) Only non-snazz aspect, sonically speaking, is that Rock Action's drums get short shrift in the mix here, but no more so than they did on the original album.
Unless Iggy cuts another full-length with this reunited lineup, this could wind up being the sole officially sanctioned souvenir of the "Raw Power" band's hard-earned victory lap. While I'd still like to see an official release of one of the definitive-sounding "Open Up and Bleed" versions from European shows I've heard, this'll do just fine - New York Times quote on the sleeve and all.- Ken Shimamoto
POPPED - The Stooges (Easy Action)
The Golden Age of the Stooges is upon us and the onetime "biggest joke in SW Michigan" (so described by more than one person who saw them in their original incarnation) now has almost universal critical respect. From derided to celebrated and the latest news is that Easy Action's latest offering, "Popped", does them justice.
More than a CD release, "Popped" is best described as a "fan pack/celebration". Yes, there's a disc of live material ("One Thousand Lights") that's probably more for the completist than the casual listener. It sitas with a bunch of previously publicly unseen photos of the band circa 1970-71 and six editions of the newsletter, "Popped" - all the work of uber supporter Natalie "Stoogeling" Schlossman. Topping off the package is a T-shirt and a reproduction handbill. It all comes in a presentation plastic box.
The newsletter is very much of its time, a stream-of=consciousness by a obsessed fan. There's nothing up with that but if you hasn't guessed Natalie had a fair crush on Rock Action then you haven't read the thing properly. Hormonal gushings to one side, there are some interesting asides about what songs had been recorded, or were earmarked for studio treatment,
and some intriguing interpretations of band member departures. Natalie obviously wasn't exposed to the seamier side of certain Stooge behaviours (or if she was, she wasn't letting on.) The road crew - a few of whom were pointed out by others as a big drug influence for the band - merit lots of space.
The live disc is a 10-tracker and has been culled from Natalie's own collection. They're better than average audience recordings for the most part, with a particularly stinging "Fun House" from Chicago in July '70. Audio from the infamous peanut butter TV broadcast in June that year is also appended.
If you missed the "You Don't Want My Name, You Want My Action" set, Ken Shimamoto's long interview with missing Stooge Jimmy Recca (in an ideal world it would have been part of it) is included, in deluxe booklet form.
Easy Action sets the standard for packaging (props to artist Les Clark) and this collection is no exception. A handful remain, evidently, so get in fast. - The Barman
HAVE SOME FUN: LIVE AT UNGANO'S – The Stooges (Rhino Handmade)
Long awaited, here are the first live recordings of the Ron Asheton-era Stooges. (Well, maybe Easy Action got there first with their Popped fan pack, the audio portion of which they just released separately as "A Thousand Lights"). And these are damn sure the only commercially available recordings of the lineup with ex-roadies Bill Cheatham on second guitar and Zeke Zettner on bass, recorded in a 200-capacity Manhattan club.
I've written elsewhere that the endless fascination with audience recordings of the James Williamson-era Stooges stems from the fact that none of that repertoire was ever officially recorded. Some folks would argue that even the "Raw Power" songs were never decently recorded. The songs on this release, however, have to stand comparison with what I'd rank as the Greatest Rock Album Of All Ti-i-i-ime, and of course they can't measure up to that.
The disc opens with a recording of fans yakking about the Stooges en route to the show. One of the female fans asks if Iggy wasn't from the MC5. Her friend explains that he's "a baby Mick Jagger" and opines that Funhouse is "about 4500 times better" than The Stooges. The male fans are impressed by the fact that he "puts meat on himself" and "scratches himself."
The Stooges play their set of the time, which is basically the "Fun House" songs in order, except "Down On the Street" and "Loose" switch places. The most prominent audible elements are vocals, lead guitar, and drums, so it's a step forward from a lot of earlier quasi-official releases where Iggy's singing and imprecations were inaudible, or blurred enough to be incomprehensible. Maybe it's a monitor mix. He doesn't do an awful lot of audience-baiting on mic here, though.
When the bass is audible, Zeke (R.I.P.) does a fine job. If there's a second guitar on this, I sure can't hear it, but it doesn't matter. Ron's fuzz-and-wah-laden acid blues genius is present, and as the audio from Goose Lake has shown in the past (you can Youtube it, plus it's on the Easy Action Popped thingy), he and his brother were the greatest two-man band until the Sex Pistols.
An apex is achieved as "1970" lashes the crowd with whipsaw fury, then sax maniac Steve McKay makes his entrance and things get weird. The version of "Funhouse" doesn't really coalesce until about halfway through, and it's only three minutes and change (tape splice?) before the thing melts down into a 10-minute "energy freakout free-form" extravaganza which the compilers have entitled "Have Some Fun/My Dream Is Dead."
If you're partial to things like the 17-minute version of "L.A. Blues" on The Complete Funhouse Sessions, "Asthma Attack" on the Rhino Handmade "collector's edition" of The Stooges, the MC5 obliterating audience at the Grande Ballroom with a hyperextended, sax-laden "Black To Comm," or Les Rallizes Denudes' "Smoking Cigarette Blues," then "Have Some Fun…" should be right up your alley. Myself, when I'm in the mood for skronk, I'll put on something like Coltrane's Ascension or Meditations instead. But that's just me.
Put it another way: That one track is 25 percent of a 40-minute set, and the smiling folks at Rhino Handmade want $20 American for thisun. Myself, when I want to hear this band, I'm still going to reach for my vinyl copy of "Fun House". I have heard enough to know that I have heard too much.- Ken Shimamoto
RAW POWER – Iggy and the Stooges (Legacy)
You probably know the back-story about the core package (the straight re-issue of the Bowie mix with live disc appended) so let’s cut to the chase and talk about the Deluxe Ediiton.
I must be one of the few people who found at least some redeeming qualities in Iggy’s re-mix, namely in the way the drums and Ron Asheton’s bass-playing were thrown into sharper relief. Even so, it was a struggle to find a sound system on which to play the damned thing without blowing a hole in the speakers. Too much red-lining and vocals that were way too high in the mix conspired to consign that re-issue to the back-shelf. Bowie’s supposedly ham-fisted 1973 mixdown was, in hindsight, the definitive article. Haphazard, crazed and reflective of the times.
So there's this disc one of this re-issue. Whether the transfer from master tapes to CD has worked is still contentious. These (damaged) ears tell me it’s a bit crisper but with only the vinyl to compare (the ‘80s CD version having been stolen years ago) it’s hard to say. Reviewing comrade Bob Short says the earlier digital version sounds warmer but that’s probably by relative degrees, given that we’re talking about CDs. Let’s just say the Bowiefied disc sounds more at home and familiar than its immediate shiny silver predecessor. This one doesn't scorch the carpet as badly.
It’s probably the extras you’re interested in anyway so let’s dive in. This deluxe edition is only available on-line, the bean counters at Sony deciding they wouldn’t move enough copies through the few record shops left standing to make it worthwhile. So is it worth the extra outlay? My call (admittedly from a fan-atical perspective) is Yes – provided you’re not paying the $50 international shipping cost Sony and/or its gouging mail order fulfilment company is charging overseas customers. Using “other channels” (payment via Paypal, having it shipped to a US friend and paying her to send it on) the real cost was less than half that. So now you know how to screw the system that would screw you. And while we're handing out brickbats, let’s send a giant "Get Fucked" the way of Sony's Australian office which couldn’t be bothered doing the parent company’s bidding and servicing us with a no-frills CD-R advance release for pre-release review.
This is a well-appointed package. Stunning. It’s four discs (the album re-issue, the live “Georgia Peaches” show, a CD of supposed rarities and a DVD documentary) in a fold-out inner sleeve. The slipcase also accommodates a re-issue of the impossibly-rare Japanese seven-inch “Raw Power” vinyl single (looks and sounds nice on our jukebox), as well as postcard-sized photos and a gorgeous glossy booklet.
The book’s very nice if low on fresh insights - Henry Rollins’ piece on the Iggy re-mix does its best to say how good it was (and of course you may disagree) – while the truly obsessed might frame the postcard style pictures that come in the elegant black envelope. Don't ever say we're not full of good ideas.
The rarities disc is mostly no such thing: “Gimme Danger” and “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell” are the 1996 mixes (probably compressed to the shithouse, one informed guess opines) while the versions of “Shake Appeal” and “Death Trip” aren’t startlingly different to anything heard before. “I’m Hungry” is an early version of “Penetration” with different lyrics that avoid intravenous injecting allusions but sticks with sex; it’s pretty good and holds up to repeated plays. “Hey Peter” is an outtake for good reason and the vocal re-mix job sounds far too contemporary for its own good.
“Georgia Peaches” is where the action is and its eight songs find Iggy & the Stooges in fine form. It was professionally recorded but it’s not as pristine as you might have been led to believe. Even allowing for scratchy guitar lead noise and the odd vocal drop-out, it’s a staggering piece of aural carnage and well worth repeated plays. For mine, this really takes off at “Gimme Danger” (three songs in) and doesn’t relent until the final chords of “Open Up And Bleed” where the ragged nature of Scott Thurston’s vocal add-in only accentuates the level of desperation.
The Ig is out on the edge – you can hear it in his vocal and in-between song belligerence that almost resulted in some hapless local “cracker boy” copping a knuckle sandwich with all the trimmings. Of course most of the crowd probably thought Iggy was referring to the aural impact of his band when he quipped that “it doesn’t hurt after the injection” but with the addition of hindsight it’s a piece of patter that is breathtaking in its irony.
This is a disc to play to death, even if the bonus studio songs (the very ordinary jam “Doojiman” and an oft-heard “Head On” rehearsal) are merely appended to fill out time.
As for the DVD documentary, it’s a fine reflection on the making of the original album with some modern contextual interviews and reformation footage mixed in. Iggy’s engaging, Bono’s nowhere to be seen (the latter’s especially important) and the thing rocks royally when cranked up on a decent system. Ten years ago, making this DVD would have been unthinkable to all but a handful of Stooges industry insiders and fans. Remember that when you watch it, and be thankful that someone cared. - The Barman
On the heels of James Williamson’s return to the fold from his post-Stooge career as a corporate exec and Ig ‘n’ the boyzzz “about fucking time” induction into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame/Lame/Shame comes this re-release of the Stooges’ third album. I refuse to shell out 60 bucks to hear jams I already own in two different forms (vinyl Bowie mix and ’97 CD Igmix), so you’ll have to wait for the Barman’s review to get the lowdown on the deluxe edition. Me, I’m a cheap sonofabitch – I’m not handing Rhino Handmade 50 bucks for two CDs to hear one new song on their upcoming deluxe edition of The Stooges, either -- so it’s ironic (in the non-Alanis Morisette sense) that after I preordered this from Amazon, a friend who’s in radio donated one of her station copies to me (thanks, Janice!). It’s like I got someone else’s karma or something.
It’s my belief that the reason for the enduring fascination with (and seemingly endless stream of product from) the Williamson-era Stooges is that they were never recorded properly during their existence. While Funhouse remains a perfect album and the essential artifact of the ‘riginal lineup, "Raw Power" in its original Bowie mix was like a knife in the ear, no bottom end and all screeching treble, and Iggy’s ’97 remix, while louder, kinda felt like being onstage in a club with the worst monitor mix in the Universe – a wall of rhythm guitar sludge. Part of the problem was that the engineer on the sessions didn’t even bother to take levels from the bass and drums, a mistake Bowie compounded by mixing as he went, eliminating the possibility of repair down the road. The way I listen to the Bowie mix today is the same way I listen to Funkadelic’s original “Maggot Brain” – like a dub piece. When I wanna hear the Asheton boys, I reach for something “quasi-legit.” (My faves: Bomp’s "Year of the Iguana" and Easy Action’s "Heavy Liquid".)
The torrent of rehearsal and live recordings that followed the late-‘70s appearance of "Metallic K.O." has varied widely in quality, from “recorded across the street from the venue” execrable (the original vinyl "Metallic K.O.", parts of Bomp’s "Double Danger) to fairly snat (Bomp’s "Michigan Palace" and California Bleeding, the Ann Arbor and Noo Yawk rehearsals included in "Heavy Liquid"). The ’73 Atlanta show Legacy releases here for the first time under the rubric "Georgia Peaches" is one of the better ones extant – a good board tape with bass, drums, and vocals as clear and present as they’ve ever been. Williamson’s guitar and Scott Thurston’s piano kinda get short shrift in the mix, but it’s still exceptional for what it is. The band’s tight and hot (I’m tired the fuck of hearing uninformed civilians saying the Stooges were sloppy or couldn’t play, but I think that perception stems in part from the fact that the Raw Power band was so shabbily recorded – beauty’s in the ear of the behearer), and Iggy’s audience baiting’s a hoot.
The one new song, “Doojiman,” is a studio jam that sounds suspiciously similar to the ten seconds of “Asthma Attack” that you can hear on Rhino’s website. I think between this track and Bomp’s "Wild Love", we can consider the bottom of the Stooges barrel officially scraped. At this point, I’m still kind of curious about the whereabouts of the pro recording Columbia made at NYC’s Academy of Music in ’73 (an audience tape of which Bomp included on "Double Danger"), but I’m really jonesing to hear the Ungano’s show – with Ron on guitar – that Rhino’s holding.
All bullshit aside, it’s great to have the Bowie mix available for digital only slaves who don’t want to have to buy used copies of old crappy Columbia CDs. The packaging and notes are ace and Mick Rock’s photos are as iconic as ever. If you don’t already own "Raw Power", you need this. If you already own "Raw Power" and love the Stooges, you still need "Georgia Peaches". - Ken Shimamoto
THE STOOGES - The Stooges (Rhino Handmade)
Alright, so it seems a little much to have to buy a set when you already have the fuckin' songs, just for one track: "Asthma Attack".
Actually, the song seems to be in two halves, which is why this groovy racket is on a 7" single tucked into the front. Never was a 7" of a well-known band (these days) less likely to be a single. You know?
So anyway, you're probably thinking that as you already own either the original album (or a reissue) and/ or even the Rhino double disc edition from 2005, you don't need this.
Fair enough. You're either a fan, or you're not. I mean, some of us are always gonna love this band, but you know, most of us never will, preferring, say, The Queens of the Stone Age or Franz Ferdinand or Kylie or the Pussycat Dolls. If you are secretly one of those folk, and only just kinda like the Stooges, don't waste your money here. Lady Gaga loves you, and you know it makes sense.
A brisk caveat before I get going: I paid for this, didn't blag it, didn't get it free. I first heard this LP when I was poor and couldn't afford it, so I own an early 8ts vinyl reissue, the Rhino 2005 edition and even the 'Raw Stooges' vinyl bootleg which purported to be the original demo's - which weren't.
Pretty much, Rhino have got it right this time. Although it does have the feel of Rhino putting out what they should've put out in 2005. See, the 2005 set comprised a disc of the original lp, plus a disc of stuff which seemed tailor-made to appeal to the younger, born-again punkers keen to dig into the past. Whether that strategy worked or not I have no idea. Anyway, the second disc was a bit of a mish-mash; four of John Cale's original mixes (but not the lot) up first; then three alternate vocals, only one of which is really essential, and then two full versions of both "Ann" and "No Fun" at the end. So, if you already had the LP, you were really forking out for three songs. Oh, and Ben Edmonds' liner notes are good value: he quotes Dan Carlisle's recollection of playing the LPp for the first time (after bagging the band on-air), which is mighty fine because he had to completely change his mind and opinion.
So, what's different five years on?
The approach, I suppose, more than anything.
This time around the set cries out for you to tinker with it, just like we used to do with 78s, 7"s and other outmoded formats, lining the songs up on pissy reel-to-reels to make our own radio-unfriendly compilations.
Disc One: The original album (again) plus a mono mix of "Dog" plus the entire album's worth of the John Cale mixes in much the same order except "Dog" is placed at the end for Lord knows what reason.
Since we all know the original LP, and we know the John Cale mixes certainly do not have what the liner-note writer Mike Edison describes them as having "a cool vibe". No, mate, they don't. They sound like Cale was probably trying to reinvent himself into the role of hit producer. You can almost hear the whispers of the men in suits trying to make the Stooges turn the amps down and be another hippy pop band. Like, you know, the Doors. Put simply, the Cale mixes don't display any of the band's majesty, and that kinda kicks against the validity Cale's earlier work; I mean, how come he didn't hear it? Or, was Cale simply "under company orders"?
So, since "Asthma Attack" was the band's very very first song, we therefore start on Disc Two, you long-haired groovitans, you.
"Asthma Attack" has a similar feel to the first lp, and as there are no details of when it was recorded, I'm assuming it was simply an early out-take/ rehearsal. Makes you wonder if there are any other tracks hiding out there, too.
It's closer to Coltrane with a guitar and a wah-wah, really, and Iggy effortlessly surfs the sound fantastic. Really, it's an astonishing bit of free-jazz. On this evidence, the band could've buggered off and made a living crushing tidy folkies and polite fusion-fudgers of the day. However, as berets would've been obligatory (there's a thought; Ron Asheton in a fucking beret and a couple of Maltese crosses) it's probably better they did stick with Iggy.
The rest of Disc 2 is, in effect, an alternative version of the album.
Track by track:
1969 (alternative vocal) - Well, there's not a heck of a lot of difference, to be honest. Although I noticed I heard the guitars in a different way.
Dog - Ig's vocal, more malevolent, comes out of one speaker. The track, sadly, cuts out.
Fall (alternative version) - I prefer this version, it's a little more human... and the end is just fucking great ... and that lovely drift at the end. Actually, while I'm here, this Mike Edison guy, who wrote the notes this time, reckons that We Will Fall is 'the great skip-over track'. I always thought it was one of the several brilliant pieces of sustained musical genius on the lp; not least because it was obviously integral to the Stooges' internalised world, and I always wondered how many people got that.
Fall, it's such a 6ts track; headed forward but not to the 'more is more' 7ts. This song makes the Doors sound abrupt and inexpressive, phony even. That rivalry with the Doors is never clearer than on this track, and the Stooges are clearly a part of the 6ts / Velvets thing (note that both the 6ts and the Velvets have mutually attracting and opposing forces) and yet - nowhere near it. Hell, you could use the music alonge, the chants, but without Iggy, as the soundtrack to a short film about the Andes.
Fun (full version) - How do I say this? With extra vocals, different vocals, extra fuzz (seems that Iggy's yips were added on later). Yeah, this is good.
Cool (takes one and two) - Complete with Cale's vocal intro, take one is really lo-fi, with almost quiet guitars and loads of high range cymbals and an unjustly buried bass - and rediscovering Alexander's bass is one thing that comes to you as you listen to this alternative version of the lp. Take one lacks a bit of immediacy. But take two - that's right on the money, the lazy wah offsetting the rest so well, just superb guitar, the drums and bass motoring away there. Toward the end, the band monkey around a little, with Ron producing a lovely little coda.
And there's Cale at the end; "How long is the song; can we cut it off after 2.20?"
One thing more: Real Cool Time is, for me perhaps, the only song the Stooges do on this lp which doesn't quite stand up now. "Cool" means nothing, not even a comma. In 1969, 'cool' meant an actual, physical and psychological consciousness, a comprehensive state.
But tell that to the kids of today and they won't believe you.
Ann (full version) - Different vocal, the superb pun is very clear (as opposed to the original which is so deadpan it just races past); there's extra vocals and guitar; in fact, for about five minutes the band segue into one of their old numbers, Dance of Romance. Reading my notes back (squints): 'stunning fuckhell guitar turds.'
Doll (takes one to five) - Doesn't really kick in until take four (take three is a fart of a false start) where the drums start evolving along with the guitar; it's still slightly sterile until take five, when we hear Iggy and the whole song just rises up like a beast.
I'm never going to hear this LP again now without imagining the possibilities. What would it have been like if the band were in full trance mode? Had they been given their head... Could you imagine a double, or a triple lp, with just three or so more songs? Superb. But... somewhat indulgent for a barely known local act..? yeah, well.
The reason this LP was so powerful is that there was little else remotely like it, then and now. The Stooges stepped fully-formed into a world indifferent to them - ironically, they were too low-key, waiting for the world to discover them. Forget what you thought you knew about the Stooges; this was one highly switched-on, musically literate band who could hold their own with Archie Shepp, Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane. Asheton was an extraordinarily talented man, for example, and it is not to Iggy's credit that he didn't grasp this more clearly at the time. Dave Alexander's bass is far more than is realised, too. Scott Asheton's drums are perfect, thrusting the band forward in measured, loping strokes.
One thing about the 6ts: the inhabitants worshipped 'groovy' while missing a whole shedload of genuinely groovy stuff, such as your heroes above.
In 1969, the top 10 hit records were:
1. Aquarius, by the Fifth Dimension
2. Sugar, Sugar, by the Archies
3. I Can't Get Next To You, by the Temptations
4. Honky Tonk Women, by the Rolling Stones
5. Build Me Up Buttercup, by the Foundations
6. Dizzy, by Tommy Roe
7. Hot Fun In The Summertime, by Sly and The Family Stone
8. I'll Never Fall In Love Again, by Tom Jones
9. Everyday People, by Sly and The Family Stone
10. Get Together, by the Youngbloods
It's fair to say the Stooges just weren't in the race. Ears were, as they say, elsewhere.
So, this time, apart from the corner thumps the poor thing received in the mail while it evaded the Icelandic volcano, and the torn inner label on the 7", and the label mix-up (Rhino are sending me a free replacement, apparently) - none of which really matter - I can only say that
1) If you don't have this LP, this is your moment; 2) if you have the 2005 set and you love the band, you'll regret not shelling out for this one.
Just for fun, now, I'm going to list my choice of an 'improved' version of the original album. And I hope the purist in you pukes.
1969 (original version)
Asthma Attack (short version)
No Fun (full version)
Not Right (alt vocal)
Ann (full version)
I Wanna Be Your Dog (mono version)
Real Cool Time (take two)
Little Doll (take five)
We Will Fall (other version)
Asthma Attack (long version)
These choices aren't necessarily better, but what a difference this set makes, from which I've taken some six choices. The 2005 set isn't in it, as I say; there's nothing there that's essential which isn't replicated here except the liner notes, and although I dislike Mike Edison's notes on the 2010 set (like you couldn't tell) I'm sure he's a swell guy. I just disagree.
I'm like that.
You know? - Robert Brokenmouth
DEATH TRIP - Iggy and the Stooges (Supreme Disc Empress Valley)
Is it moral to review a bootleg CD? The artist is getting no royalties for his or her work. The artist can’t approve or disapprove the content of the disc. It’s wrong, isn’t it? The trouble is, this is obsession we’re talking about. This is Iggy and the Stooges with James Williamson on guitar. This is the CD you never thought you would hear. This is fucking history. More importantly, it’s fucking great.
How could it live up to your wild expectations? How could it take your expectations and crush them under foot with its brutal majesty? It’s easy. You just press the play button and get blown away. My God! I may have just found the Holy Grail of rock and roll.
I won’t steer you wrong here. There are many poor saps who have rummaged through the rubble of various Stooges’ dustbins looking for gold. I’m as guilty as anyone. I’ve bought the CD containing all the different takes of “I got a right” and the endless deluge of the Iguana Chronicles. This disc is wild. Don’t bother that the mix is a little rough for the first couple of songs. It clears up as it goes along. Don’t bother telling me that both band and performance are chaotic. Give me a break. It’s the Stooges not the fucking Wiggles.
You get the expected run of songs from “Raw Power” plus a shit pile of “Kill City” songs sounding like they fell off the back of the “Raw Power” sessions. You get “Funhouse” songs with James Williamson adding his own brand of fury. Did you ever wonder what “I Wanna be your Dog” sounds like with Williamson on guitar. Wonder no more. “The Passenger”? “Lust for Life”? A sterling version of “Five Foot One” from the Williamson produced “New Values” album? All present and correct. Even “Skull Ring” passes muster.
Words absolutely fail me. That guitar paying! That fucking guitar playing! Listen to Iggy. The man is overjoyed to be playing with this band. It’s like his wildest dream has come true. Amazingly, someone pulled a recording off the sound desk in Brazil and it’s landed in my lap. I don’t care if the ads are right. I don’t care if piracy is financing criminals, terrorists and the fall of western civilization as we know it. I don’t care if piracy is killing the music industry. I hate western civilization, the music industry but I love this CD. If this band comes to Australia and I can’t get a ticket, I will kill someone if I have to. That is how good this CD is. Imagine “Metallic KO” performed by a band with a re-found passion. Where that album marked a band falling to pieces under the weight of drug induced horror, here we are presented with the rebirth of a great rock and roll band. Finally, Iggy has managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Find it, buy it and bear witness. -Bob Short
YOU DON’T WANT MY NAME, YOU WANT MY ACTION (1971: THE MISSING LINK) – The Stooges (Easy Action Records)
If someone had told you six years ago that a treasure trove of unreleased Stooges recordings had been unearthed and was being carefully restored to listenable quality with the intention of it being legitimately unleashed and wrapped in high-quality packaging, you'd have told them to remove their hand from their pants or switch medication. Not to condemn all of what had gone before under the guise of "semi-official" but most Stoogeaholics had fallen for one sub-par sounding, misleadingly re-named disc too many. Then UK label Easy Action came along and (again) turned perceived wisdom on its head.
If you're a Stoogefan - and why would you be reading this otherwise - you'll already know this is the most important audio document of these guys to emerge since the "Funhouse" box set. (Possibly moreso, 'cos you'll play this more than twice. I mean, how many stop-start takes of "1970" so you really need to hear?) So I'll address the balance of this review to the waverers - those who might be considering taking the plunge but are holding back because they've been previously burned by some dodgy bootlegger.
The back-story simply put: This is the second Asheton-Williamson twin-guitar line-up that existed for a matter of months in 1971. Bill Cheatham had briefly held down the bass spot before the reputedly more accomplished Jimmy Recca took it on. Williamson had joined in the wake of the first two albums and the recording of a third, at least by this configuration, would not happen. By August '71, the Stooges were no more.
The first two discs are from shows at New York City's Electric Circus club, a Warhol crowd hang-out on St Mark's Place, a ballroom that was then in distinct decline. Part of the place's problem was that the Black Panthers had let off a bomb on the dancefloor a few months earlier but that must have been a firecracker compared to the detonation represented by these shows. Both sets are identical and Ig's vocals are close to buried, but the band's as sharp as razor blades and much more dangerous.
"I Got a Right" is the one familiar song; the rest were all briefly in the setlist and the legitimacy of their titles is in dispute - mainly because that wasn't something anyone wrote down back then. "You Don't Want My Name" is the archetypal number…a rolling, ominous Recca bass-line pins it down while the guitarists alternately anchor the rhythm line or tear the sky a near arsehole with flaming lead-play. "Fresh Rag" is similarly intense and evidently gave the vocalist a nightly source of amusement in seeing how offensive an alternate title he could conjure up. "Dead Body/"Who Do You Love" is an uber vamp that must have bludgeoned audiences to death.
Iggy croons "The Shadow Of Your Smile" a cappella during a break on the 14 August show and the receptive comments (these are all audience recordings) give you an idea of what the band was up against. To be fair, the songs were totally unfamiliar which, as James Williamson intimated in his recent I-94 Bar interview, is a curious way to win friends and influence people in the live setting.
Disc Three is from a show in St Louis that's done the rounds as a shoddy bootleg. The sound's sourced from a much better quality tape and is considerably cleaner. This gig was truncated when Iggy hit Ron with a microphone he was throwing around and word from Craig Petty, a fan who snapped some of the photos in the lavish package, is that the Stooges were stiffed their payment for not playing the allotted time. The six songs the crowd got were more than value for money.
Quick observation: The ironic thing is that for all the talk of Radio Birdman being so heavily influenced by the Stooges, these songs (coincidentally) sound more like them than the "Funhouse" and "The Stooges" tunes they covered. I know Deniz Tek never saw this configuration (he would have loved to) but there's no mistaking the parallel between the way both bands employed lead and rhythm guitar parts.
The final disc from the last show of the tour (also in St Louis) is sonically a little rougher in the first half but musically very together with another song ("Do You Want My Love") appended. It's not radically different from "Who Do You Love?" but worthy of hearing regardless as the band takes it down and then steps back up a gear.
The final two songs (and lengthy band/audience conversation) are from a Pop-and-Williamson-less set at Wampler's Lake in Michigan in July '71, presumably a rent-payer with the band now in disarray or dissolution - most likely both. The first cut is an instro jam that highlights Jimmy Recca's adept bass-playing, the other an updated version of "What You Gonna Do", a very early (1968) Stooge-tune presumably sung by Ron.
Probably the most satisfying EA chronicle to date. Your excuse for not chasing one down is…? - The Barman
A year that saw both Ron Asheton’s death and James Williamson’s return to the fold (not having lost a step in 35 years, from the evidence of the Sao Paulo vids on Youtube) has brought unexpected bounty for hardcore Stoogeaphiles: a box set of audience recordings from the late 1970-1971 lineup that included both Ron and James on guitars, previously only represented on disc by an execrable bootleg of a St. Louis show, a better version of which is contained herein. This set’s a quantum leap over that shoddy release, with Easy Action’s usual sumptuous packaging and attention to detail (bound like a book, including replica Polaroids and a ticket to a concert at a high school on Long Island!). Does anyone do a better job with archival releases of this music? I think not.
Big caveat: Yes, these are audience recordings, so don’t expect pristine fidelity, but for anyone who’s shelled out for stuff like “Metallic K.O.” in its myriad versions or, say, “Double Danger”, this should be more than acceptable, for these tapes are of much more than “historical significance.” When the band’s in full flight, it’s Iggy’s vocals that get short shrift, so you can probably forget about learning the lyrics to any of these songs, but it’s the instrumental unit that’s the real draw here, so forewarned is forearmed. And Ig’s between-song audience baiting, some of it delivered in an irritating Butterfly McQueen falsetto, is reasonably audible for them that wants to hear it.
Up until their resurrection in 2003, the Stooges never played “old stuff,” so by the time you caught ‘em live back in the day, they were likely as not to be jamming a set of material newer than the current album you just bought. This particular set of songs was their show after they were dropped from Elektra and before they disintegrated and subsequently reformed in their Raw Power incarnation. The only one that was ever officially recorded was “I Got a Right,” and that never saw release until they’d folded the tent. One of the difficulties Easy Action honcho Carlton Sandercock faced in compiling this collection was that nobody could seem to remember what the titles to some of the songs were!
Four discs, four shows, about 45 minutes per: two from the Electric Circus in New York, one from the Factory in St. Louis (erroneously listed as Kiel Auditorium on the bootleg), one from the Vanity Ballroom in Detroit (opening night of the tour), along with some snippets from the lineup’s terminal performance at Wampler’s Lake, Michigan. Having two guitars (Ron: Les Paul; James: SG) definitely fattens up the sound, and you can definitely hear the difference in the two players’ lead styles: Ron’s smooth and fluid, while James (who seems to take the bulk of the solos) is jagged and frenetic. The tendency to vamp ad infinitum that was a hallmark of their ’73-’74 shows is already present, as is James’ propensity for writing songs with lots of fast chord changes.
The songs: “I Got a Right,” of course, presaged punk but was written in the year of “Sticky Fingers” and “Who’s Next”; that’s how far ahead of their time these miscreants were. That said, the ringing chords on “You Don’t Want My Name” and “Fresh Rag” are surprisingly reminiscent of the Who. “Dead Body” has a slinky, snaky groove that almost sounds like a precursor to, um, the Nuge’s “Stranglehold,” while showing its roots in Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love.” It’s the closest thing to “Funhouse” of anything here, with Iggy importuning the band to “Break it down” and Ron’s wah-wah pedal in full effect. “Big Time Bum” actually surpasses this lineup’s take on “I Got A Right” in the frenzy stakes. “Do You Want My Love?” ups the ante even further, chugging along like an out-of-control locomotive in the manner of “Gimme Some Skin,” with a suitably over-the-top ride from Ron, culminating in a feedback meltdown even more cataclysmic than “L.A. Blues.”
So how do the shows stack up? The sequencing tells the story. The Electric Circus shows are best, with even a hint of bass audible; the Factory one – which ends prematurely when Iggy hits Ron in the head with a flying microphone -- and the Wampler’s Lake fragments which were appended to it on the abysmal Starfighter bootleg still suffer from boomy echo, but no longer sound like the recording microphone was placed across the street from the venue. There’s more definition to the guitars and drums, although the bass remains MIA, and the vocals are at least audible. Weakest of the lot is the Vanity Ballroom show, although it’s clear from the recorded evidence here that the new lineup was playing well at the beginning of the tour, and it’s worth it just to hear some audience member mutter, “Detroit sucks!” at the end of one of the songs.
While I certainly wouldn’t expect anyone that isn’t a dyed-in-the-wool Stoogefan to plop down 50 Yankee dollars to hear this set, if you’ve already got the Rhino “Complete Funhouse Sessions” box and all those Revenge/Bomp/Easy Action releases of the post-Raw Power material (which have a mysterious appeal far beyond their intrinsic merit, possibly because no definitive versions of the songs exist the way they do for the earlier stuff), then you probably own this one already, too, and can vouch for me when I say that “You Don’t Want My Name, You Want My Action” delivers on its promise. This is raw, hot, vital music, too advanced to release in its time. Sure, the wheels were about to fly off this engine, but we now we know how the story ends: with validation and a payday. Myself, I’m still waiting for someone to release some live Funhouse-era Stooges (like the fabled Ungano’s show that Easy Action supposedly lost to Rhino before the L.A. reissue label’s staff was decimated). Film, as they say, at 11. - Ken Shimamoto
THE WEIRDNESS - The Stooges (Virgin)
For most of the past 38 years, I ’ve been a true believer, as ready to drink the poisoned Kool-Aid as any cultist has ever been, thinking nothing of seeking the meaning of life and occasional salvation within the grooves of a Stooges record. Have to draw the line at “L.A. Blues,” though. That song just makes me anxious.
What’s most unsettling about “The Weirdness,” the first true Stooges album in over three decades, isn’t that it falls just this side of noteworthy but that the world outside of the cultural vacuum that is Detroit (and certain parts of Australia) appears to have finally caught up with the band, Madison Avenue strip mining their back catalog for advertising fodder and Hollywood scrambling to bring Iggy Pop’s squalid back pages to IMAX-quality, THX-sound fruition, stat. Or at the very least, touch the hem of his garment.
Regrettably, Iggy, Ron Asheton, and Scott Asheton are no longer our own dirty little secret, their grass roots fan base of the mentally-flummoxed, seriously drug addled, and outright violent prone - with the occasional record geek thrown in for texture - now given way to an army of whey-faced downloaders whose idea of having their collective finger on the pulse is appropriating anything with the subtle trace of the Motor City cleaving to it and filing it tidily in a folder marked “garage.” What better opportunity for the band, then, to throw the world a hanging curveball and truly live up to their reputation as the skid mark on society’s underwear, even if just for old times’ sake?
The first sign these aren’t your brother’s Stooges are the plugs for their myspace.com web site and ringtones on the back wrapper, bringing to mind images I just can’t seem to wrap my arms around: Brianna and Courtney’s cell phones parping out “Idea of Fun” while they swap links for photos of that hottie Jimmy Osterberg, sipping an energy drink and rocking the Fall Out Boy on the iPod. Someone shoot me now…
It seems The Stooges were laboring under the impression when they wrote this album that Virgin was paying them by the word, guitar chord, and drum beat because it’s one busy, claustrophobic affair, Iggy tub thumping with one eye on the studio wall clock, falling ass over tea kettle to riff on whatever crosses his radar before the tape runs out. The vaunted production of Steve Albini, in combination with whoever fumbled the mix job, doesn’t leave much breathing room for the tribal drums and wah pedal violation that made “The Stooges” and “Fun House” so overwhelming. Where’s Don Gallucci when you need him?
And therein lies one of the problems with the post-maturity droop version of The Stooges: nary a groove in sight. Even the most hopelessly drooling, mouth-breather could tap his feet along to “Down on the Street” or “No Fun.” And where’s the build-up, the tension? As soon as the “record” button’s pushed, the singer goes from 0 to Iggy in mere nanoseconds.
Part of what made these guys so damn lovable - not to mention liberating - the first time around was their knack, whether authentic or a guise, for STOOPID. “And now I’m gonna be 22/I say oh my and a boo-hoo,” anyone? Here it seems so forced, Iggy all too proud to expose his grey matter going up in flames, the smoke punching another hole in the ozone layer. Are we really to believe he spends that much time thinking about ATM’s? Or anything else? What a concept!
It’s not that “The Weirdness” is that deplorable, but it’s a wooden stake through the heart of the 12-year-old Stooges fan that still beats in my chest to see them playing it so safe, Iggy’s tenancy in Miami and daily regimen of tai chi, macrobiotics, and nothing more toxic than a few glasses of Bordeaux apparently a bit less inspirational than psychedelics, life in a Midwestern college town, and breaking bread with the MC5.
For the casual listener who’s not carting the staggering amount of emotional Stooges baggage as yours truly, someone willing to step out from under the long, dark shadow they’ve cast over two generations now and into the light, there may very well be plenty on “The Weirdness” to recommend. I just can’t seem to remember where I put my sunglasses. - Clark Paull
OK, let’s get some perspective on this one.
Forget the Detroit-drugs-and-glamsploitation backstory. Forget that they invented punk back in ’71, when the world at large had written ‘em off for a lost cause and was diggin’ prog ‘n’ boogie. Purely on its own terms, this rekkid is what it is: a band of AARP eligibles playing hard, aggressive, angry-sounding, non-hyphenated rock’n’roll. If that sounds like an oxymoron, tell it to Link Wray, if you can find him. Who the fuck else is doing that in 2007? At least on the major label/festival circuit level? (And I’m someone who generally could give a rat’s ass what’s happening in the music world outside my local.) No one else. Only the Stooges. They still stand alone, just like they did in ’73 and ’70 and ’69.
Since the reunion that nobody thought would happen DID happen back in 2003, they’ve toured the world, from Europe to Japan to the Antipodes, and cashed in for all the bands and rockcrits that started namechecking almost immediately after they imploded back in ’74. In doing so, they attained a level of tightness (NOT slickness) and focus to match (sone would even say surpass) the monomaniacal fury of their youth. Clean and healthy, they can wipe the floor with bands less than half their age. If this was a new band, we’d all be doing handsprings and cartwheels and hailing the arrival of a new, um, Stooges. But because there are ghosts present (the ones of Iggy ‘n’ the Ashetons’ earlier selves), a different yardstick gets applied.
Compared to the canon, how does it measure up? While it doesn’t have the inadvertent pop sense (and hyper-clean postmodern production sound) of The Stooges, it also doesn’t have a 10-minute song that everybody (admit it) skips through after the first time they spin the rec. It doesn’t have the slinky, sexy acid-funk menace of Funhouse, but how could it? That was the sound of trailer trash losers and no ‘count mama’s boys finding their balls and learning their craft by pounding big stages coast-to-coast. The best moments on that album were accidents that they couldn’t replicate now, even if they wanted to, because 37 years down the road, they’re too skilled; have been for years, which means you get a level of consistency accompanied by a reliance on muscle memory that wasn’t present in those earlier embryonic stages. Rock Action has been slamming the same solid four-on-the-floor since Sonic’s Rendezvous Band daze, and while Ron Asheton hasn’t added any new tricks to his trick bag since around Destroy All Monsters time, he hasn’t needed ‘em, either – why add to perfection?
The Weirdness doesn’t have Funhouse’s totally organic live sound, either; rather, the rec it resembles the most, sonically speaking, is evabody’s least favorite Stooges album, Raw Power, specifically the 1997 Iggy remix. It’s a wall of noise without a lot of bottom end, although repeated listenings reveal more sonic detail than seemed to be there the first time. (How many times did you have to listen to Raw Power – either mix – before you realized how weak the bass and drums sounded?) The songs here hit the same way Raw Power’s did, too – have the same relentless forward motion, although they’re simpler than Williamson’s most complex chord constructions. They go straight for the throat.
If Iggy doesn’t have the same feel for the Zeitgeist as a pampered 60-year-old that he had as a 20something drug punk, is that really so surprising? And while there’s no “streetwalkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm” here, some of the Ig’s more silly-ass verbal constructions, replete with self-aggrandizement and pop culture references, are surely no sillier than “I took a ride on a red hot weiner.” Stooges lyrics, even at their most perceptive and smart-dumb, were always just a SOUND. Being a drummer his own self, Iggy understands that every instrument is a rhythm instrument, including your voice. He only rolls out the annoying Bowie opera-voice on two out of 12 songs, and even those are starting to grow on me.
Bottom line: If you’re new to the Stooges, you donwanna start here – get the classics first. But if you’re one of US, who willingly endured 23 takes of “I’m Loose” and all of Bomp’s barrel-scrapings, then you should see this as a godsend. I was prepared not to like this rekkid. Nasty narrowminded jade that I’ve become, I figured Ig and the Asheton boys were just making bank, which is fine – they’ve certainly earned it over the years. But this really is Something Entahrly Other. It’s more than we had a right (any old time) to expect, a logical progression from where they left off, untainted by the stench of compromise, and in 2007, that is a damn rare thing. Bloodied but unbowed, the world’s forgotten boys stand up on their hind legs and roar, one more time.
- Ken Shimamoto
THE STOOGES FIGHT POVERTY IN SECRET!
Well, there’s this. Day of release, I head down to the Virgin store on Market Street, figuring (correctly) they would have their master’s product at the best price. Sure enough, I get my copy of THE WEIRDNESS for a mere $10.00 USA. Plus tax.
For those of you keeping score at home, at today’s rates, that’s €7.63, £5.16, AU$12.84 and 70.65 SEK. If you need it in Japanese currency, I can’t satisfy that yen --- it’s too volatile right now.
but what a bargain. a full-on Stooges long-player, after a long play of 33 or 37 years, take yr. pick. At just two seconds over 40 minutes, it completely shuts down the hour-plus ooze emanating from the long-named weepy bands of today, no matter how much they fall out to clap their hands in the stone age black fire. Still, that’s just .24/cent per second, or something like that, you figure it out.
It was 1982 when Buick, aka the ‘old man’s division’ at General Motors, the Detroit car concern, came out with their Regal Grand National. The latter day muscle car coupe with the post-breakdown rococo design was transformed by huge turbo charging, and only available in a wicked all black costume. It would appear in years later from time to time, but always only that barely glossy spread-on wet black finish.
If you too got in early on THE WEIRDNESS you know that same finish is all about this CD. There’s a small sliver of chrome framing the front page and the boys on the back, and our most distinctive logo of the late 20th century (did anybody ever get credit for that?) also shines but the rest is slathered on black. It’s a texture more than a design.
And by the way, on the Grand National the rear spoiler was only available as a dealer installed option.
the process (sound)
If you didn’t have the scratch, or maybe you’re just a cheap nerd saving up for Windows Vista or vintage vinyl and “downloaded” (hey, I do that every morning) your copy of THE WEIRDNESS via some compression thing, you’ve missed out. This disk slipped out like Iggy’s hip, recorded live and to the point, a mix meant to be OUT LOUD, like a Stooges show for example. You’ve got to take a ride on the music, and you can’t do that in private on a podcast. The Asheton Bros. grew up inside each other’s sound, OUT LOUD, and the record is all that. Whatever Albini’s studio at the other (Chicago) end of I-94 added, this sound starts long ago with experiments and experience in and on stage, live, in front of people and everything from those people, and adding the 75 worldwide gigs the, err... mature band has played in the 21st century. This is sonic sophistication not just songwriting. The drums are nothing but Rock Action, with maybe one or two gratuitous fills, and they sound purely great. In combination with his brother’s steely shards of soundscape, bouncing from channel to channel, we get an almost elemental swing. At times an entire song functions as a giant call & response completely inside itself, especially adding Iggy’s emphasis. The world’s forgotten boy premier front man does surely present a visual scheme that can’t be done, recording-wise, but lyrics can be there, no matter how couched deliberately by a survivor’s intellect.
Recorded live, and maybe made up on the spot with all hanging out, there’s plenty of encouragement from a guy who’s not afraid to challenge conventional expectations of basso profundo rockism singing. goddamn it, it’s a throat. So from a sublime opening grunt to final fry-dom, there’s plenty of hey, hey’s, yeah’s, and wordless wonder.
We can thank the knob-twiddler for hearing all of that.
the picture (lyrics and ‘tude)
And make no mistake, knob twiddling comes up hot ‘n heavy, from the cut that leads off THE WEIRDNESS “Trollin’” , about that favorite pastime of the older world-weary type, fishing, not to mention of course seeking the fountain of pussy juice youth. Iggy launches the whole thing with a natural world metaphor about wood that’s gotten so much press, and seems determined to carry on, loose, to the final 40th minute, because after all -- you can’t tell him it’s not a suave thing to do - I know you do it too. And rock critics don’t like it at all.
He should believe in honey flowing from the rock but it ain’t been that way for our hero.
The ATM song manages to spit out about money like everybody in the West knows by now, but out of mid-point maelstrom the lyric rises as a brilliant star with sheer garage grace - “in the midnite hour .... when the truth comes down .... I don’t need no doctor ... hangin’ around ... can I get a witness ... can I come on strong ...” Nobody else would dare sing that stuff today, that way, not even a soul singer. Especially combined with Ron outrageously splitting the right channel, the syncopation of Scott’s sock, the Stooges fight poverty in secret. Don’t bullshit the bullshitter. This song proves Iggy deserved that French medal, if he still has it. Maybe it’s on the dashboard of his Rolls.
If that’s enough, we get the details on an idea of fun. Perhaps its the unsmoothified vocal tone that turned ‘em off on MySpace (awwwww), but if Iggy can’t comment on America’s growing up shamed, who can? Rock hits killing everyone hard, and a grand symphonic sturm und drang lays out another dual channel sonic lead adventure by Ronald Frank Asheton that plays right to today’s news. Did you really want to hear a song about a high school romance from Mr. Pop?
I can go on, and probably will, if the Bar is still open, but these songs keep coming on strong. THE WEIRDNESS title cut sways in a little too much, but with a beautiful new tone that was probably invented fresh along with Ron’s latest custom axe. As a love story the song might sound as good in Spanish as it sounds. Once again, it’s a mature theme that just about saved your correspondent’s life today at work. The sing-song close gives being weird roots and finally Mackay’s soulful sax reflection reminds us to stay strong.
Y’all reading this where the great highways don’t all begin in “I” may not like hearing about being free ‘n freaky in the USA. But once again Rock Action has it in the pocket like nobody else can but him, before JIM drifts around and moans about being nasty. And USA comes to the old mold and just wants more, busts it open in fact with a blurting off-chorus guitar blast. It’s their fault the beer ain’t cold! To make sure you get the message, here comes simple rhyme about the issues and tissues today, all laid out with that blister Fender attack. Rock ‘n roll is American music! So if you don’t get this, send us your money. We’ll use it to buy gas.
That could make Iggy feel more comfortable but if he can’t hack his income, he’ll go back to your ass. European or not. Playing live it’s got to be psychedelic, if the money don’t count (and it doesn’t, do you really think Stooges care about their cut of the ring tones – they just care about the ring tones). Every instant lead gets ruined, Asheton’s gonna cry about it like nobody else.
Okay, we get the breakup song, but that’s just because Mr. Up Front Dirty is starving like an unsung bard. Still, the Singer is convincing us along with Rock’s unison chorus, done up in deep rock revenge. And more unsinging, backed up by maybe the one non-Stooge cherub Benson. He sounds OK, not alright – it’s a breakup. Iggy does some more R&B with an uncoupled couplet of urging pushed on by more brilliant Ron and more tenor saxman Steve to provide brass roots to the vox. And Watt is SO there, he’s got the goods to update Stooge swing. Way to go, Watt!
Next up, an apocalyptic grindathon trumpets the end of cross and double cross worship with what else other than more short shorts sex talk, set off with syncopatic lyrics and repetition inside the verse, inside the chorus, inside the bar, inside Ron’s tone. These guys are at the top of their game, they are playing it all. You don’t get to hear that often, most acts are too busy making sure they play their notes, not their sound. Or at least they think it’s their notes. Don’t they usually sound like everybody else’s?
Let’s not beat a dead horse, although the singer’s styling rap as we head toward the out grooves (how WILL this sound on vinyl’s endless vibration?) flogs convention for sure. But then with a simple respectful aside, Iggy sets Ron up perfectly for his career understated patented atmosphere thing, which only enhances the line about brain police. This is all the way live, it comes off gen-u-wine. Only the hairdresser knows for sure.
Should you still be reading, enough. Life’s tough in the city, ain’t it?
Stooges achievement is here today and you might not even recognize it in a passing cloud. Is there a light in your window? At least give it a try.
Have you seen the show? Word is they’ll play a grand total of 4 of these new songs. This is a band to hear, with friends and strangers and stranger strangers... LOUD. In front of you and around you.
THE WEIRDNESS a recording that records a moment in Miami, in Ann Arbor, Chicago, London, Buenos Aires, Ancient Greece, wherever else in a summer air of the political and geographic and historic earth, one among the many, together and in memory together, a sonic reminiscence brought along to us
THE STOOGES FIGHT POVERTY IN SECRET!
so you don’t have to. - ig ("eye-gee")
How I wanted to love this album. First one in 33 years blah blah blah. First one in 37 years if you track things back to this line-up. Maybe the expectations based on what had gone before were much too high, but I can't help thinking that the most striking thing about "The Weirdness" is that it's so ordinary.
Ordinary songs, ordinary production. Steve Albini's reputation behind the board is for playing it laissez faire - turn it up and let the tape roll - which probably suited his Igness down to the ground. You can make a case that Iggy should have dropped his own control freak complex and ceeded control to someone who could give a few orders. Some quality control was badly needed. Mike Watt's the consummate bassist but his thud is M.I.A. in this soundspace. Rock Action's drums are desert dry and quite up front, but Ron Asheton's guitar has been relegated to a scuzzy rhythm bed with his all-important wah-wah leads compressed to within an inch of their life.
But the weakest link (apart from the tunes) is Iggy's vocal. The Stooges may have been rock and roll's most nihilistic, slothful, dumbed-down band - the antithesis of suburban boredom and a template for what would be eventually be described as punk - but you can't turn the clock back and sound like a terminal loser if you live in relative luxury in Florida, drive a Rolls Royce and enjoy fine wines. Iggy sounds like he's trying to feign dumbness/futility and it just isn't working. Half the vocals sound like guide tracks, the rest so studiously disinterested at times as to be absurd.
A few people I know have heard this album and their comments have ranged from "it's no worse than a lot of his solo albums" to "it's OK". Me, I don't give a fuck that Iggy should have died a thousand times or has been through the fires of self-induced scum drug hell to still be with us today, a testimony to the powers of human resilience and/or dumb luck. That's fine and I'm happy he made it, but he (they) needed to take some chances of a musical kind. I wanted to hear molasses thick layers of guitar and awe-inspiring solos, the foundation thud of Rock Action's kick drum and singing that, if not entirely unhinged, at least points to some darker malevolence. Songs about consumerism, ATMs, trolling for girls and cash don't cut it. Iggy needed to be angry, rail at the state of the music industry, the crappiness of the toys they give you with kids meals at McDonalds or the cattle class quality of US domestic airline travel. He just sounds moderately bummed out.
You can take a few of these songs at face value ("Idea of Fun") and run down the lyrics ("My idea of fun/Is killing everyone") for being too self-consciously nihilistic. The opener "Trollin' " is a taut rocker with a bit of swing. The title track is the obligatory crooner with some nice askew guitar underneath. "Greedy Awful People" sounds like an Iggy & the Trolls outake that simply grates so much that Ron Asheton's muted solo doesn't have a hope in hell of saving. "The End of Christianity" is too lyrically banal for words. At least "Mexican Guy" has a groove to it.
Let's switch to the Big Picture and the problem is this: The Stooges were defined by their environment and how they reacted to it. They really were the original musical slackers, at times inept but never fake. Everything's changed since then - including the players - but there's no real centre to these songs, no unifying force other than the desire to make another record. They tried to make it a great one and didn't get there.
The Stooges of 1970 were psychedelic and drug-fucked. (N.B. "Drug fucked" does not necessarily equate to "great music".) The Stooges 2007 are clean and a very good, metal-tinged punk band. Some people say Sum 41 is too. The Stooges are still probably better than 90 percent of whatever else is out there, but they ain't the same as they were. I didn't want them to be - but I did want them to play on the things that could still make them different. Like Steve Mackay's sax, which makes only fleeting appearances (notably on "The Weirdness".) Or Ron Asheton's incandescent solos. Speaking of, did I read the New York Times online story right when it quoted Rock Action as saying the new record shouldn't have too many solos or it would sound like everyone else (and the writer opining that too many had made it to tape?) Pass the smelling salts...
I'll still play "The Weirdness" and I'll be at the Stooges shows if they make it down my way. - The Barman
THE STOOGES – The Stooges (Elektra/Rhino)
FUN HOUSE – The Stooges (Elektra/Rhino)
In the liner notes to Rhino’s souped-up reissue/remaster of the Stooges’ wide-eyed, dribbling debut, Detroit native Alice Cooper (whose albums with the original Alice Cooper band are in dire need of a sonic upgrade) confesses that the Stooges were the only band he never wanted to follow largely in part to Iggy Pop’s wild streak of unpredictability.
Only 12 when “The Stooges” was released and 14 when the original band gave up the ghost, I never had the pleasure of seeing them live but I have seen Iggy solo several times, dating back to “The Idiot” tour, and “unpredictable” isn’t an adjective which seems to fit much unless you consider Iggy staring down challenges from paying customers and eventually introducing them to “Little Iggy” abnormal. I’ve seen the guy’s dick more than I’ve seen my own and believe me, I’m not proud of it.
Given the musical climate at the time, however, The Stooges were something of an anomaly when that first album dropped its anchor back in 1969 because, as Brother Wayne Kramer has so bluntly pointed out, the Summer of Love didn’t stop in Detroit. The race riots which reduced much of the city to so much cinder just two years previous apparently hadn’t even registered as a blip on the radar of Ann Arbor’s favorite sons, whose insular world, created just a short trek down I94 from the city proper, rotated on alternating axes of mindless fun, boredom, psychedelic escapism, ostracism, and pleasures of the flesh.
Although the world has spun a few times in the ensuing 36 years, “The Stooges” still seems to defy explanation and/or context, a big-bang, primordial collision of monosyllabic angst and convulsing, tribal rhythm. There are those who feel all warm and fuzzy inside by anointing the Stooges harbingers of punk, but that seems woefully inadequate, perhaps even misguided. “No Fun,” “1969,” “Real Cool Time,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” and “Not Right” stake out a section of real estate entirely their own, oscillating between grey areas of alienation, tedium, and outright dementia, Iggy yammering, grunting, and howling over the Neanderthal lockstep laid down by drummer Scott Asheton and bassist Dave Alexander and the fuzzy, buzzing, angry hornet six-string dissertation of Ron Asheton.
Plain and simple: these guys weren’t fooling around.
There’s a bonus disc which gathers John Cale mixes of several songs which were deemed “too arty” by the band and later re-twiddled by Iggy and Elektra president Jac Holzman, and full versions of “Ann” and “No Fun,” the latter which fades out much too soon at the 6:50 mark with Asheton stomping his wah pedal flat.
Most of what you’ll need in order to fully comprehend 1970’s “Fun House” lies somewhere between Iggy’s admission that he dropped acid every day during recording sessions, with an occasional psylicibin or Peruvian pink cocaine chaser, and the strident squawking, bleating, and screeching which punctuates “Down On The Street,” “Loose,” “1970,” “T.V. Eye” and the title track.
Producer Don Gallucci’s decision to record Iggy’s vocals with a hand-held microphone amplified through a mini PA, along with Iggy’s coercion of Steve MacKay to add saxophone stylings, resulted in coating the album with a sheen of raving lunacy, Asheton cutting back on the fuzz but not the menace, Rock Action and Alexander forced to pick up the beat a wee bit in order to keep pace.
There’s a few curves here; “Dirt” is just what you’d expect the blues to sound like if filtered through the psyches of four guys cooped up indoors all winter in Michigan and although “L.A. Blues” has always caused me no small amount of heartburn, it ain’t a bad way to clear a wedding reception.
The bonus disc will be familiar to owners of “1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions”; demos, multiple takes, and spit polishing of various album tracks as well as single mixes of “Down On The Street” and “1970.”
And in an entirely unintended moment of hilarity, you get Jack White in the liner notes trying to distance himself from those who “watch a music TV station that’s never heard of ‘T.V. Eye’” and “shop at record stores where those who have only imitated Iggy’s power are selling by the truckload.” Whatever you say, Jack, whatever you say…
The recent glut of Stooges manna begs the question just what might still be laying around out there waiting to be uncovered. The sphincter tightens in anticipation. - Clark Paull
- The Stooges
- Fun House
HEAVY LIQUID – The Stooges (Easy Action)
Don’t wanna labour the point but the opening years of this century really are turning into The Golden Age of the Stooges, what with the band’s resurrection, the recording of new songs, deluxe re-issues of the first two albums popping out of the pipeline, a live album kicking around and the prospect of a new studio effort. This six-disc box set from UK heritage label Easy Action really does spoil confirmed Stoogeaholics.
You might be sceptical and you’d have a right to be, such is the confusing array of re-issued, re-booted and, in many cases, shoddy Stooges material out there. French labels Revenge, Fan Club and Skydog, plus US company Bomp, did us a huge favour by keeping the Stooges in front of the public for many years, but they also unleashed a few offerings that were mutton dressed as lamb. (I’m thinking Bomp’s most recent “Wild Love”, which reeked of bottom-of-the-barrel in a big way). And while Rhino’s “Funhouse” box set was probably for the truly obsessed (like, how many takes of “1970” can you listen to back-to-back?), “Heavy Liquid” manages to mix things up a little more, drawing from live and rehearsal aspects of the “Raw Power” period.
Three of the discs are previously released material, but albums one, two and five are where the going gets interesting. The first is a series of scorching multi-track rehearsal tapes from July 1972 at London’s Olympic Studios (a home to the Stones) and probably demos for the album sessions that followed. Disc two is unreleased material from 1973 Michigan rehearsals with short-term Stooges pianist Bob Scheff which resembles some of the stuff that’s already out there. Disc five is from the October ’73 run of shows at Los Angeles’ Whisky-a-Go-Go and has never been aired, while there’s a speed-corrected chunk of live audio from the ’74 show at Bimbo’s Casino that Bomp released on “Open Up and Bleed” that’s better sounding in this form.
So should you sink your hard-earned into this one? That depends on whether you’re into the “Raw Power” Stooges, who were an entirely different animal to earlier incarnations. With Ron Asheton on bass (and it has to be said that he’s just as much a killer on four strings as six) and the installation of James Williamson on guitar, there was a shift into what most people would regard as a more “musically structured” direction. Iggy explains the essential differences in guitar approach in the accompanying booklet as one of Ron’s lyrical playing versus James’ brutality, and who’s to argue? Personally, I rate “Funhouse” as one of the four or five greatest and most primal things ever recorded, but I still listen to “Raw Power” (even the re-mix, if you’re asking) so I had to plonk down the cash to grab this.
Part of the attraction is undoubtedly the Car Crash Syndrome. You know the way people slow down and stare when they motor past a traffic accident on a busy highway? You have to ask how the Stooges managed to function as a unit once the Mainman money and CBS support dried up and the hard drugs kicked in. Iggy set the meter to Self Destruct and circumstances condemned the band to playing in shitty bars across a largely uncaring Middle America. So what headspace were these guys occupying, and how did they manage not to kill themselves (or be killed)? You can liken the Stooges of that time to a trashed and unregistered car that no-one wanted to steal, spinning its bald tyres on black ice just inches away from a precipice, but the dope-sick reality was much less romantic a notion than that. No Future, indeed.
Of course it should be about the music and it ranged from bar room blues to what we can now retrospectively dub proto-punk, and as such was several years ahead of the curve. Some of the tracks on “Heavy Liquid” are curiosities - it has to be said that their rehearsal versions of “Money” and “Louie Louie” are looser than a Hollywood groupie - but the duplicated outtakes of the “I Got a Right” sessions are different enough to avoid monotony. It’s those songs and the 1973 Michigan rehearsal that do it for me. While the latter may not be all that different from what you’ve hear on “Rubber Legs” or “Open Up and Bleed”, this version sounds a touch hotter. If Iggy and Co put this much into a practice, how intense must the shows have been?
No kitchen sink included but you do get a sticker, a booklet with new insights from Iggy, Rock and Ron plus a booklet of photos from Mick Rock (looking like a plug for the new edition of his Stooges portraits). Impressive stuff.
"Raw Power" notwithstanding, "Heavy Liquid" is the definitive, late-period Stooges release. - The Barman
Back in the 70’s, Iggy Pop’s father taught honors English at one of the high schools in my suburban Detroit hometown of Dearborn and the senior Osterberg would greet each new crop of students with good news and bad news: yes, Jim was his son and no, he didn’t want to talk about it. Now that the Stooges are no longer Detroit’s dirty little secret, it seems no-one can stop talking about him.
To most, initial exposure to the Stooges is akin to being sucked through the roof by a twister and deposited, shocked but intact, in some odd and blissful world. Never mind the Mars probe – one listen to “The Stooges,” “Fun House,” or “Raw Power” provides all of the evidence you’ll need that life exists elsewhere in the universe and occasionally visits Earth.
Although the image of Iggy as a one-man primer on a comprehensive litany of anti-social behavior has always been an iconic one, it’s taken 35 years of hindsight, analysis, and fine tooth combing to spotlight the contributions of Messrs. Asheton, Alexander, MacKay, Thurston, and Williamson, without whom the band’s legacy would be secure.
“Heavy Liquid” is a lovingly compiled, stoked-out (what the Brits would call “top gear”) six-disc mini box set that captures the Stootches during a period of flux (July 1972 – January 1974), still gaining their sea legs after welcoming (“welcome” being a relative term when it came to Ron Asheton, who grudgingly switched over to bass) guitarist James Williamson into the inner sanctum after the original line-up – Asheton, brother Scott, and Dave Alexander - crashed and burned in a shitstorm of bad dope and slight mental problems in 1971.
Like Rhino Handmade’s “1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions” box, this one’s targeted at the voyeurs; fly-on-the-wall adventures through a landscape of murder city nights, rehearsal sheds in London, Ypsilanti, and Detroit, and on the boards and under the lights in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, Iggy steadfastly struggling to re-invent The Stooges on Mainman’s dime.
“Heavy Liquid” takes major steps toward putting to rest the band’s image as a bunch of college town ne’er-do-wells entirely consumed with cheap thrills and even cheaper drugs, plugging in, tuning out, and grunting like cavemen inventing the wheel. The Olympic Studio (London) Tapes reveal Iggy The Taskmaster, knuckling down and leading the band through multiple takes of “I Got A Right,” joining in on some and standing back and taking stock on others, honing a black lump of coal into a hardened, sharp diamond, Rock Action’s double snare tap cueing up Williamson’s six-string meteor storm and what sounds like background noise from a Tarzan movie. To break up the monotony, there’s half-hearted passes at “Surfin’ Bird,” Barrett Strong’s “Money,” and a short, punch drunk “Louie Louie.”
Back on terra firma in the Great Lake state, in an Ypsilanti barn called Morgan Sound Studios owned by Scott Richardson of SRC as well as an unnamed Detroit location, University of Michigan music instructor Bob Scheff gets a quick tour of Planet Stooge, his insistent boogie-woogie piano struggling to raise its head above the din laid down by Williamson and the Ashetons, an interesting, but ultimately unnecessary attempt to add a bit of texture to “Raw Power” staples like “Search & Destroy,” “Gimme Danger,” and “Death Trip” as well as early workouts of “Wild Love,” “Open Up & Bleed,” “Jesus Loves The Stooges,” “Rubber Legs,” and “Cock In My Pocket.” Williamson’s guitar snarls, slobbers, and showers sparks over the proceedings, Ron and Scott venting their spleens and other internal organs, and Iggy, well, doing what Iggy does best.
If the live photos depicting Iggy as a bi-polar, shirtless, prima ballerina, complete with tights, sash, and slippers are any indication,
it’s no surprise that patrons of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Farm, far to the west of Detroit, straight down Michigan Avenue, incensed by his baiting one particularly cold February night back in 1974, showed up loaded for bear the next night at Ford Auditorium, the ensuing battle of wills scrapbooked for posterity on “Metallic K.O.” Coincidentally (and even less surprising), the Rock ‘n’ Roll Farm was just a short jaunt down the road from the sprawling Eloise complex, at the time one of the country’s largest mental hospitals, known throughout the industry for progressive treatments like hypnosis, electroshock treatment, and music therapy (!).
Despite the singer’s on-stage foibles, the live material unveiled here is as close to the holy grail as you’re likely to get unless somebody in Ann Arbor stumbles across a strongbox filled with tapes buried somewhere along fraternity row. The Max’s Kansas City and Whisky A Go Go performances reveal four guys intent on laying down the gauntlet, recapturing the mojo, and riding off into the sunset, string of scalps hanging from their belts.
Iggy’s attempt at a bit of soul purging, a heartfelt lament on how the band never got any help (ever…), is usurped by a drunk who screams “Your roots are showing!” Shrugging their shoulders and throwing up their hands, the only appropriate response from the Stooges seems to be scorching a few inner ears with an outright malicious flogging of “Search & Destroy.” Run credits…
If you’re as obsessively, compulsively preoccupied with packaging details as I am, comfort awaits within. Easy Action have packed “Heavy Liquid” with stickers, a booklet full of photos and liner notes from Creem magazine hacks, a second booklet of Mick Rock photos, and individual cardboard picture sleeves for all six discs. Nicely done all around.
Until that long-promised/rumored/anticipated new Stooges studio album raises its ugly little head, “Heavy Liquid” is a classy stopgap, another trip in the wayback machine with all dials calibrated to "Palookaville." Stash all items in the overhead compartment, fasten your seat belt, put your head between your legs, and kiss your ass goodbye. - Clark Paull
TELLURIC CHAOS – The Stooges (Skydog)
A new album and this should send more than a ripple of excitement through the worldwide ranks of Stoogeaholics. It’s not the expected studio effort - have patience ‘cos the word is that’s still happening - but a presumably legitimate release of a 2004 show in Tokyo, courtesy of French label Skydog.
Skydog has borne the brunt of criticism over the years and I can’t pretend to have any insights into the rights and wrongs of the sources of their releases or their payment of royalties. What I do know is that the label should garner a degree of respect, if only for both championing punk rock on the Continent and for keeping the Stooges’ name alive. Ever heard of “Metallic KO”?
“Telluric” means “organic” or “from the earth” and it’s a fitting title. The 2005 Stooges are a way more structured entity than the pothead sloths that schlepped into an LA studio with little more than some riffs and a well-defined sense of their outsider status, to record the masterpiece that is “Funhouse”. With today’s Stooges shows you know there’s going to be an invitation from Iggy for the audience to invade the stage most of the time; that they’ll reprise “I Wanna Be Your Dog”; that he’ll ask for the lights to go up so he can see the crowd; that’ll he’ll rail against something or someone. It’s all part of the ritual. Even allowing for that, there’s still an earthy sensibility to all that the Stooges do that can’t be denied. Put it down to Rock Action’s lead-weighted feels or Brother Ron’s oft-recycled but massively influential lead break (singular), the Ig’s unique vocalising and his focal point status as an energy source. It’s A Timeless Thing and very definitely Real O Mind.
On “Telluric Chaos”, there’s the usual slew of pre-“Raw Power” tunes: Pop-Williamson co-writes are a no-go zone – and fair enough since that edition of the Stooges was a completely different band to the early versions. What is here is delivered in a way that will delight anyone who hasn’t had access to the many contemporary unofficial recordings that are out there.
Having heard about 15 reunion shows - including this one, which has been booted and shared in not-for-profit form between fans - Tokyo rates as one of the best. Bassist Mike Watt is by now right at home, and the rest of the band pushes outside the confines of familiar material in places – tacking a new intro onto “1970” for example – while Steve Mackay’s sax honking has a solid place.
It’s the quality of the new material coming down the pipeline that will ultimately determine how this re-grouping of the Dum Dum Boys will be viewed over time and on that score, the jury is still out. This live version of “Skull Ring” has Steve Mackay’s adornments and wears them well, despite sounding lighter and less primal than its studio cousin. “Dead Rock Star” is also from the “Skull Rings” album, and is no better or worse live. It’s Iggy in croon mode and that upsets some purists, but I have to confess to being indifferent. The surprise here for most will be the previously unheard “My Idea of Fun”. The nihilism of a line like “My idea of fun/Is killing everyone” unavoidably sounds forced, coming from a Dostoevsky-reading Rolls Royce driver from Miami but, hey, not every lyric has to be read literally. The song’s brutal melody works for me.
Sonically, I'd put this on a par with the exisiting boot and it's easier to procure, so there aren't too many reasons not to grab a copy. You need reasons? - The Barman
WILD LOVE: THE DETROIT REHEARSALS & MORE - Iggy & the Stooges (Bomp)
Well, at least now I know why I didn't buy all those Euroboots of Stoogestuff.
Maybe it IS a finite universe, after all. (And I'm not even gonna tell ya about the MC5 boot I copped recently - on the "Trademark of Quality" label, a logo to conjure with to an early-seventies vinyl bootleg fan - that consisted mainly of stuff that I've already had two or three different ways, latest and best on Alive/Total Energy. Anal retentive completism makes fools of us, sometimes.)
One of the highlights of my life as an obsessive compulsive record junkie the past few years has been Bomp's Iguana Chronicles series, which since '93 has surfaced a series of mostly great, previously unreleased rehearsal and live recordings of the James Williamson-period Stooges. The '97 compilation "The Year of the Iguana," in particular, is a damn-near-definitive summation of the period, while Y2K's "Michigan Palace" is probably the best-SOUNDING live Stooges document extant.
The next sound you hear will be the bottom of the barrel being scraped. While up to now, the least exalted volume in the Iguana Chronicles was "Rough Power," what amounted to a bunch of cassette dubs of the "Raw Power" songs (some recorded off the radio), this new one will really, finally, once and for all serve to separate the sheep from the goats as far as Stooge fandom is concerned.
Guitar alchemy aside, James Williamson's real contribution to the Stooge canon was SONGS. Prior to his arrival, they really didn't have any (although they were undoubtedly the greatest jam band to ever pound the boards); the eight released "Raw Power" songs, combined with those demo'ed for that album back '72 and the batch that gradually supplanted them in the Stooges' '73-'74 tour repertoire ("I Got Nothin'," "Rich Bitch," "Cock In My Pocket," "Wet My Bed," "Heavy Liquid," "Johanna," "Open Up and Bleed") constitute a pretty impressive canon for a songwriter who never did anything else band-wise before or since (notwithstanding the fact that "Sick of You" borrowed heavily from the Yardbirds' "Happenings Ten Years Time Ago," or "I Need Somebody" borrowed heavily from "Saint James Infirmary"). Bro. James used chords, LOTS of 'em, to create rhythmic (rather than harmonic) movement like no one else this side of Blue Oyster Cult. The songs still sound not just contemporary, but DANGEROUS.
There's none of that here. What you DO get (aside from inferior versions of the title track and "Til the End of the Night" from "Night of the Iguana") is a lot of the Stooges (often just Iggy but not James - he's denied being on this - with a DRUM MACHINE, even) jamming in the studio, waiting for inspiration to kick in. We've heard some of these loosely-structured jams before ("Pin Point Eyes," previously released on "Open Up and Bleed" as "Cry for Me," and "I Come from Nowhere" AKA "Born In a Trailer"), basically just Iggy emoting over skeletal band grooves, but nothing as primitive as the piss-take versions of Skip James/Cream's "I'm So Glad," Howlin' Wolf/Paul Butterfield's "Mellow Down Easy," or Bo Diddley/the Yardbirds' "I'm a Man." Things get REALLY, uh, "free-form" with "Delta Blues Shuffle" and "Old King Live Forever," which are basically someone experimenting with his guitar (occasionally with a slide) while the tape rolls. Jimi Hendrix usedta do this kinda thing a lot, and it wasn't particularly compelling to hear Him do it, either. Almost the best things here are the drum machine pieces - a cover of Bob Dylan's murder ballad "Hollis Brown," and a promising riff tune called "Look So Sweet."
In short, this one's for die-hard fans and collectors only. - Ken Shimamoto
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