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Iggy's Back Pages at Their Best
on 2 February 2011
There are many cd and vinyl collections representing the material Iggy Pop created with James Williamson in the first half of the seventies. Aside from the two very different mixes of "Raw Power", now both available on Sony/BMG cds, there are albums consisting of Stooges demos, Stooges rehearsals, "Raw Power" rough mixes, "Kill City" (credited to Pop and Williamson) and various combinations. In the seventies there were EPs (for the benefit of the under-40s, extended play 7" records) on Bomp records, and a French 7" single, very popular import items in my youth.
This album is a very selective trawl of all the unofficial categories above. Most of the items on this album appear in about the best sound quality I have ever heard them. Just bear in mind that we are talking about relatively casual recordings here. The selection is far less exhaustive than some of the two-disc selections, but they tend to suffer lesser sound quality, and frankly diminishing artistic returns on the greater number of tracks. I have a few of them, and frankly they never leave their cases/sleeves. This single cd really DOES have the best of them at a truly budget price (£3.93 on this site). It's the only one I ever play.
So what do we get? The first three tracks were originally released as the "Sick of You" EP, culled from studio-recorded demos. "Sick of you" does the old slow-fast-slow trick. Sasquatch-in-Essex said in his review that this is worth the price of the cd alone. He is right. Iggy starts out as a yowling crooner, screaming and yelling when the pace doubles. After some brief guitar squalling from Williamson, the song returns to the way it began. This song, better developed, would have made a great inclusion on "Raw Power". "Scene of the Crime" comes across as monotonous by comparison, but is still well worth having, and "Tight Pants" was rewritten for "Raw Power" as "Shake Appeal". I prefer the demo.
The next eight tracks are from the "Kill City" album. Most cd transfers of this are dreadful. The tracks on here never sounded better, although bizarrely they appear in mono, except for "Johanna", which is a completely new mix, lacking the irritating and unnecessary saxophone part and featuring lead guitar instead. This is worth the price of entry alone for me. The use of sax on the "Kill City" album is not all padding though. I could not imagine "Sell Your Love", where it becomes truly integral to the structure of the track, without it. The sax adds to the intimacy (no, really!) created by Iggy's voice. "No Sense of Crime" is also a fine ballad, making good use of saxophone. "I Got Nothing", from the later days of the Stooges, is also something of a ballad, but with a rocking chorus and great backing vocals, which point to what the Sales Brothers would bring to the "Lust for Life" album.
"Consolation Prizes", "Kill City" and "Beyond the Law" are rockers in the Keith Richards open-tuned guitar mode, and good enough songs to bear comparison to Keith's work on "Exile on Main Street". It is astonishing that a song as great as "Consolation Prizes" nearly didn't see the light of day at all. It would have been such a sadness if James Williamson had never finshed off the "Kill City" album - some two or three years after it was started.
Next up are alternative mixes of the French "I Got a Right"/"Gimme Some Skin" single (actually from a various artists LP, "The Best of Bomp"), studio demos of the same period as "Sick of You". These are crazed rockers, performed in a manner that only the Stooges could manage. Like the other demos the sound is a bit thin, but you should hear the inferior copies (no, don't bother). The former song represents Iggy's libertarian, rather moral, side, and the latter...well...cheap sex, expensive drugs. If Iggy was living the life he describes in "Gimme Some Skin" and many other songs, it is no shock he ended up so exhausted and demented by the mid-seventies.
Of the next four tracks: "Raw Power" is a rehearsal room recording (adding Scott Thurston on piano), and sounds typical of the many tracks that exist from this source. You get an idea how the live five-piece Stooges played. It might have been more fun to include one the unrecorded songs instead, such as "C**k in My Pocket". A similar recording of "Head On" is now on the Legacy Edition of "Raw Power". The other three are rough mixes of actual "Raw Power" tracks. "I Need Somebody" is gutless and adds nothing in this mix. "Gimme Danger" is plain and dry, offering some insight into the track's arrangement. The raw mix of "Penetration" explains why Bowie, on his mix, loaded so much echo delay onto the snare drum during the intro - Scotty Asheton seems unable to hit it in anything like time.
These rough mixes are clearly the weak spot of this collection. The cd would have benefitted more by the addition of the remaining three "Kill City" tracks, either in their place or as well.
The collection ends with the title track of the "Jesus Loves the Stooges" EP. A rehearsal room jam (actually two edited together), this is a piece of mock-gospel, led by Thurston's piano. It's not a favourite of mine, but it needs to be here for the completeness of the 7" tracks. The original B-side was two of the "Kill City" songs, which preceded the album.
Minor gripes aside this collection is an astonishing bargain, to be placed in any Iggy collection between "Raw Power" and "The Idiot". The performances range from intimate to distasteful (or even tasteless). The only complication is that you might want the complete "Kill City" as well (it has now apparently been given a proper remastering job). I have had THIS cd for years. Guess what I am going to buy next.
Now we need cd remasters of "The Idiot" and "Lust for Life". It's over twenty years since THEY came out, you know...they're sounding a little feeble now...or is that my ears...(the reviewer is then led away by kind men in white coats to a place of safety for distressed gentlefolk...still muttering)...