First, the 2009 Easy Action vinyl release of their 1971 material, Live at the Electric Circus, which I previously only had on CD. Listening to this set again (first time listening on vinyl), I am once more convinced that this is some of their best material. Hearing it on vinyl with decent speakers really brings a lot of their sound out. As an audience recording, the acoustics are still fairly muddy, and the vocals are still mostly buried, unfortunately, but the attack of the guitars really comes through. It is a shame that the band was dropped from Elektra at this point and that these songs were never properly recorded for a studio album. Very nice orange-and-grey vinyl pressing from Easy Action, though. I’ve previously written about these songs here. In the recent book Total Chaos (2016), Iggy says that the 1971 songs that have “simpler chords and [are] more organized,” like “I Got a Right” and “You Don’t Want My Name,” are his, while the songs that are “very, very complicated, interesting riff but it doesn’t seem to go anywhere, those are [James Williamson’s]” (p. 202). Perhaps Iggy has a point, but I actually like all of the songs they were playing then. The last two or three pieces in the set indeed are based on one or two riffs each, but I like the improvisations and solos they play over them. And anyway, many of their best songs are “complicated” single riffs (think “T.V. Eye,” for example). Apparently, Ron Asheton was not doing much songwriting during this period, but the interplay of the two guitarists is great throughout.
Now, a few thoughts on the recent Rare Power LP (Columbia, 2018): It is nice to have the Raw Power outtakes on vinyl (“I’m Hungry,” “Hey Peter,” “Doojiman”). Everything else has been previously released on vinyl, I think, except the terrible “Gimme Danger”-Josh Mobley remix. I can understand wanting to include this remix from a marketing standpoint (it was in a video game or something), but it is frankly awful, with fake electronic drums, orchestral part, etc. — totally ruins the song. From the 1972 Olympic sessions, we are once again treated to “I Got a Right” and “Sick of You,” which were also recently paired on the Gimme Danger soundtrack album. So, why not include a couple of the now lesser-heard tracks from those Olympic sessions instead? For example, “Tight Pants” would have been a better inclusion than the Iggy mix of “Shake Appeal,” if we’re going for “rare.” They’re essentially the same song, but “Tight Pants” is an interesting alternate/earlier version. I like “I Got a Right,” obviously, but again, no longer rare. What about “Scene of the Crime” and/or “Gimme Some Skin” instead, or at least the take of “I Got a Right” that Bomp used, which you rarely come across nowadays? “Head On” from the 1973 CBS rehearsal sessions was a good choice (previously available on the Rubber Legs album). But why the Iggy mix of “Death Trip”? Wouldn’t a better inclusion have been the album’s iconic tune “Search and Destroy” (no version of which is included here)? I’d have voted for the early mix Iggy played on Detroit radio, the one with the backing-vocal “heys” that has appeared on a couple of hard-to-find bootlegs. Further, the order of tracks is particularly illogical, and there are no liner notes giving context or explaining how the Stooges’ career and recording sessions played out in this period. For the Stooges fan, Rare Power is still just barely worth having for the couple of benefits mentioned above, but really seems more like an income-generating ploy by the company than anything else. It could have been a very solid project if a little more thought had been put into it.
The Detroit Edition of the Stooges’ first album is a relatively successful package, with solid remastering and cover design. The glossy gatefold is aesthetically pleasing, lined inside in red. It might have been nice to have a couple other/different band photos in there, but also cool to see the printed lyrics. Disc one is the original album, while the second is an “alternative” version, with alternate vocal takes and the full, un-faded “No Fun” and “Ann.” All of these were available on the 2010 Rhino Handmade release, but it is great to have them on vinyl. My biggest complaint is that the “alternative” album does not include “Asthma Attack,” which really would have given the album an interesting slant and would have provided a real parallel to the original. Unfortunately, the only source for the complete “Asthma Attack” on vinyl is on the Gimme Danger soundtrack (the single that came with the Rhino Handmade package had it split over two sides of a 45), and so whoever decided it didn’t need to be on what aspires to be the definitive vinyl re-release of the first album ought to have their head examined. I said as much here, even before it came out, but what can you do; obviously they didn’t consult me (ha ha). Another missed opportunity, though still worth having.