04.16.10

Raw Power: A look at now and then

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll, Sludge in the Seventies at 1:57 pm by George Smith

As promised, DD picked up a copy of the Legacy Columbia reissue of Iggy & the Stooges’ Raw Power.

The attraction was new live material from a 1973 show and a restoration/revitalization of the old David Bowie mix everyone respected. But which was shelved in favor of an inferior product a few years ago thanks to the overenthusiasms of Iggy Pop.

DD ripped “Search and Destroy” from the new and old editions for examination in an audio program.

Here’s a ‘small’ snapshot of new “Search & Destroy”:

Here’s a snapshot of ‘old’ “Search & Destroy,” from the old out-of-print CD, and the first edition of Raw Power for the digital age.

Visually, there’s not a lot of difference. The Legacy edition is fit to the digital dynamic range slightly better than the old version. This makes it noticeably louder when comparing the two back-to-back, but not radically so.

It’s not brickwalled which is the practice for almost all current pop and rock releases — done to make them smash out of everything, from earbuds to home speakers. A variation on that ruined the remaster Iggy Pop did for Raw Power.

However, DD’s guessing the new edition was expanded and hard limited very slightly. This is a procedure in which the original is goosed a bit to give it a tad more zing and run up against just enough digital walling to keep dynamic peaks in bounds, but not so much that it’s noticeably squared and sawn off.

This means conservative judgment was used and it sounds very good.

But if you have the original, you can still just resort to turning it up for the same effect. (I did.) The dynamics are still all there. But there was never a lot of fine detail in the original vinyl recording, so to have kept it true to that didn’t take much effort. (The effort was in resisting the urge to ruin it. That test was failed once.)

Some notes on the bonus CD

The booklet shows a poster for the ‘Georgia Peaches’ Stooges show at Richards bar in Atlanta in 1973, near the end of the band’s run. It lists Hydra as the opening act.

Hydra was a typical southern rock band on the hard side of the genre. They were signed to Capricorn within a year.

Hydra made three albums, none of which are even remotely up to anything done by the Stooges.

At the time, they were probably deluded enough to think they were good in this context. If you listen to the recording, you’ll hear Iggy go off on some ‘little cracker boy.’ No southern rock bands delivered anywhere near the ferocity of the Stooges. There were disadvantages to growing up below the Mason-Dixon line.

At the beginning of the live material James Williamson’s guitar cuts in and out jaggedly, although he’s also in the room mix from stage volume blowing into the vocal mikes. But that’s really here nor there when it comes to Stooges live recordings. If you listen closely, at some point you’ll hear him kick in an octafuzz on one of his solos. If you’re good, you’ll hear that.

‘Georgia Peaches’ is the best live recording of Ron Asheton on bass. And there is lots of barroom piano from Scott Thurston which gives the band a somewhat different texture than on Raw Power.

For “Gimme Danger,” the piano goes away for a lot and Williamson’s guitar finally arrives in full glory. It is a great rendition. But “Search & Destroy” does not benefit from Scott Thurston’s rollicking piano.

Mix-wise Ron Asheton’s bass is in the same sonic range as Williamson’s rhythm, so they panned the latter to one side, Asheton to the other.

“I Need Somebody” is sinister, crunching and bluesy. And I won’t spoil the dirty poem that introduces it.

The crowd sounds about a dozen strong, including one girl totally infatuated with Iggy.

“Cock in My Pocket” delivers what you wanted. A good filthy song, now famous, one of the Stooges’ rampaging but more conventional numbers, worked off a classic rock n’ roll guitar figure.

“Doojiman,” a studio outtake from Raw Power is included. It features good jungle rhythms and chopping axe work by Williamson. Iggy’s vocal would have made people laugh had it been on the original album. Which was probably not the desired effect and why it was omitted.

Come to think of it, Columbia was probably appalled by “Doojiman.” As if they weren’t already unenthusiastic enough about the Stooges in ’73.

If one wonders why a fair-to-great live recording of the Stooges never aired, Iggy’s stage delivery quickly sets the listener right. It would have been unthinkable for any label to submit it to FM.

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