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CD Review
Iggy And The Stooges - Ready To Die

Iggy And The Stooges

Ready To Die
Record Label: Fat Possum
Artist's Facebook
Review by Sal Serio
June 2013

It’s got to be tough when a group or an artist reaches legendary status, as they inevitably get compared to their past achievements. The general populace can be so fickle and demanding, to boot. How then, does an artist grow? Must they always be in fear of the scathing critical and public fall-out? Do they need to write the same book over and over? Let’s use Iggy & the Stooges as our case study.

The irony of the Stooges is that they were not overly appreciated when they first existed (approx 1968-1974). Their records sold dismally, and their concerts were poorly attended. What are now considered “classics” - the albums ‘Raw Power’ and ‘Funhouse’ - were commercial bombs, and with the exception of reviews by writers like the unconventional Lester Bangs, critical failures. But hell, even Bangs wrote negative stuff about the Stooges!

At some point in time though, after “punk” broke (the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd times, ahem), Iggy Pop and the Stooges became hailed as pioneers of garage rock and stripped-down, pure sweat and emotion-raw performances. How funny that they got placed on a mantle by the punker fans, and then, the unbelievable happened! The original group reformed decades later (with Mike Watt in place of the deceased Dave Alexander)… but are the faithful and the critics happy? Well, with the concert performances, generally yes, but both 2007’s ‘The Weirdness’ and the new ‘Ready To Die’, have pretty much been used for target practice since their respective release dates.

Somehow, I doubt Iggy and the band give a damn what anybody thinks. They never did before, why would they now? And besides, does anyone compare the latest McCartney album to ‘Abbey Road’? I mean… it’s 40 years after ‘Raw Power’! Get over it, and judge the new Stooges on its own merits.

The question here, then, is: does the new Stooges release have merits? Well, I believe so. Here’s the rub. First off, Iggy and James Williamson are back together, writing new songs, and Williamson sounds pretty damn good, especially when you consider that there was a 35 year period when he never even picked up a guitar. Extra bonus, not only does original Stooges sax man Steve Mackay stick around for this release (he was not in the original ‘Raw Power’ era Stooges band), but multi-instrumentalist Scott Thurston is back to play keyboards on “Beat That Guy”.

I will fully admit that I let this CD grow on me. It took a few listens, and I liked it more with each consecutive spin. There are a handful of tracks, like “Burn”, “Gun”, and the title track that are absolutely scorching! Williamson’s guitar slashes, smolders, and sizzles when it needs to, and also is sweetly understated on the mellower material such as “Unfriendly World” and the tribute to late Stooge Ron Asheton “The Departed”.

All I can say is, give it a fair shake. Listen with an open mind, and do not expect ‘Raw Power Pt. 2’. If the first impression leaves you cold, wait a day or two, and give it another try. I think Iggy’s longtime fans, who saw him try a ton of different musical approaches, will grow to enjoy ‘Ready To Die’ as much as I do. Plus, I know when I see the band again in concert, I want to be familiar with the newer material so I appreciate EVERY song played, and not just the stuff from the first three albums. The ironic title of this CD does not fool me, Iggy and the Stooges sound like anything but ‘Ready To Die’!

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