Raw Power [Legacy Edition]

by: Iggy & the Stooges

Historical revisionism has been part of rock & roll ever since folks started writing about it with a modicum of serious intent, and part of the fun is it hardly remains static with the passage of time. After Iggy & the Stooges' manic swan song Raw Power was released in 1973, Iggy Pop was known to complain that David Bowie' s mix neutered the ferocity of the original recordings. In time it became conventional wisdom that Bowie's mix spoiled a potential masterpiece, so much so that in 1997, when Columbia made plans to issue a new edition of Raw Power, they brought in Pop to remix the original tapes and (at least in theory) give us the "real" version we'd been denied all these years. Then the world heard Pop's painfully harsh and distorted version of Raw Power, and suddenly Bowie' s tamer but more dynamic mix didn't sound so bad, after all. Now the whole saga comes full-circle as Columbia releases a two-disc "Legacy Edition" of Raw Power that features Bowie' s original mix in remastered form, along with a bonus disc of studio outtakes and an October 1973 Stooges show recorded in Atlanta for possible radio broadcast (then as now, radio wasn't ready for Pop's between-song banter or tunes like "Cock in My Pocket"). The remastered version of the Bowie mix boosts the bass that was all but absent in the original LP version just a bit, and the fidelity is inarguably superior to the long-gone CD version of Raw Power' s original mix, but ultimately it seems that the definitive version of Raw Power lies between these two extremes. Bowie' s mix allows a greater appreciation of what the band is doing and better favors Pop's vocals, but sometimes it sounds too polite, while the Pop mix boasts a tougher guitar sound and more bass but pushes everything so far into the red that listening to the thing is tiring (though curiously, the album's quietest song, "Gimme Danger," is the one that gains the most in Pop's mix). Ultimately, Bowie's original mix works better, but the remastered version doesn't do much to correct its flaws. As for the live material, this is the strongest and best-sounding recording that's emerged to date of the James Williamson-era Stooges on-stage, but since most of the live tapes that have appeared fall somewhere between fair and miserable, that only says so much. When the Stooges hit fourth gear in the second half of this gig, they sound very impressive, but there are some serious technical glitches early on -- the mix tends to favor Scott Thurston' s piano over Williamson's guitar, and it takes a few songs for the players to really lock in and focus, so if you're hoping to finally hear a decent-sounding and truly flame-throwing Stooges show on CD, you're going to have to wait. And even though Raw Power outtakes like "I Got a Right," "Gimme Some Skin," and "I'm Sick of You" have been circulating for years, for some reason they don't appear on this set; instead, we get the little-heard African pastiche "Doojiman" and a rehearsal tape of "Head On," and while both are fine stuff, there's a lot more to the Raw Power story than this. The Legacy Edition of Raw Power honors this great album better than the Iggy Pop remix that's been its only digital representation since 1997, but the extras included here fall short of making this the definitive release of the James Williamson-era Stooges' bloodied but unbowed triumph. ~ Mark Deming

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