Thursday, December 11, 2014

James Williamson - Re-Licked - Blazing Some Past Masters (The Great Lost Stooge's Album?)

While on a break from touring this year, the members of the live touring version of The Stooges (James Williamson, Steve McKay, Mike Watt, and drummer Toby Dammit) got together and recorded songs that were originally penned by Iggy Pop and James Williamson in 1973/74 as the follow up to their quintessential album Raw Power. While a number of these tracks have found their way onto inferior sounding bootlegs and unofficial releases over the years, they are never properly recorded since the band didn't have a recording deal at the time. ~ James Williamson's .com

Iggy demurred, so James went ahead and did it - people have long clamored to hear what was left over from the demise of punk rock's original legends, so we are the joyful recipients of what may have been, and it's a great trip.

James Williamson is one of the rarest of birds, one which can simply walk away. When Iggy and The Stooges dismantled in 1974, Williamson spent a few years bouncing around looking for musical projects, but he soon set his sights on a world that led him far away from rock for a great many years. He became an electrical engineer, and after a long stint with Advanced Micro Devices in San Jose, he accepted a position as Vice President of Technical Standards, a position he held until accepting san early retirement buyout in 2009. The tech world's loss is definitely rock 'n' roll's gain.

Re-Licked sees Williamson going over unreleased songs, rarities, and some lesser known Stooges songs with the help of some of a letter generation's voices - Jello Biafra is no spring chicken, but he's still post-Stooges, and his take on the set opening 'Head On The Curve' sets the bar pretty high for the album as he obviously pays homage to an institution dear to his heart. That's a theme that runs through this record from beginning to end, the amount of passion and energy to be found on the vocal tracks, which sit brilliantly atop some very spirited playing from Williamson and his cohorts.

One thing that makes me love this record is the fact that it sounds like what I had always hoped The Stooges would sound like in the studio. The guitars couldn't sound any better - Williamson sounds like Williamson - his rapid paced chord changes, and searing leads have never sounded quite this in your face, and up front. Let's face it, The Stooges, perhaps more than any other legendary seventies band, suffered from some of the worst productions, and mixes that ever marred the era. Bow may have been onboard for some great albums by others (Lou Reed's Transformer, Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes, The Stooges' Raw Power), but in retrospect the ideas were much better than the sounds to be found upon these classics. Williamson has confronted this old problem, and his skills as an engineer/producer combine with his well known guitar histrionics to make for a record that should end up on plenty of those cursed top ten lists we'll soon be enduring (yes, they are as big a pain in the ass for the writer as they are for the reader).

Then there is the matter of 'Open Up And Bleed' as sang by Texas legend Carolyn Wonderland - when I saw Carolyn's name associated with a product from The Stooges, I had a bit of a problem getting from A to B, but that's more my preconceived notion of Carolyn as a singer from the south than anything. In fact, she's the perfect voice for what is certainly one of Iggy and James' more accessible compositions, and it's a great example of what The Stooges may have grown into, given more time and resources, and less hedonistic pursuits. This is one of the songs of the year for me.

Ariel Pink shows up to help out with 'She Creatures Of Hollywood', and his allegiance to the past is perhaps more familiar to The Stooges' hardcore when combined with the track's high tech take on lo-tech noise, and you'd dig this even if you didn't know its heritage. That's one of the things that makes this record so successful, and that is the fact that you can hear more Iggy influence than Stooges aping. Williamson has taken the material to new places via increased technologies, and time. This would be a cool record no matter when it was released.

Alison Mosshart (The Kills, Jack White's The Dead Weather) does a brilliant job on 'Til The End Of The Night', which just seems to grow, grow, and grow from a soft take on the tale straight into an epic of sound and emotion, especially lifted by Williamson's soaring guitar solo, which starts with harsh shards of his signature chording then sidles into a Page approved bit of Les Paul/Marshall madness that stirs the soul sufficiently before easing into Mosshart's final and building end of five and a half minutes of beauty.

'Heavy Liquid' is given the treatment by The Bellrays' Lisa Kekaula, and she sounds more like David Johansen than Iggy on this slashing rocker, and again, it's the band that provides the perfect undercurrent for her to surf across. This will have you at last realizing what Zeppelin may have sounded like with some horns attached. Great straight up rock by any measure.

'Sick Of You' is well served by The Orwells' Mario Cuomo, who sounds right at home on this rippling punk rocker. It's funny how when most singers cover Iggy, they end up sounding more like Jim Morrison, but hat was always part of the trip, right?

Joe Cardamone of the Icarus Line sounds like he's waited his whole life to sing 'Pin Point Eyes', and again a singer takes the work of Iggy Pop and adds the London soul tones of one Michael Jagger to the proceedings. Every musician on this album brought his A game, and Re-Licked is a great listen.

I could go on with this for another fifteen hundred words, but I'm too far behind in my work, and you should know by now that my recommendation is that you buy this album right now, and listen repeatedly. James Williamson has hit a home run with this one, and it's maybe the best Stooges record yet recorded - I love my old boss, but he's not missed that badly on this new born classic.

4 of 5 Pints

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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