California Hitch Hike - Iggy Pop (Easy Action)
His studio recordings are up and down like a hypoglycaemic's sugar levels but the one place Iggy Pop delivers the goods consistently is the stage. This 1979 taped-for-radio recording from San Francisco in 1979 finds the Pop at the very top of his game with a killer band in attendance.
The term "supergroup" is all too often a red flag for a bunch of overpaid white bread hacks whose idle hands bear no evidence of grime. Be assured that the big name crew Iggy assembled for this US tour was up to the mark and this night at the Old Waldorf in San Francisco found them in searing form.
If most of the band were coming off the back of a direction-less recording session at Rockfield for the flawed "Soldier" album, taking it on the road offered an escape valve. The departed Steve New's guitar parts were an by now an inexplicably erased, post-production memory, but songs like "Dog Food" and "Knockin' Em Down In The City" sound ace here.
New's replacement Brian James, ex of the Damned, shows the benefit of extreme and constant exposure to the recordings of James Williamson. Some of his guitar ructions, lurching out of the songs full of with menace and anger, approach those of Strait James for intensity. No shit.
Ivan Kral's no slouch on second guitar and keyboards either, and if the arrangements leave his synth parts a little overdone, it was a sign of those new wave times.
The presence of a post-Pistol in the ranks might have been exciting enough on paper, but the recorded evidence shows that Glen Matlock's melodic bass-lines suited Ig's songs perfectly.
Four "Soldier" tunes apart, the material's the usual mix of Stoogeclassics ("TV Eye", "No Fun", "Real Cool Time", "Your Pretty Face Is Going To Hell"), Bowie era gems ("China Girl", a suave "Funtime") and fresher stuff ("New Values", "Five Foot One"), plus a surprise cover of "You Really Got Me".
There's a previously unheard synth-laden spoken word "Hitch-Hiking in California" that's strangely compelling, but short of essential. Fans may have already have heard "One For My Baby" elsewhere, representing a moment for Ig to free his inner crooner.
Sound quality on Easy Action's previous Ig-stuff has been so-so - only because that's all that was available - but this one is right up there by comparison. Because owner Carlton Sandercock cares, the label continues to lift the bar on packaging - "Hitch-Hiker" comes in a large size slipcase with deluxe booklet and postcard in a recessed holder.
Live Iggy solo band recordings have leaked into the marketplace like BP oil from an underground accident but I'm hard-pressed to recall a better one than this. Only Easy Action's "Speed Kills" blitzkrieg from Adelaide in '89 might go close, but that one can't touch this for aural quality. All of which just means you probably need to order a copy sooner rather than later and before they run out.