Affirmation of life
A Fire of Life – The Stooges (Easy Action)
Pertinent Question: Who else but Easy Action would have issued this and shown such a high degree of care? The Stooges are no more. Every listenable recording of the band during any of its phases surely has been exhumed and put into the marketplace by now.
“A Fire of Life” is the Pop-Asheton-Asheton-Watt-Mackay Stooges at the height of their reformation powers.
The first half combines broadcast quality sets from Sydney (2006) and New Orleans (2003) while the second act is audio of a pay-for-view, live-in-the-studio 2007 set, showcasing one song from “The Weirdness” with five re-recorded classics. It’s rounded off with an in-store appearance by Iggy, Rock and Ron at Newbury Comics in Minnesota in 2003.
It’s on two CDs or a brace of (orange) vinyl LPs with alternate covers, and the digital edition gives you extra songs.
This is label owner Carlton Sandercock’s realisation of a mission that began soon after he founded Easy Action in 2004.
With the Stooges strutting the global festival circuit and his label licensing back product by both Iggy and his bands, it was clear that there were no officially-released contemporary live recordings doing the band justice. Either the sound was fluffed or the art didn’t work.
That thought festered over the years - in the same way that bootlegs of the band bloomed.
One issue also loomed large: When you come to the Stooges, Iggy is omnipresent, but how do you also honour the contribution of the Ashetons?
Look no further than the cover images of “A Fire of Life” that place the brothers front-and-centre.
Why do you need it?
Because it’s a killer collection of The Stooges with insane levels of energy pulsing from almost every second, adeptly mastered and lavishly packaged with spectacular imagery.
Because it’s the sound of a band finally receiving its due after years of underground cult status.
Because it’s a “fuck you” to every prefabricated, auto-tuned, bland and fake piece of aural wallpaper disguised as a rock and roll band that mouth-breathing, shit-for-brains mainstream labels have had the temerity to inflict on us.
I got a special reason to wallow in the Sydney segment of the first disc; I was side of stage at that show on the Big Day Out festival extravaganza – standing next to my late brother, some bloke named Henry Rollins and the girls from Sleater Kinney (one of whom had brought her kid, who had been provided with industrial grade ear protection).
The band filed up a walkway, flanked by crew, Iggy bounced out to “Loose” - and the arena crowd went nuts. The energy from the band was spine-tingling.
Ron scarcely moved from his patch of stage, leaning into his work as he covered the place in a tidal wave of guitar. He looked bemused when the crowd was invited up for the customary stage invasion, disappearing in the wall of humanity and defending his pedal board.
Mike Watt provided basslines to the sonic bedrock of Scott Asheton. Steve Mackay added his parts in a few places but most eyes were on Pop as he careered around the stage, howl-crooning his anthems to boredom, terminal stasis and having nothing to do. When it was all over, the band left the stage with feedback ringing. Iggy let the mic drop, stood with his back to the crowd and froze for 30 seconds before hobbling off, totally spent.
Half the set is from the New Orleans show, when they were on a bill called The Voodoo Music Experience with the Stooges preceding Marilyn Manson. Yes. Marilyn Manson.
The kids were there for Manson – not the Stooges. The Stooges know it - and take it out on the listless crowd. The energy is there but it’s combative. Best Iggy line: “You suck like the bands you like.”
Play it on vinyl if you like. It sounds magnificent either way. These are well-balanced soundboard recordings that don’t have the excessive compression that often mars FM radio broadcasts.
The Live In The Basement set also crackles - with an added sense of intimacy. It’s like the Stooges were in your living room. Iggy’s on his game, emitting a James Brown woop on “Trolling”. Scotty nails the beat to the floor. Watt’s bass-lines fill the crevices (and he indulges in just a little extra note-play) as Ron’s bluesy, squalling guitar washes over all six tracks.
The sound has presence and majesty but the delivery is unmistakable blue-collar thuggery.
Onto the second disc and who wouldn’t have killed to be at the Newbury Comics in-store? This one has been floating around in, online collector circles for years. Iggy’s patter is fantastic, casually talking through the origins of the nine songs played. His praise for the Ashetons, is genuinely fulsome.
As alluded earlierbar, it’s just the core trio with Scott playing on cardboard boxes. Ron’s guitar is scorching, if a little to one of the side of the soundscape. The set was captured on a hand-held mic in the audience but has been sonically buffed to maximum effect. The audience whoops and wails. You’re right there. It’s special.
The vinyl addicts are correct and the full visual impact of the packaging comes across best in the LP format. It’s a limited run and issued to mark the 50th anniversary of the only UK show by the latter-day Iggy and the Stooges. Fulfill your mission by clicking on the Buy It link below.