After the breakup of The Stooges and spending some time in a mental hospital, Iggy Pop teamed with David Bowie for The Idiot (named after the Dostoyevsky novel), the first of two classic collaborations released as Iggy Pop solo albums in 1977. This one is clearly more musically influenced by Bowie who was on a creative roll, and though this album is more experimental and unlike his later solo albums, that just makes it more interesting to me. I definitely listen to The Stooges (and Lust For Life) more often, but this stylish, atmospheric release is an essential album in its own right that should greatly appeal to fans of Station To Station or Berlin-era Bowie. Of course, let's not discount the excellent musicianship (check Wikipedia for the contributors) or Iggy's own contributions, which came primarily with the lyrics and vocals, both of which are excellent. The album starts on a superb note with the funky, danceable "Sister Midnight," with it memorably harsh guitars and cool contrast between deep and falsetto vocals; this song was later redone by Bowie on Lodger as "Red Money" but the original is better. The slower, atmospheric, much-sampled "Nightclubbing" was later included on the popular Trainspotting soundtrack, while "Funtime" continues the high quality with a faster, groovy number on which Iggy talk-sings like another alternative rock icon, Lou Reed. "Baby" is a strange yet oddly hooky semi-ballad that I also like a lot, and again I prefer Iggy's less poppy, more intense version of "China Girl" to Bowie's later hit version (which I also do like if not as much). Moving on to what used to be side two back in the LP days, "Dum Dum Boys" is Iggy's touching if over-long (7:12) riff-driven tribute to his former mates in The Stooges; I actually prefer the more modest "Tiny Girls," a sad and lonesome ballad whose sax and keyboards musically lead the way. Finally, the intense, industrial-ish "Mass Production" is another long (8:24), experimental track that's more a grower than a highlight for me, as side one is more enjoyable to me on the whole. It's basically all good, though, as Iggy launched his post-Stooges career on a high note here, with much help from Mr. Bowie, of course, but then again both Iggy and Bowie have always worked best with others. One last thing, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this album is infamous for having been the last album that Ian Curtis listened to before he committed suicide.
Lust For Life (RCA ‘77) Rating: A
Iggy Pop’s most enjoyable, fun, and flat-out best solo album is again much different from the raw power of his Stooges work, relying on catchy, structured songwriting instead of inspired chaos. It's different than The Idiot too, as this is a more straightforward, less experimental rock record that more obviously highlights Iggy's personality this time out (he was in a much happier place than on The Idiot so the album is more upbeat). Bowie again deserves a lot of credit, too, though, as let's face it Iggy’s solo stuff with and without Bowie has a striking difference in quality (heck I'd take his 1977 output - also see the next review - over the rest of his career combined!). This inspired album has some terrific songs. I mean, just try to stand still to the big beats and catchy chorus of “Lust For Life” (given new life on 1996’s Trainspotting soundtrack as well as via several high profile commercials) and the equally rousing and upbeat shout along “Success.” It’s virtually impossible, but “The Passenger” and “Tonight” are at least as good and are also very catchy, the former featuring a great riff-based groove and a delicious deep voiced Iggy vocal along with those wonderful "la la la la" backing vocals (this song too was used to excellent effect in a recent commercial, this one for Captain Morgan rum), the latter an excellent, highly melodic pop song that was later redone by Bowie, though again this original is better. But the whole album is really good, also including "Some Weird Sin," a personal favorite featuring more good riffs and great dual Iggy/Bowie vocals (this happens a lot on this album as their vocal chemistry is excellent throughout), the short, lusty rocker "Sixteen," the dark, intense, throbbing rocker "Neighborhood Threat," and a pair of epic-scale songs in the soulful, doo wop influenced "Turn Blue" (6:57), an alternately light and dramatic number, and "Fell In Love With Me" (6:31), which has a danceable groove that I've grown to appreciate even if it's not the best song (apparently it was birthed at a jam session and that's what it sounds like). Again, Iggy (and Bowie) impress vocally throughout the album, the songwriting is consistently strong when it's not downright stellar, and the backing band of guitarists Carlos Alomar and Rickey Gardiner, and the brother rhythm section of bassist Tony Sales and drummer Hunt Sales (later to join Bowie in Tin Machine), were the right men for this job for sure (with Gardiner in particular helping out with the songwriting, including writing the music to "The Passenger").
Kill City (Bomp Records '77, '10) Rating: A-
This is one of Iggy's most underrated records, and it's easy to see why. Actually, this album is credited to Iggy Pop & James Williamson, and its genesis was in 1975 following the dissolution of The Stooges. This was when Iggy was in a mental institution trying to kick heroin, and my understanding is that he recorded his vocals on weekend releases. The problem was that nobody was interested at the time, The Stooges not exactly being a commercial success, so it wasn't until 1977, after the success of the Iggy-Bowie material, that Bomp Records showed interest and the album was actually finished and released. To crickets chirping, basically, which is a shame because this album deserved better, and the 2010 remix has really helped the sound quality (iffy on the original) to the point where I can unreservedly recommend this album. Soundwise, this album is somewhere in between Raw Power-era Stooges and The Rolling Stones (songs like the terrific title track, "Consolation Prize," and "Lucky Monkeys" all have "Stonesy" riffs), and the seedy, dark, down and out lyrics are unsurprising giving Iggy's state at the time (my favorite song here is titled "I Got Nothin'"). The album also somewhat recalls Fun House in its prominent use of saxophone, as the interplay between John "The Rookie" Harden's sax and Williamson's guitar provides an interesting dynamic throughout the album, especially on songs such as the r&b-based "Beyond The Law" and the intense "Johanna," which throws piano into the mix as well (Iggy's vocals here are also excellent). The guys also aren't afraid to slow things down on strong slower songs like the soulful "Sell Your Love" and "No Sense Of Crime," which actually features acoustic guitars and has creative percussion as well. There are some so-so songs, perhaps, but this is a heck of an album for a bunch of demos, that's for sure, and I personally think it's better than anything Iggy's recorded since. Of course, much credit for that is due to Williamson, who I think is more influential on "punk" guitar than he's given credit for, as he was a legit guitar hero who could really play (check out the solo on "I Got Nothin'," for example).
New Values (Arista ‘79) Rating: B
Iggy strikes out on his own without Bowie but back with Williamson, though James only produces the album and plays very little guitar on it (Scott Thurston handles most of the guitar duties). And let's face it, Iggy without Bowie or the Dum Dum Boys simply isn't as good, but New Values was a solidly enjoyable album that established Iggy as a viable solo artist on his own, though it sold considerably less than Lust For Life. This album is mostly comprised of simple, straightforward rock songs, most of which are good though few are major standouts. The highly percussive title track, with its rockabilly guitar and lyrics touting his new lease on life, is certainly a good one (I like the guitar solo as well), and I also really like "Don't Look Down," which is slower, kinda funky, and features prominent female backing vocals and some wailing saxophone. Elsewhere, Iggy's still having no fun ("I'm Bored") or complaining about his height ("Five Foot One"), but his attempts at humor fall flat on the musically terrible and lyrically unfunny (and arguably racist) "African Man." On some tracks ("Girls," the atmospheric and experimental "The Endless Sea") Iggy again kinda talk-sings like Lou Reed, while "How Do Ya Fix A Broken Heart" and "Angel" are unabashedly poppy attempts at a more accessible sound (in general you could say that New Values features a more mature Iggy). Anyway, I don't really have much more to say about this album other than that I enjoy it but I enjoy his prior solo and duo and band albums a lot more. Then again, I'd rate this album considerably higher than anything that the so-called "Godfather Of Punk" has done since, though he's such a beloved character (does the man even own a shirt?) that he's almost immune to criticism when you consider how mediocre (or worse) the majority of his career has been, at least in the studio. But from 1969-1979 Iggy (with a lot of help from others) was remarkably consistent for such a mess of a human being!
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