Heavy Liquid LP - The Stooges (Easy Action)
The question’s already been posed by a few people whether they really do need yet another compilation of Stooges material. It’s a rhetorical query so I’ll lay out the facts and allow you to judge for yourself.
Let’s kick off by saying that a lot of crap is released under the auspices of Record Store Day. What was once a marketing platform for the little guys, the ever-diminish number of independent bricks and mortar stores, has morphed into another channel for the big boys - they’d the the major labels - to peddle all manner of shit.
There are outtakes and alternative versions ad infinitum buzzing about like flies on sherbet, but RSD more often than not seems to be about exploiting the fetishists’ love of anything on vinyl. "Heavy Liquid" is not amongst that crap.
Easy Action stands apart from the big labels, mining a niche of high energy and/or obscure touchstones, and they’ve come late to the RSD Party. Their “Heavy Liquid” LP is exclusively studio tracks and makes up the cream of outtakes and alternative versions that were on the CD box set of the same name.
What you get here is four sides of Stoogemusic taken from London pre-production for “Raw Power” (1972), and New York and Detroit rehearsals (1973). The pick of the crop. All but two surfaced on an obscure bootleg a couple of years ago called “Iguana De Banda”.
The origin of “Iguana De Banda” has caused much debate in Stooges-related forums. Was it a clever Machiavellian ploy by someone close to the band to bolster the band’s back catalogue sales? One (conspiracy) theorist linked a fictious label name on the back of the sleeve to that of the street on which Iggy supposedly lives in Florida. Sounds like a stretch to me. Or did somebody stumble over a box of tapes of the band’s “Raw Power” sessions and cherrypick the leftovers?
“Instrumental” is indeed an instrumental and a close relative of “Death Trip”. Like “Doojiman” on the CBS “Raw Power” deluxe box, this was probably a work-in-progress that was put aside and forgotten when MainMan dropped in to poo-poo the band’s efforts to date. Barn-burners like “Gimme Some Skin” and “I’m Sick Of You”got the same cold shoulder, of course, so you’ll probably guess that “Instrumental” is a keeper.
Even better is the version of “Penetration”. It’s the best version I’ve heard. Ron Asheton’s accomplished bass-line is in high relief, as are “Baby Baby” backing vocals that only fade late in the piece, yielding to a pulsing groove and James Williamson’s relentless riffing. Married to Iggy’s unhinged vocal, this take resembles a mutant strain of Motown, a soul song where the soul’s been sold to the Devil for a dime bag of powder.
“Heavy Liquid” comes in a spiffy reflective silver (it's metallic and it's a knock-out) gatefold sleeve, with colour inserts and Paul Trynka liners. It’s chunky 180gm vinyl (of course) and mine must have “turned blue” (to borrow a the name of a post-Stooges Iggy tune)because that’s its colour.
The tracks might be a mix of multi-track and boombox-in-the-rehearsal-room-corner recordings but they’ve never sounded better. Performance-wise, “Money” (the Beatles song) is dodgy and “Louie Louie” is just a warm-up but the rehearsal cuts are fearsome, as you’d know if you cottoned onto the French “Rubber Legs” EP about 20 years ago.
So do you need it?
Are you a Stooges completist? Then the answer is Yes.
Do you have “Heavy Liquid” on CD but missed “Iguana De Banda”? The answer would be Yes again. The “new” songs are both worth the price of admission.
Are you a vinyl fetishist? That’d be a Yes again.
Have you never heard a Stooges outtake or alternative take compilation (do you live under a fucking rock or something?) That’d be a Yes. This is a damn fine place to start.
Do you lack a turntable but get a kick out of receiving heavy packages from the post office and admiring gloriously packaged LPs as they stare back at you mutely from your shelf? Then it’s a Yes. And let's just add that what you do in your own home is entirely your own business.
Do you feel like your question’s been answered, punk? Let's just point out that if you're after the vinyl version then you'll have to satisfy your jones on eBay or Discogs because it's sold out. The CD version is coming and can be pre-ordered here.