millioninprizesjpgI can remember a time back in the dark ages, a period I like to call my high school years, when a Stooges album was harder to find in Detroit than, well, the Stooges themselves, especially after that Michigan Palace brannigan immortalized on “Metallic K.O.”

Imagine that! All three were out of print in the U.S. – Elektra and Columbia apparently uninterested in pressing any more - but if you looked hard enough and lifted up enough toadstools, you may have been lucky enough to unearth a pricey import.

For better or worse, the market is now flush with Iggy/Stooges durables, some well worth the scratch and others downright treacherous. This one, Virgin’s best shot at a hagiography of Michigan’s patron saint of lucidity, isn’t bad, depending on your willingness to embrace whatever flaming record company hoops El Pop was trying to jump through at the time.

Those comfortable with the sound of narcotic-induced delirium, primal therapy, and civilization collapsing would be hard pressed to find much wrong with Disc 1, the section of Iggy’s curriculum vitae covering the years he spent with the Stooges, making some rather unusual contributions to mankind, up through his employ as David Bowie’s lap dog in Berlin. However, by “much wrong,” I don’t mean “anything wrong.” Only one song from “Fun House” (“Down On The Street”), but four from “The Idiot” and five from “Lust For Life”? Hmmm…

The inclusion of non-LP sides “I Got A Right,” “Gimme Some Skin,” and “I’m Sick Of You” is a nice touch, though, all three redolent with the unmistakable bouquet of ozone and a tinge of stale sweat. And despite Bowie’s attempts to re-create Iggy as the fifth member of Kraftwerk, “Funtime,” “Sister Midnight,” “Lust For Life,” and “The Passenger” all lurch, twitch, and spasm with at least a faint trace of Murder City palsy.

Disc 2 is a little more, shall we say, problematic, Iggy bent, shaped, and pulled in so many directions by so many clueless A&R hacks that even he probably wasn’t sure who that guy was looking back at him from the mirror every morning.

Part of the frustration of career retrospectives such as “A Million In Prizes” is not only what compilers choose to include, but what they choose not to. I try to console myself with the naïve belief that the complete short shrift given to the “Soldier” and “Party” albums had to be due to licensing issues between Virgin and Buddha. How else to explain ignoring “Pumpin’ For Jill,” “Bang Bang,” “Knocking ‘Em Down (In The City),” “Loco Mosquito,” and, especially, “Dog Food” in favor of dross like “Look Away” and “I Felt The Luxury”? And is it just me or does anyone else detect the faint scent of desperation in the duets with Kate Pierson and Debbie Harry, perhaps the nadir of Iggy’s slowly-decomposing, post-Ashetons residence on Planet Virgin?

Yeah, “Avenue B” counts, but just barely. “A Million In Prizes” isn’t a total wash, not a bad starter kit for tourists, but it’s far from definitive. The shadow cast by The Stooges is simply too long, thick, and impenetrable, eclipsing everything Iggy’s done
since, darkening his world and ours.