unganosLong awaited, here are the first live recordings of the Ron Asheton-era Stooges. (Well, maybe Easy Action got there first with their "Popped" fan pack, the audio portion of which they just released separately as "A Thousand Lights"). And these are damn sure the only commercially available recordings of the lineup with ex-roadies Bill Cheatham on second guitar and Zeke Zettner on bass, recorded in a 200-capacity Manhattan club.

I've written elsewhere that the endless fascination with audience recordings of the James Williamson-era Stooges stems from the fact that none of that repertoire was ever officially recorded. Some folks would argue that even the "Raw Power" songs were never decently recorded. The songs on this release, however, have to stand comparison with what I'd rank as the Greatest Rock Album Of All Ti-i-i-ime, and of course they can't measure up to that.

The disc opens with a recording of fans yakking about the Stooges en route to the show. One of the female fans asks if Iggy wasn't from the MC5. Her friend explains that he's "a baby Mick Jagger" and opines that Funhouse is "about 4500 times better" than The Stooges. The male fans are impressed by the fact that he "puts meat on himself" and "scratches himself."

The Stooges play their set of the time, which is basically the "Fun House" songs in order, except "Down On the Street" and "Loose" switch places. The most prominent audible elements are vocals, lead guitar, and drums, so it's a step forward from a lot of earlier quasi-official releases where Iggy's singing and imprecations were inaudible, or blurred enough to be incomprehensible. Maybe it's a monitor mix. He doesn't do an awful lot of audience-baiting on mic here, though.

When the bass is audible, Zeke (R.I.P.) does a fine job. If there's a second guitar on this, I sure can't hear it, but it doesn't matter. Ron's fuzz-and-wah-laden acid blues genius is present, and as the audio from Goose Lake has shown in the past (you can Youtube it, plus it's on the Easy Action Popped thingy), he and his brother were the greatest two-man band until the Sex Pistols.

An apex is achieved as "1970" lashes the crowd with whipsaw fury, then sax maniac Steve McKay makes his entrance and things get weird. The version of "Funhouse" doesn't really coalesce until about halfway through, and it's only three minutes and change (tape splice?) before the thing melts down into a 10-minute "energy freakout free-form" extravaganza which the compilers have entitled "Have Some Fun/My Dream Is Dead."

If you're partial to things like the 17-minute version of "L.A. Blues" on "The Complete Fun House Sessions", "Asthma Attack" on the Rhino Handmade "collector's edition" of "The Stooges", the MC5 obliterating audience at the Grande Ballroom with a hyperextended, sax-laden "Black To Comm," or Les Rallizes Denudes' "Smoking Cigarette Blues," then "Have Some Fun…" should be right up your alley. Myself, when I'm in the mood for skronk, I'll put on something like Coltrane's Ascension or Meditations instead. But that's just me.

Put it another way: That one track is 25 percent of a 40-minute set, and the smiling folks at Rhino Handmade want $20 American for thisun. Myself, when I want to hear this band, I'm still going to reach for my vinyl copy of "Fun House". I have heard enough to know that I have heard too much.