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The Stooges’ third album, which was given a disastrous mixdown by David Bowie in 1972 and has seen its reputation suffer for it ever since, has been remixed by Iggy himself, and make no mistake: It’s a cause for celebration. The original mix hamstrung one of the pivotal hard-rock albums of the early ’70s; the new one is hard, clean, and punchy, laying plain how aggressive the James Williamson-era Stooges could be. (In the extremely entertaining liner notes, Iggy tries to let Bowie off the hook by blaming the equipment, but Bowie presided over a lot of murky mixes in those dayslistened to Ziggy Stardust or All the Young Dudes lately?) But I realized the first time I heard the remix that it is actually competing for my affections with two preceding versions: the horrible-sounding LP
I got in high school, and the coulda-been version I’ve imagined ever since. Few rock albums have needed remixing as sorely as Raw Power, but at the same time, few bands have needed a rudimentary studio sound as badly as the Stooges. Bowie (and now Iggy) chose to ignore cooking instructions contained right there in the title: The original was parboiled, and the new one is cooked to a turn, but it’s supposed to be raw. The right sound for this band is the one Iggy and guitarist Williamson got on a few of the tracks they recorded after Raw Power, when the band was collapsing. “I Got a Right” and “Gimme Some Skin” are even cruder than the old mix of Raw Power, but in the right way: thick without being muddy, gaping without being hollow. That said, you can now at least listen to Raw Power and appreciate the simple yet inimitable brutality of “Your Pretty Face Is Going to Hell,” “Shake Appeal,” “Search and Destroy,” and the title cut. The cleaned-up mix renders the disc’s four slower cuts (which are only a small step up from filler) far more palatable, too. I hope this disc is taken as a challenge by other labels, and someone takes it upon himself to remix the other crucial studio fuckups of the protopunk era, the MC5’s Back in the USA and the New York Dolls’ first album.