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A Thousand Lights (Live)

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Album Review

For a band that could barely get arrested during their original run in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the Stooges have had a genuinely remarkable afterlife, with devoted fans still eagerly scrambling after every last scrap of the group's recorded legacy. Dozens of semi-authorized albums (and a few outright bootlegs) have emerged of late-period Stooges gigs and studio sessions with Raw Power-era guitarist James Williamson, but there are far fewer artifacts documenting the extracurricular activities of the band's original lineup with Ron Asheton on lead guitar, though several important exceptions appeared in the new millennium, most notably the box set 1970: The Complete Fun House Sessions, the live collection You Don't Want My Name, You Want My Action (chronicling a short-lived, two-guitar edition of the Stooges), and Have Some Fun: Live at Ungano's, a live document of the band on-stage in New York in 1970. Add to this short roster A Thousand Lights, which brings together a handful of live tapes of the Stooges on-stage in 1970, roaring through material from their masterpiece Funhouse. This disc was drawn primarily from audience tapes, and these recordings will make any audiophile cringe; the performances are compelling, with Asheton's guitar sounding ferocious, Iggy Pop as primal and powerful as you could ever ask for, and the rhythm section thoroughly indefatigable, but the muddy, distorted sound quality is lousy enough to compromise the strength of some very fine performances. Half of the ten tracks were taken from a show in Chicago, while two others came from a New York show of the same vintage as Have Some Fun (which does boast better sound, though it's still not up to professional standards). And the final three tracks should be familiar to anyone who has ever searched for the Stooges on YouTube: a truncated version of "1970" from the band's set at the Goose Lake Rock Festival (it proved to be Dave Alexander's last show with the band; the lack of bass lending credence to the legend that he blanked out on-stage) and bits of two songs from a Cincinnati, OH show videotaped for the syndicated TV special Midsummer Rock (this was the show where Iggy walked out on the audience's hands before smearing himself with peanut butter), complete with banter from the hosts of the broadcast ("There goes Iggy right into the crowd! We've lost audio on him … this seems like a good chance to get a message in!"). Easy Action's packaging for this set is beautiful, with a booklet of rare color photos of the band in action, but though A Thousand Lights confirms what a wild, dazzling band the Stooges could be, the substandard sound quality and the presence of the same songs over and over ("1970" appears no less than four times) makes this a disc for hardcore Stooges zealots only.


Formed: 1967 in Ann Arbor, MI

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '00s, '10s

During the psychedelic haze of the late '60s, the grimy, noisy, and relentlessly bleak rock & roll of the Stooges was conspicuously out of time. Like the Velvet Underground, the Stooges revealed the underside of sex, drugs, and rock & roll, showing all of the grime beneath the myth. The Stooges, however, weren't nearly as cerebral as the Velvets. Taking their cue from the over-amplified pounding of British blues, the primal raunch of American garage rock, and the psychedelic rock (as well...
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