We can argue all you want about proto-this and seminal that, but when Raw Power is on the stereo, it’s hard to deny that it’s the greatest rock record ever. If you even tried to, this record would probably stand up and punch you in the face. Nearly four decades after its original release in 1973, Raw Power — the Stooges’ third and final studio album before their recent reunion — remains a uniquely visceral listening experience, a confrontational slab of psychedelic punk made in the dead zone between psychedelia’s demise and punk’s birth. There’s something truly nihilistic in the way “Search and Destroy” and “Penetration” career toward ruin and so-called ballads like “Gimme Danger” and “I Need Somebody” sound poised to abandon all sanity.
For a listener attuned to current, structured definitions of “heavy” music, this stuff is particularly volatile. In the ’90s, Iggy Pop created a new, “violent” mix of the album intended to supersede David Bowie’s much-maligned original production, but it’s that original production that’s the basis for this new Legacy Edition. The two discs include a few studio outtakes (“Doojiman” and “Head On”) and a live show from Atlanta in 1973 — dubbed “Georgia Peaches,” the recording sounds as if it were coming from the next room, and the band play as if they had learned the songs an hour earlier. It’s absolutely thrilling.
Pianist Scott Thurston’s Jerry Lee–isms align the Stooges’ rock with 1950s boogie-woogie — and suddenly it makes total sense that this band would later cover “Louie Louie.” (The Deluxe Edition of the reissue adds a book, a DVD, and another disc of killer studio rarities and outtakes, many of which have Pop blithely riffing on food.) At one point, Pop, eagerly baiting the crowd, gets into it with an audience member: “Hey, you wanna get your little fuckin’ face punched out, little cracker boy?” And just like that, this music asserts its place in the pecking order. Got it? Don’t make me sic Iggy on you.