After the breakup of the Stooges and his admittance to a psychiatric hospital, Iggy Pop was blessed with a guardian angel like no other – David Bowie. The Thin White Duke took Iggy with him to Berlin as he embarked on what would become his Berlin trilogy (Low, Heroes and Lodger). It was during this European escapade, which included a sojourn in the Château d’Hérouville 50 miles from Paris, that the Iguana produced two of his greatest solo albums, The Idiot and Lust for Life.
As the title indicates, this 7CD box set, The Bowie Years, documents the golden age of Iggy’s solo career. In addition to the two remastered masterpieces above, it includes a CD of alternative mixes, edited singles and an interview with the singer on recording The Idiot. This musical treasure trove also contains Iggy’s effort to reach the same standard as the Stooges in a wild live performance recorded on March 7th, 1977, at the Rainbow Theatre in London, featuring Bowie on keyboard. In addition, the box set includes the famous T.V. Eye Live, a compilation of excerpts from concerts held in Cleveland, Chicago and Kansas City in March 1977. With Bowie on keyboard, Iggy Pop performs his latest hits at the time, Funtime, Sixteen, Lust for Life and Nightclubbing. Finally, the box set concludes with more live material from a concert at the Agora in Cleveland, as well as recordings from the Mantra Studio in Chicago.
The Idiot and Lust For Life are, of course, the two centrepieces of this 7CD rock extravaganza. In the cold decadence and schizophrenic madness of a city still separated in two by the Berlin wall, the two men were inspired by the latest sounds from Kraftwerk, Neu!, Can and all of the bands from the Krautrock scene. Together, Ziggy and Iggy wrote and directed the disturbing masterpiece named The Idiot (a reference to Dostoyevsky’s eponymous novel), which is full of cheap synths (like on the trance-inducing Nightclubbing), ominous bass lines and abrasive, minimalist and tortured guitars. Iggy even sounds like a drugged-up Sinatra on the track Tiny Girls. With an urban edge, this angular and sinister masterpiece was a superb comeback for Iggy and sounded closer to Bowie’s music than anything the Stooges had produced. Following its release in March 1977, the album greatly influenced many new-wave bands for years to come.
Just five months after The Idiot was released, Iggy Pop returned with his second masterpiece Lust For Life, released in August 1977. This second installment of the Iggy/Bowie collaboration is another treat for the ears but is, in a sense, slightly more uncontroversial and eclectic than the first with more classic rock and less experimentation. Concocted with Bowie once again in the Hansa studios in Berlin, this second solo album by Iggy combines mad rock ‘n’ roll (the song Lust for Life which was given a new lease of life in 1996 when British filmmaker Danny Boyle used it as the opening track in his film Trainspotting) with pop (Tonight) and crooning ballads (Turn Blue). The king Iguana of punk becomes a full-on entertainer in this album and proves that he, too, can croon. Bowie plays the keyboard while brothers Tony and Hunt Sales handle the rhythm and Ricky Gardiner and Carlos Alomar add guitar solos here, there and everywhere.
The music he released after The Idiot and Lust For Life didn’t have the same oomph, but it didn’t matter – after the three Stooges albums and these two solo ones, Iggy Pop had already made his way into the rock music history books.
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