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Iggy Pop: Free - Album Review

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by Steven G (subscribe)
Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler...Former teacher... Scientist... Published author... Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published September 17th 2019
Iggy's back and it's odd
I decided to splurge, having recently received a nice cheque from a place that likes my horror writing, and so I bought three albums as digital downloads.

Unfortunately, I am only going to be writing about one, and am glad I did not go the whole hog and buy them all as CDs. I won't tell you the other two, but they are albums by established acts, released this month (September, 2019), or maybe the end of last month.

However, this album I am writing about is also by a well-established, 70-year-old artist, released this month, and this one I do like. Yes, another septuagenarian releasing a great album; I hope I'm that productive when I get there!

Free by Iggy Pop.

This was not the album I thought I would be buying. I knew nothing about it going into it, and so when I put it on… well. This album has a distinct jazz feel to it, in no small part to collaborator Leron Thomas, a jazz trumpeter. This is not the screaming Stooges Iggy Pop; it's not even the 80s pop singer Iggy Pop. I mean, it's still Iggy; that voice is quite distinctive now, but I was not expecting an album like this. And the thing is, I actually really liked it.

Pop was a co-writer on only a few of the tracks; most come from the pen of Thomas and some come from guitarist Noveller. This is essentially a Thomas album, with Pop saying in an interview that this is "an album in which other artists speak for me."

'Free' Well, this is not the start I was expecting. Sad, slow, saxophone/trumpet dominated with Iggy saying "I want to be free…" Saying, not singing. To say this opener was a surprise is an understatement.

'Loves Missing' We stay slow, but now the guitar takes centre stage and Iggy's deep voice is right there. And it builds, layer upon layer of instrumentation, reaching a crescendo without going over-the-top. My favourite track on the album.

'Sonali' Rather jazz-sounding with lyrics I didn't really get, but the music was quite good and Pop sounds in fine form. Strange track.

'James Bond' This is a little more upbeat, with the woman the one in control of the relationship and Pop being quite fine with that. Mind you, go back far enough and 'I Want To Be Your Dog' has similar sentiments. One of my favourites on the album.

'Dirty Sanchez' After a trumpet introduction, we have the yelling (not really, but not really singing either) Iggy Pop back, with a driving drumbeat pushing it along. This is basically a protest song about modern life, with the standard NSFW lyrics of modern protest. It is a strange song, one I wasn't sure about, but I listened to it more than any other song on the album It just grabbed me, but I'm really not sure why…

'Glow In The Dark' A bit of lazy pop-jazz, more to highlight Thomas' trumpet playing, I feel.

'Page' Much like its predecessor, although there is more Iggy singing, and the lyrics are actually quite beautiful. "Wolves and sheep rest/ Not side by side/ But they still rest…" The lyrics save this song.

'We Are The People' A spoken-word piece. The words were written by Lou Reed back in 1970, and yet it could just as easily be about modern-day America. It is a performance poem. The words are great. The delivery is not so much poetry slam as a heartfelt recital. I like a bit of this sort of performance piece, and Pop does it well.

'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' If the title sounds familiar, yes it is the Dylan Thomas poem. Another spoken-word piece, but this is so much angrier. Pop delivers it amazingly. The trumpet and synthesiser do threaten to overwhelm the voice at times, but it is another of my favourites on the album. This is coming from the heart of a 70-plus year old. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light…"

'The Dawn' And we finish with another spoken word track, with a decent synthesiser score beneath.

Well, that was a strange album. Spoken-word, jazz, rage… just an odd mix, all round. But I liked it. To me, it worked. And at a little over 30 minutes long, it certainly did not drag on and on.

This is one I am finding hard to categorise properly. Maybe when you've been making music as long as Iggy has, you defy categorisation, and maybe that's what this is. It is certainly different.

And, I think, well worth a listen.
Iggy Pop, album, Free, CD, music
Iggy in 2011

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