Punk godfather Iggy Pop’s daytime gig is frontman for the legendary Stooges. He’s worth a million in prizes. He searches and destroys. He’s dirt. He’s 65 years old and he can rock harder than you. However, his most recent solo releases are mostly laid-back affairs consisting of jazz arrangements, French chanson, and crooner classics. His nighttime gig, if you will. He’s justifiably given credit as one of music’s great innovators—stage diving, rolling in glass, threatening audiences, generally violating the peace. He is an unmatched force of primal energy. No one else even comes close. But he is also a great interpreter of songs. His 2009 rendition of “Autumn Leaves” (from Preliminaires) is superb. A better version of this song does not exist. On his current CD Après (his 17th solo studio album), he performs songs associated with Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Fred Neil, Serge Gainsbourg, and even Yoko Ono. Some are sung in English, some are sung in French. All are performed impeccably with that iconic deep velvet voice.
None of this should be surprising. Occasionally in concert, he has serenaded Stooges fans with a few snippets of Sinatra tunes. Party, released in 1981, included a rendition of “One For my Baby (And One More For The Road).” In 1990, he recorded “Well Did You Evah!” with Deborah Harry. Just this year, he recorded Duke Ellington’s “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” with Joe Jackson. Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were the music of Iggy’s childhood. Cole Porter is in his bloodstream. His foray into the classics shouldn’t be a debilitating shock to the system.
So naturally, EMI Virgin wouldn’t release it. Record companies have never been accused of making sound decisions, so Iggy just put it out on his own as a digital download. In true punk fashion, he cut out the middle man entirely. Record company parasites be damned.
It’s their loss, because Après is a beautiful record, full of revelations. It has the charm of romantic nonchalance. It knows when to push and when to pull back, when to increase the tension and when to release the rope. His vocal phrasing, conversational and subtle, is a wonder to behold. Make no mistake—his voice still jumps off the speakers like a Molotov cocktail. After all these years, it still pierces the skin.
Appropriately enough, Après ends with Iggy’s voice accompanied only by a piano. It’s the perfect ending to a perfect CD. Highly recommended.
Après Track Listing
1. “Et Si Tu N’Existais Pas” (Joe Dassin)
2. “La Javanaise” (Serge Gainsbourg)
3. “Everybody’s Talkin’” (Harry Nilsson)
4. “I’m Going Away Smiling” (Yoko Ono)
5. “La Vie En Rose” (Edith Piaf)
6. “Les Passantes” (Georges Brassens)
7. “Syracuse” (Henri Salvador)
8. “What Is This Thing Called Love?” (Cole Porter)
9. “Michelle” (The Beatles)
10. “Only the Lonely” (Frank Sinatra)
You can get Apres at iTunes and other digital retailers.
Michael Franklin is the Media & Reserves Specialist at Western Kentucky University’s Visual & Performing Arts Library (VPAL). Michael is also a professional musician and sound engineer. He is currently recording his 6th CD with his best friends Screenlast 6.0 and Audacity Sourceforge. He thinks Iggy Pop is the greatest singer in the history of music. If you disagree, you’re wrong. You better ask somebody.
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