Vinyl Corner is a feature where we take a look at vinyl pressings of various albums and weigh them up to see just how good they sound, how well they’re pressed and what sort of packaging to expect – as well as giving a brief overview of the music itself. This time around we’re lending our ears to the first-time release of a historic performance from proto-punk trailblazers The Stooges.
If you’re reading this, then the chances are that you already know the score when it comes to The Stooges. Although largely overlooked in their time and relatively cult even now, they’re the kind of trailblazing sonic innovators who’ve been enjoyed plaudits and platitudes from deeply enthused music journalists for decades. That alone has lent them a rarefied cool, the extent of influence which emanates from their hard-hitting and foul-tempered records enough to solidify them as major figures in alternative music’s history. That’s just as well, as few bands receive the kind of extensive reissue campaigns and abundance of archival releases that this Michigan quartet have witnessed over the past few decades. Although their live performances were famously bombastic – in the band’s original incarnation, shows would often boast acts of wild-eyed self-mutilation from frontman (and future star) Iggy Pop – few of their archival live titles to see release over the past thirty or so years have boasted the kind of audio fidelity needed to find much of value beneath the sonic muck. Of course, The Stooges were one of rock’s early advocates of brutality for brutality’s sake, so of all the bands to listen to in gloriously grainy lo-fidelity, they were hardly the worst. Still, an impressive live document from the band’s original incarnation is long overdue and in the recently released ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’, the next best thing may have just arrived. There’s no point in pretending that this recording sounds fantastic; Pop’s whoops would be a lot for any microphone to handle but here his yells burn out as often as not. Having said that, Ron Asheton’s gritty riffage comes through with impressive presence, as does the unapologetically heavy-handed stickwork of drummer Scott Asheton. The resultant recording might not be a sonic delight but, truth be told, with such slim pickings on offer in regards to sonically stout recordings from The Stooges’ original run, long-term enthusiasts will doubtless be thrilled.
Released through Jack White’s Third Man Records, the vinyl release of ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’ has been manufactured by the label’s own in-house pressing plant. A relatively recent addition to the art-rock businessman’s musical dynasty, the plant has proven a commercial success which now produces records for a wide range of other labels, as well as naturally handling all of the titles to find release on their own label. Although their pressings are not always scrupulously clean, we’ve never experienced any significant issues with the records from them that we’ve heard over the years and their pressing of ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’ is certainly no exception in that regard. Available on a clutch of different coloured vinyl variants, the pressing that we have here is the standard black wax edition, which weighs in at roughly mid-tier weight. A quick examination of its surfaces reveals a glossy lustre which does nevertheless bear some light, generalised markings which – although a tad unsightly – fortunately have no effect upon playback. Indeed, sound is impressive throughout – or at least as impressive as this fairly lo-fi recording could be. The noise floor is low and there’re no more than a few errant crackles here and there, none of which are in any way intrusive upon playback.
If there’s any one quality that you have to give Jack White, it’s a knack for attractive presentation. The White Stripes were a band as recognisable for their distinctive aesthetic as they were for the music they produced and, true to that, Third Man Records have produced some luxuriously packaged titles in their time. ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’ adds another string to that bow, offering covetable presentation to go along with the historic recording contained within. The cover itself is a highly attractive tip-on sleeve – which, as long-term collectors will likely know, means that it was manufactured from the same heavy cardstock as many of the beautifully presented American vinyl releases of the ’50s and ’60s. In many cases such sleeves were phased out by the ’70s due to rising costs associated with the materials from which they were produced and, as such, tip-on covers are today a highly sought-after commodity – especially on modern releases. True to that, ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’s cover feels and looks great in hand; it’s sturdy and also handsome, its print quality sharp and colours crisp, in spite of the innately blurry shot of the band on stage – and in mid-frenzy – which adorns the cover. The record itself is sleeved in a generic black paper inner sleeve; there’s no polylining offered, which means that caution should be taken when initially removing the record. Although we’d recommend swapping the sleeve out for one of superior quality, it’s ultimately a minor detractor in the release’s presentation. The inclusion of a four page fold-out insert offering extensive liner notes is a welcome addition which rounds off an excellent package in fine form.
Although any prospective listener expecting an audiophile’s delight with ‘Live At Goose Lake, August 8th, 1970’ will likely come away disappointed, enthusiasts of both The Stooges and rock history at large will doubtless find much to enjoy in this significant final performance from the original band.
Enjoyed this feature? We’re always looking for further albums to highlight on Vinyl Corner – and if you have a vinyl release that you’d love to see written about here, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org – it would be great to hear from you!