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Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Steve MacKay with the Blue Prostitutes - Live On WFMU (Muteant Sounds, 2023)

By Ferruccio Martinotti

We are pretty sure that talking about The Stooges, the legendary proto-punk combo (proto-everything, would be a more precise definition…) from Ann Arbor MI, sounds pretty familiar for our readers and we like to think that their second record, Funhouse, could be (here as well), easily recognized and rewarded for what it is: not only one of the most terrific r’n’r album ever recorded but one of the most devastating seismic moments in the whole music history, a crucial cornerstone, an invisible line marking here and now and forever a “before” and an “after”. We are talking of the likes of the Robert Johnson recordings, Elvis at Sun Studios, Kind of Blue, Velvet and Nico, Spiritual Unity, Tago mago, Dylan at Newport, Ascension, Machine Gun, Black Sabbath, Suicide, Ramones, Sex Pistols and very, very few others. Recorded in 1970, Funhouse sets on fire the postcards of the Summer of Love in a garbage can full of hate, sex, drugs, misery, violence: the real zeitgeist released by the fuming ruins of Michigan. Iggy & compadres are fishing in the sewer of the Motor City - the rotten corpses of blues, hard rock, heavy psychedelia, glam and, believe it or not, starting from the flipside of the LP, the listener is electrocuted by the razor sharp, free, screaming sound of Steve McKay’s sax. Forget the common side role of that instrument in rock records, reinforcing the chorus or doing the counterpoint of the lead vocal, no, here the sax is the leader, the spine of Stooges’ music, adding the same feral rage put by Ron Asheton on his guitar licks. After the implosion of the legendary band, MacKay lent his reeds to Violent Femmes, Commander Cody, Snakefinger, André Williams, Jello Biafra among the others, before rejoining Iggy for the unpredictable Stooges’ come back of 2003, keeping the position until his death in 2015. 

The recordings we have here are a privilege to listen to and review come from a live broadcast at Seizures Palace Studios (Brooklyn, NY), originally aired on Brian Turner’s radio show on WFMU in October, 2007. Backing the Man we have on the occasion the Blue Prostitutes: Jason Lafarge on basso; Vinnie Paternostro on tenor sax; Sam Lohman and Aaron Moore on drums and J. Reeves on synth. After a very interesting interview, we can appreciate the sax of MacKay in all its sheer beauty, main actor over the instrumental bandstand put in place by excellent sidemen that are paving the way for his beautiful sonic paths among free jazz, acid rock and psychedelic landscapes. The fury and the flames of those (in)famous mythical days are over and it would be even grotesque trying to unearth them but Steve’s sax is still firing on full cylinders, allowing us to remember and salute a real, unsung hero of the music we love.



Martin Schray said...

"Iggy & compadres are fishing in the sewer of the Motor City - the rotten corpses of blues, hard rock, heavy psychedelia, glam" - I like that sentence.
Great album, it would nice if it was available on vinyl.