MUSIC REVIEW | James Williamson – Re-Licked (2014)


In the early 70s, James Williamson joined The Stooges and went on to record several albums with Iggy Pop and the boys, including the justifiably legendary Raw Power. In recent years, various versions of The Stooges have reunited for a couple of albums and a couple of tours. I’m nowhere near enough of a Stooges aficionado to know how the new millennium version stacks up with the old school incarnation, but now, Williamson has given us a combination of the old and the new.

Re-Licked, a collection of unrecorded and lesser known Stooges songs from their original 70s heyday, utilising a range of guest vocalists and musicians, including Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Mike Watt (The Minutemen) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees). So, with that origin of the songs, and those names attached as collaborators, Williamson is setting expectations pretty high. Can Re-Licked live up to them?

Opening with the Biafra assisted Head on the Curve, Re-Licked kicks off in style, rocking hard, bringing the punk and showcasing Biafra sounding better than he ever did the in the Dead Kennedys. Then it’s a sharp left turn as Carolyn Wonderland fronts Open Up and Bleed, a dirty blues jam that swaggers through four and a half minutes of pure attitude.

Blues and punk fuse seamlessly on Scene of the Crime as Bobby Gillespie (Primal Scream) provides the unifying rock needed to bind it all together. This opening trifecta of awesome makes the organ and sax fuelled She Creature of the Hollywood Hills a little insubstantial by comparison, but they can’t all be zingers.

A little respite from the rock, the acoustic picking, combined with the hypnotic vocals of ‘Til the End of the Night is a nice little breather as Re-Licked gets ready to launch its second half. This sounds like the 60s or 70s, but not The Stooges of the 60s or 70s. It’s a little more reflective and introspective. It’s also around this time that I realise that for an album made by a guitarist, Williamson is surprisingly restrained in doling out the shredding solos. When he does, they’re great, but I also appreciate them a little bit more, because they’re so few and far between.

Then it’s side two, kicking off with probably the best song on Re-Lickerd, Gotta Right. This is Motorhead style energy (and I mean that as a huge compliment), and the wailing vocals form Lisa Kekaula (The Bellrays), combined with the wailing guitar of Williamson, and airtight rhythm section makes for balls out rock at its balls outiest. This second half of ass kicking is relentless right up until the pair of awesome closers, Rubber Led and I’m Sick of You.

The guest vocalist aspect of Re-Licked had me concerned that it might come off as nothing more than a compilation album, but the ever changing sound provided by these singers gives it a real freshness that kept my attention every step of the way. Maybe Re-Licked would have been amazing with Iggy behind the mic. We’ll never know. But what I do know is, James Williamson has delivered decades old songs that sound as vibrant as anything else I’ve heard in 2014. And he’s stacked his roster with an all star line up of singers who unify this album through their collective bad assedness.

James Williamson

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