If Iggy Pop had died of a drug overdose in 1971 or sometime shortly after Raw Power had come out (which he miraculously did not), he would still be a legend. As it stands, he's a living legend and A Million in Prizes: The Iggy Pop Anthology is the only dissertation anyone will ever need to prove it. Not only did he redefine rock and roll for a new, angrier, more disaffected generation, he continued to make memorable songs that still creep into our daily lives through television, movies and God help us, commercials.
Trainspotting features "Lust for Life" as does some cell phone commercial and have you ever heard the theme song for Morgan Spurlock's new FX reality show? That's the "Passenger", an Iggy song, and it's on this comp. Iggy Pop is a super nova of a personality, and he managed to translate the energy in his personality into a music career which is as hard to summarize as the universe itself. Bursting with light, darkness, energy, and raw animal emotion, Iggy has burned a black hole in music that sucks in and eradicates mediocrity with a passionate void. A Million in Prizes is a rare glimpse into the vastness of space and the miniscule profundity of a man.
Some logic might suggest beginning at the very beginning with Iggy's prenatal groups the Iguanas or the Prime Movers, but like the man himself, logic is abandoned for getting right the hell to the point. A Million in Prizes starts with the Big Bang itself, the creation of the underground's very existence, the Stooges. For ten songs of raw, exposed nerve, steel and concrete destruction, the listener is treated to the birth of punk, hardcore, grunge, and all the rest of the music of which most of the rest of the world is terrified. "No Fun", "1969" and "I Got a Right" were and are a collective handful of broken glass thrown in the face of flower power. Unapologetic and primal, the Stooges changed music, but without Iggy Pop no one would have noticed. Without the insanity that was and is Iggy Pop, the Stooges would have remained in the garage and no one would have cared. The Stooges were the Doors on a permanent bad trip, and Iggy was Jim Morrison with his fists up instead of his wit and with wads of poetry left jammed in the backstage toilet.
The Stooges interlude of A Million in Prizes is unfortunately short. Granted, it's not a Stooges collection, but once that death train starts hurtling down the tracks, it's a tough ride to want to get off.
As the music begins to escape the Solar System proper, all astronauts on board are treated to the equivalent of the in-flight meal for this collection, a track featuring Iggy and James Williamson after the Stooges had imploded and they were both back to working odd jobs. "Kill City" is nice as a rarity, but its existence primarily in bootleg form is understandable. Enter David Bowie. The rest of disc one is infused with the atmosphere and constantly shifting artistic constellations and experiments inspired by Iggy's friend and personal carnival barker, David Bowie. Songs like "China Girl" and "Lust for Life" are light years from the Stooges musical assault and battery, but are charming in their own right. Just seeing the covers of albums like Lust for Life and The Idiot causes one to wonder if some form of brain-washing wasn't involved, but nonetheless, Iggy Pop adds his own distinct, rude charm to each and every song. The dance and "electronic" elements sound a little dated and it's still hard to imagine Iggy on the radio, but Bowie will do that to you.
"Success" is a nice undiscovered nebula that didn't make earlier star charts like 1996's single disc best of, "Nude and Rude." The aforementioned, "Passenger" closes out the first disc, and serves as a reminder that even when Iggy is low key, his music can be as taught as his sinewy frame.
Disc two cranks up the hyperdrive. This is an unfortunate problem with two disc anthologies such as this one. The first disc usually focuses on the most popular or influential period in an artists career, and by the second disc the compilers are cherry picking a song per album for a twenty year stretch. Albums like Party and Zombie Birdhouse, while admittedly uneven efforts, are given the superficial treatment on A Million in Prizes.
Even albums like New Values, probably the best of his post Bowie work for a while, gets short shrift. The two duets with Kate Pierson (of the B-52's) and Debbie Harry could have been left on the surface of Mars in the abandoned land rovers, but the second half of the second disc regains the mission's composure and solidly plants the Iggy Pop flag on plant Earth and beyond.
"Wild America" from American Caesar marked a return to a harder and more focused Iggy and takes a similar role on this collection. The rest of the record cruises through the best Iggy Pop songs you never heard from his more recent efforts. The two live songs are a nice touch, but without accompanying video, they do little to cast light into the dark part of space that is the Iggy Pop live legacy.
Iggy Pop will rarely be included in the list of the world's greatest musicians. He should, however, be among the elite on the list of the greatest contributors to music. Iggy Pop raised the bar for rock and roll and at times it seems the old go-getter is still trying to hurl himself over that bar and onto the mats below. He helped to make rock a spectacle with his weird mix of hard British blues knocked together in a Detroit auto assembly plant and psycho performance art. He changed the way people look at a rock front man, and probably turned some concert goers off of peanut butter forever.
Iggy Pop is a legend, and not just for what he did thirty-five years ago. He brings a certain intelligence to rock, and a sense of survival unparalleled in other walks of life. He gets it, and through his brilliant catalog, he has been willing, over the years, to share it with the rest of us if we'd only listen. As an introduction to Iggy Pop and the most mind altering music you've ever heard, or as another large piece in an Iggy collection, A Million in Prizes is essential.