For an artist of Iggy Pop’s longevity and level of acclaim, it’s mind-boggling to see the piss-poor way his musical legacy has been compiled over time. Forty years into a career that has seen him heralded as at least a revolutionary figure ahead of his time and at most the godfather of punk and the garage-rock revival, the absence of a quality retrospective is shocking. Instead we’ve had to endure several bargain-priced, C-grade compilations (often only spanning Pop’s short-lived stay on Arista) and the too-short Nude & Rude (1996). With the release of A Million in Prizes: The Iggy Pop Anthology, his fan base has finally been rewarded. A two-disc, thirty-eight track set spanning most of his career, from his work as the Stooges’ frontman through his latest solo effort, Skull Ring (2003), this collection does far better in capturing the essence of this complex but seminal artist than any of its predecessors.
What immediately sets it apart is that it doesn’t play by the genre’s normal rules. Pop’s most commercially successful and well-known tracks are included, but this collection strives to be much more than just a unit-pushing greatest-hits gloss-over. The inclusion of live versions of “TV Eye” and “Loose,” taken from the 1993 Feile Festival, help demonstrate what a charismatic showman Pop still is, years after his prime. With “Well Did You Evah,” a duet with Debbie Harry taken from a Cole Porter tribute album, as well as alternate takes and lesser-known songs from Pop’s catalogue, this package becomes an encompassing tribute to Pop as an artist and to his rollercoaster career.
Fittingly, then, the collection as a whole is rather uneven. The first disc clearly recounts two stages in Pop’s career: his time fronting the Stooges and his early solo work under the wing of David Bowie. Juxtaposing the Stooges’ visceral proto-punk with subdued, more cerebral songs such as “Funtime” or “China Girl” from The Idiot (1977), this disc shows how flexible Pop is as an artist.
This flexibility is even more prominent on the mixed-bag second disc. Spanning almost twenty-five years, the disc was bound to be a bit scattershot. This is amplified by the material largely being pulled from an awkward time in Pop’s career as he struggled to find his voice as an artist. Still, songs such as “Cry For Love” and “Candy” prove he still has a few gems left in him.
The only real disappointment is the noticeable holes that are still present even in an extended collection such as this. It’s a sin that “Down on the Street” is the only from Fun House (live cuts not included) — it would have been nice if at least one track from each of Pop’s albums could have been included. The fact is, an artist of his magnitude is deserving of box-set treatment, and as good as it is to see a quality anthology finally emerge, it’s a bittersweet feeling to know that it has likely pushed back any possibility of such a project occurring soon.