Thursday, June 5, 2003
New York Dolls
The Millenium Collection: The Best of New York Dolls
Although they released but two discs in their brief turn, this quintet's material has been packaged and re-packaged countless times, rendering this latest collection virtually unneeded. The kicker is, in whatever permutation one collects one's Dolls, one cannot lose. Surely the greatest band of the Glam era, with more influence on what was to come than anyone else, the Dolls were unmusical, unrepentent, unattractive to most and unbearable aurally to the status quo in the early '70s. None of these songs ever came close to the radio in the US. And yet, the idea that panache, verve, concept and courage, coupled with phenomenal songwriting transcended limitations, began here. Looking like a Stones tribute while actively embracing first hand everything Jagger absorbed from a distance, this may be the one instance where the imitator out-does the imitated. But of the 11 tracks, only "Lone Star Queen" could even be remotely considered a rarity. Screeching like the wheels of the subway trains they sang about, this is the ideal gift for any teenaged Strokes/Hives acolyte. Or anyone that ever claimed to love rock and roll at all.
Mad Dogs & San Franciscans
Mushroom is like a musical Rorshach Test loved by the the jazzbos, German art rockers, and the alt crowd. Now they've made a CD that will satisfy all those folks and add more to the mix. Mad Dogs & San Franciscans is simply one of the better retro albums made in recent years. Mushroom enlisted singer Gary Floyd of Sister Double Happiness and made an album that you could easily pass off as having been made in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
They cover Steppenwolf's "The Pusher" as if they invented it. The introduction and finale of Joe Cocker's "Learning To Live Together," captures the Summer of Love like few things. And yet everything is just slightly off the mark in its own way as well. Snake guitars, a trombone and some very interesting twists keep the album engaging throughout. Ultimately this album is nothing if not psychedelic. That means the songs are not just covers, they are interpretations. It also means there is an off-beat sense of humor throughout the few original compositions like "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, But It Will Be Auctioned Off On E-Bay." Mushroom has always been better in the studio than they are live and this CD is a fine addition to the Bay Area band's catalog.
The Millenium Collection: The Best of Kitty Wells
Named for an old folk tune and enjoying her most enduring hit song as an answer to another hit song, one might assume that this country legend was second-hand all the way. Hardly--the first great country thrush she was, the road-paver for Loretta Lynn to Shania Twain.
With her quaver at the breaking point, Kitty Wells was the classic aggrieved woman standing by her man, but carrying a more assured dignity than pretty much everyone that followed her. While "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels" is basically a detailed F.U. to Hank Thompson's tale of cheatin' wimmin', she does more with ancient production and tinny sound on "Release Me" than the armies of male vocalists that tried to make hay of that venerable tune. Sure, she took her persona to the hilt at times, but that's a bedrock country tradition. She never stopped trying to reach the souls of her sisters and strangely enough her brothers out there in the twilight world of honky tonks and divorce courts. A great American original, not to be overlooked.