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Rock 'n Roll

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Album Review

Since the two studio albums recorded by the original incarnation of the New York Dolls — 1973's New York Dolls and 1974's Too Much, Too Soon — will fit (just barely) on one CD without editing, just how useful is a collection that features most but not all of the songs from those albums along with some bonus tracks of dubious quality and importance? Rock 'n' Roll aims to be a definitive summary of the Dolls' glorious but chaotic career while offering a few rarities for die-hard fans, but the loyalists get shortchanged just a bit by this set. "Lone Star Queen" sounds like a tossed-off demo, "Don't Mess with Cupid" is a less impressive cover than the versions of "Pills" or "Don't Start Me Talkin'" that don't make the cut, and while "Courageous Cat Theme" is good fun that gives Johnny Thunders plenty of room to strut with his guitar, it's hardly a lost classic. But even in a less than ideal presentation, this music is still powerful, and Rock 'n' Roll really does capture a good bit of what made the New York Dolls truly special — the prima donna swagger of David Johansen's vocals, the aural sneer of Johnny Thunders' guitar, the chock-a-block counterpoint of Syl Sylvain's rhythm work, the sharp, efficient wallop of Jerry Nolan's drums, and the dirt simple but heartfelt pulse of Arthur Kane's bass. Add in the band's songs, which offer a clever street kid's perspective on the joys and terrors of life in the concrete playground of New York City, and you get a band that sound every bit as smart, witty, and thoroughly unique today as they did in 1973. And though the songs fare better in the context of their original albums, the opening triple play of "Trash," "Personality Crisis," and "Babylon" is inspired, as is the closing salvo of "Jet Boy" and "Human Being." All in all, Rock 'n' Roll isn't perfect, but it is the best single-disc New York Dolls collection that's been released to date, and it's the next best thing to picking up those first two albums (which is still the preferred option).


Formed: 1971 in New York, NY

Genre: Rock

Years Active: '70s, '00s, '10s

The New York Dolls created punk rock before there was a term for it. Building on the Rolling Stones' dirty rock & roll, Mick Jagger's androgyny, girl group pop, the Stooges' anarchic noise, and the glam rock of David Bowie and T. Rex, the New York Dolls created a new form of hard rock that presaged both punk rock and heavy metal. Their drug-fueled, shambolic performances influenced a generation of musicians in New York and London, who all went on to form punk bands. And although they self-destructed...
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