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Great Big Kiss

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Album Review

The New York Dolls were a band whose pervasive and lasting influence has far outstripped their official recorded output, which amounted to a mere two albums before they called it quits. Not unlike bands with similar career trajectories (such as the Stooges, MC5, the Misfits, and the Sex Pistols), the current New York Dolls catalog is packed with posthumous albums of demos, live tapes, and various stray recordings, and Great Big Kiss brings two of the better-known semi-official releases together in one double-disc package. Disc one is a collection of live-in-the-studio demos (previously released under the title Seven Day Weekend; a slightly expanded version of the same material is also available as A Hard Night's Day) recorded shortly before the Dolls cut their self-titled debut album, while disc two is the 1975 Little Hippodrome concert which proved to be one of the band's last stands in New York City, which has been distributed under the title Red Patent Leather. The demos are more stripped down and straightforward than the later studio recordings of the same tunes, but they're also sloppier and often less energetic, and neither David Johansen or Johnny Thunders are having one of the best days of their career on this set. The live disc is more fun, but equally problematic; the recording quality is not especially good (through the Hippodrome tracks sound better than the three tunes from a 1973 Paris show added as a bonus), and while the band is game, most of the set is devoted to covers and newer material that would later pop up on Johansen and Sylvain Sylvain's solo albums, and for the most part this doesn't pack the punch you'd expect from a Dolls live show. And none of the material sounds especially better than it has in the past, though the packaging (which pays tribute to tacky teen fan magazines) is nice. In short, if you've never heard this band, start with New York Dolls and Too Much Too Soon (both budget priced these days); if you're a longtime fan, this is an OK way to pick up two of the better-known supplementary albums, but if you already own this material, this package offers no inducement to buy it again.


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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