Review by Brad Green:
If F. Scott Fitzgerald thought the “jazz age” of the 1920s was decadent, goodness knows what he would have made of the hard-rocking 1970s. In the Great Gatsby, materialism, advertising and swinging parties were revealed as the new gods. Fifty years later they made a pretty lame pantheon compared to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.
Most of the songs on this album were born from the era of loud singing and hard living, and make the perfect soundtrack to a film about the seedy slide of porn star John Holmes. You know, the guy with a bigger snake swinging between his legs than Steve Irwin generally wraps around his neck.
Decadence might end in disaster for those who embrace it, but it tends to give rise to some fine music. The songs here have two main elements in common. The first is the type of exuberant instrumentation that has subsequently been throttled by producers with fingers stuck on the varnish spray trigger. The second is self-referencing lyrics about an age of excessive lifestyle gone sour.
Beyond this formula there is a contemporary recording of the Neil Diamond song Love On The Rocks by Korn frontman Jonathan Davis. Ripping into the lyric like a mass murder waiting to happen, Davis turns a world-weary ballad into an angry barrage. He has an amazing voice, and this frenetic, neo-metal treatment is an unlikely yet successful reinvention of a great tune.
Among the highlights from the retro rock are Bad Company’s Shooting Star, Ted Nugent’s Stranglehold and Roxy Music’s simultaneously spellbinding and unsettling tale of shallow materialism taken to the extreme, In Every Dream Home A Heartache. Towards the end of the CD the heel is eased off the accelerator with Gordon Lightfoot’s folk-pop classic If You Could Read My Mind and the easy soul of Dobie Gray’s ever-wonderful Drift Away.
There’s a lot of great music on this disc and a lot of cautionary tales about superficial values. There’s not a lot of espousal of more meaningful alternatives though. Rockers who assume that the bigger they are the happier they’ll be have always come unstuck. Unfortunately for the massively endowed John Holmes, the same has also applied to porn stars.
Published February 12, 2004
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ARTISTS: Val Kilmer; Jonathan Davis; T-Rex; Bad Company; The Cars; Iggy & The Stooges; Duran Duran; Roxy Music; Terry Reid; Bob Dylan; Billy Joel; Ted Nugent; Dobie Gray; Gordon Lightfoot;