Oh Yes We Can Love - A History Of Glam Rock

Various Artists

Universal, 2013

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Glam rock seems to be one of those categories that are difficult to define, along with grunge, alternative, and garage rock. Most agree that glam was a subculture of the ’70s, typified by artists that were as much into appearance as music like David Bowie, Alice Cooper, T-Rex, Roxy Music (Bryan Ferry solo as well) and Elton John.

The new box set Oh Yes We Can Love attempts to quantify this era by tracing its roots, the popular artists of the day, and the sounds that it influenced. It is a difficult task simply because the genre is so nebulous, and as a result the set ends up a random five-disc mash up of ‘70s hits, ‘80s New Wave, some punk, and some modern rock that simply echoes what has come before. Part of the problem is the lack of the visual element so crucial to glam rock; without it, a lot of the music just sits there without making much impact.

Bowie did more to define the concept of glam than almost anybody, and he casts a shadow over this set, but he is nowhere to be found except for one disposable early day track on the first disc. To compensate, four Bowie covers are inserted along with other bands clearly influenced by the man (including his own Spiders From Mars guitairst Mick Ronson, who went solo after the Spiders disbanded). Only Dana Gillespie's "Andy Warhol" is a true revelation among these.

The first disc traces the one-off artists who influenced Bowie and his contemporaries, and while it's interesting to hear at least once, little of it has aged well. Chuck Berry's "Around And Around" shares space with the Velvet Underground's "Waiting For The Man," which gives you an idea of what this set is like, but tracks by Max Harris, Anthony Newley, Billy Fury, and Noel Coward are more curios than necessary pieces of history. Even as the disc winds through the late ‘60s, it rarely rises above a shrug; unless you're into Slade, Fanny, The Murgatroyd Band, or Chicory Tip, you can skip it. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Bizarrely, the Stooges appear with "1969," which is not only the wrong Stooges song but the wrong band to have on a glam set. Trust me, the Stooges were anything but glamorous. A better choice would have been Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life," which fits the theme. And don't even ask why Judas Priest, The Ramones, and Patti Smith are here, but Alice Cooper and Queen are not.

The second disc is half a classic rock radio playlist, opting for the commercial hits instead of digging deeper into familiar artists. Mott The Hoople's "All The Young Dudes," Lou Reed's "Walk On The Wild Side," Elton John's "Bennie And The Jets," Nazareth's "This Flight Tonight," and Sweet's "Ballroom Blitz" are in rotation every day and hardly necessary for a compilation like this. The other half is full of bands like Wizzard, Barry Blue, Alvin Stardust, and Cockney Rebel, and if you never hear these songs, you will be fine. Points, however, for Cozy Powell's standout non-album drum-heavy instrumental "Dance With The Devil" and the New York Dolls' "Looking For A Kiss," as well as appearances by Suzi Quatro and T-Rex's "Metal Guru," bucking the trend of expected hits.

Disc three moves into the late ‘70s, when punk and disco were taking over, and the music here gets dumber with songs by Mud, Jook, Hello, Kenny And The Rubettes. "Rock And Roll All Night," the KISS classic, breaks up the mediocrity somewhat, as does Ian Hunter's "Once Bitten Twice Shy," but when the Bay City Rollers' "Saturday Night" comes on, it's time to use this disc as a Frisbee. Disc four covers the ‘80s by arguing that New Wave was glamorous, and so Adam And The Ants, Bauhaus, Ultravox!, Electric Light Orchestra ("Rockaria!") and Blondie are all present. Add the Runaways, Generation X, Judas Priest's "Take On The World," and Magazine and it's not half bad; only the terrible covers of "Ziggy Stardust" and "Rock And Roll Part 2" are true duds.

The fifth disc covers the ‘90s through present day, mining the vaults for subpar songs by little-known bands like Gay Dad, Carter USM, Glam Metal Detectives, and Earl Brutus. Highlights include Morrissey's "Glamorous Glue," the Fall's "Glam Rocker," Marilyn Manson's "The Dope Show" (a big hit with disaffected youth during my middle school years) and Suede's "Metal Mickey." Modern bands like Goldfrapp, Foxy Shazam, and the Darkness round out the disc, suggesting that Bowie, Reed, Iggy, T-Rex, and Elton will be influences for years to come.

Surely, those that have followed glam rock (particularly in England) will be overjoyed at the rare bands and five-decade scope unearthed here, but that's about the only audience for this set. With a bizarre mix of obscure bands, average songs and too many styles, Oh Yes We Can Love encapsulates a genre without really explaining why anybody needs to care about it.

Rating: C-

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