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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Leader: A Key Retrospective, 5 May 2011
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This review is from: Gary Glitter - 20 Greatest Hits (Audio CD)
In this review, I'm going to focus solely on the music and ignore the controversy, because the fact is that Glitter's reputation was untarnished by any questionable behaviour during the period the music on this album was recorded. However, Operation Yewtree did see Glitter arrested in late 2012 and bailed again twice (as of February 2013 according to wikipedia) so this view may be challenged - but let's not forget that in the UK, someone is innocent until proven guilty. Of course, I abhor the crimes he has been found guilty of and it is morally difficult for anyone wanting to purchase and enjoy his music from this period, as of course he will still get songwriting and mechanical royalties from any copies sold, though I have heard that he sold the rights some time ago. so aside from the distasteful and disturbing nature of Glitter's crimes, the music is still out there and to deny its commercial - and possibly artistic - success would be to rewrite history, something a lot of us are uncomfortable with. With this disclaimer on the table and out of the way, we can now get down to silver tacks.

These days, anyone wishing to revisit the original albums Glitter recorded with musical partner Mike Leander will soon be in financial trouble, as recent re-releases on CD were only issued in Japan. The Nipponese CDs are prohibitively expensive and in most cases, deleted too at the time I write. There are of course a number of compilations available, mostly with sub-par artwork and design, so selecting the right one is a bit of a minefield, but I hit Glam Pop paydirt with this selection, which to my way of thinking comes the closest to being a key retrospective of the period 72-76.

First of all, the CD insert reproduces the original sleeve design of Gary's debut waxing, entitled 'Glitter' (yes, I know he made records before taking on the GG moniker). Secondly, it includes all the hit singles from Glitter's super-smash glory days (12 top forty hits, most of these top ten, including 3 chart-toppers) and a selection of album cuts from the first two albums. If you haven't heard these tracks since they were in the charts (and if you are a certain age), you will instantly be transported back to the days when all the most interesting pop stars looked like extraterrestrials (Punk, New Romantic, Lady Gaga and her copyists are nothing compared to the original showbiz outrages from the twin barrel shotgun that was Glam Rock/Glitter Pop). Great days - when in the playground and on the streets we boys may have worn flares while the girls made do with American Tan tights, all of us in sweaters with cherry motifs and patches on our denims, but the music scene was vibrant and fun, despite the massive cheese quotient we had to wade through to get to Bowie, Alice Cooper, Roxy, Bolan, Hawkwind and so on. Glitter's hits remain somehow timeless and incredibly infectious - simple, urgent, yet somehow without the lumpen idiocy of other "artists" from the period I won't dignify by mentioning in the same breath as Glitter.

But enough nostalgia, what is the music actually like? Well, when Adam & The Ants broke through into massive commercial success after 'Dog Eat Dog' charted, I was fond of saying that Adam was the new Gary Glitter. Of course, I was right, as so many of the best-known tracks by Glitter are drum-dominated, spacious tribal thumping, where less guitar is more. In fact, listening now to 'Rock and Roll' (either part) I'm reminded of nothing so much as those meisters of minimalism, Kraftwerk. Imagine 'Rock and Roll' played on synths and drum machine when you give it a listen (The Human League gave the number this kind of makeover on one of their early albums) and you'll hear what I mean - the drums in particular sound more like a basic electronic rhythm box - no fills, expressive rolls or any of that jazzy stuff, just beat....and the guitars just fizz a bit then drop out. Perfect! Listening again to these songs after such a long hiatus has also reminded me of how much The Runaways were influenced by Glitter and Leander -remember the big spaces in the tracks on the first LP by Joan, Lita and the other girls? It's a shame that the full recording of 'Rock and Roll' has never been officially released, as I understand from a friend who has a copy on tape that it is some 10-15 minutes long.

Yes, some of the songs are very silly, but this IS mostly pop music. But 'Rock and Roll' remains a work of genius and a pure expression of rock and roll itself with its superb, evocative fifties-mythology lyrics, brooding melody and junk-shop faux-blues yelling, while 'I Didn't Know I Loved You Till I Saw You Rock 'n' Roll' is almost as good (I mean, I've even seen the Sisters of Mercy cover it live). ...and few things are as catchy as 'I'm The leader of the Gang' , 'Hello, Hello, I'm Back Again', while the lurching, scarf-waving teenbeat of 'I Love You Love' is impassioned adolescent rebellion of the most enjoyable kind (i.e. adult-excluding). Great fun, and pretty cool, for the reality is that these songs influenced everyone from Joey Ramone to...well, you'd be hard pushed to find a Punk, New Waver or New Romantic who didn't own at least one single by Glitter when they were a kid. Play these cuts at a party amongst records considered to be 'cooler' from the same era, and they'll still stand up well.

One beef: the tracklisting on the cover is incorrect. Track one is listed as 'Rock and Roll Part 2' (it's actually part 1), while track twenty is listed as 'rock and Roll Part 1', when it's actually part 2.

So, for a taste of the high watermark of Glitter Pop (as opposed to True Glam Rock, which is a very different animal - see my upcoming review of `Oh Yes We Can Love', the 2013 Glam Rock Box Set), a vision of strutting minimalism and absurd dandyism before Adam Ant, just buy this generally well-presented and immaculately selected compilation. You'll enjoy every gloriously over-the-top minute.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 7 Feb 2014 19:17:34 GMT
Postscript: I first published this review on Amazon circa 2012 and it initially received a '60 out of 65 votes' helpful rating and much positive feedback.

However, I withdrew it for a while as I grew very tired of a small number of trolls with nothing better to do than imply some sort of support for Glitter's nefarious activities on my part. No doubt the controversy will continue and while the revulsion I share with many others will understandably ensure that some people are unable to separate the latter-day music from the later crimes of the man himself, I feel that the music deserves some recognition as part of the cultural landscape of the 1970s. Consequently, I will not be responding to any trolls here, as people are free to express their opinions.
Amazon will decide if their comments are personal or offensive.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Aug 2014 00:46:57 BDT
JUDE says:
It`s a pity some people have such selective memories when it comes to bad behaviour from pop/rock stars. There are lots of so called respectable artistes who will never be brought to book for their past actions, Gary Glitter was an important part of early seventies music and he deserves credit for that at least.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Oct 2014 22:20:31 BDT
stevep says:
well said jude great point steve
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Location: United Kingdom

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