Johnny Thunders / Patti Palladin

Copy Cats

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Johnny Thunders spent the lion's share of his solo career trying to recapture the sloppy but inspired snazz of his glory days with the New York Dolls, and once you get past So Alone and the Heartbreakers' L.A.M.F., he usually fell far short of the mark. But Copy Cats, an album he cut with Noo Yawk chanteuse Patti Palladin in 1988, was a rare exception, a set where he stretched his boundaries a bit and came up with something memorable. Copy Cats is a set of rock & roll oldies, dating from 1954 to 1969 (though you'd be forgiven for not guessing Screamin' Jay Hawkins' frenzied "Alligator Wine" was cut two years after the Summer of Love), and though an album of covers might not sound like a bold move, here Thunders steps away from the junkie bravado that was his stock in trade and plays the kind of greasy but passionate rock that doubtless inspired him in the first place. Thunders also strays from his usual buzzsaw guitar patterns here and settles in as part of the ensemble, a big rock band who captures the spirit if not quite the letter of these rock and R&B dusties, adding inspired punctuation without trying to carry the show. And while a few of these songs are played as novelties (especially "She Wants to Mambo" and "Crawfish"), "Two Time Loser" and "I Was Born to Cry" sound like Thunders had been waiting all his life to sing 'em, while Palladin offers excellent support and fares even better when she takes the lead on "Baby It's You" and "He Cried." Hardly a typical Johnny Thunders album, Copy Cats captures the man sounding like he really cared about his work and wanted to make a good album, and his commitment makes the difference here. [The 2007 CD release of Copy Cats from Jungle juggles the sequence and adds two additional tracks, "Let Me Entertain You" and an inspired version of "Love Is Strange," with Thunders New York accent the perfect complement for Palladin's more seductive lead vocals.]

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