There are a lot of power poppers that traditionalist power pop fans don't like to give credit to. These are musicians that could craft a song and carve out a hook, but dressed these tunes in very commercial productions -- and, even though these came at the height of power pop, that commercial production made these artists seem lesser than the dogged new wave of such artists as Tommy Keane or even Cheap Trick. In retrospect, the artists that had shiny productions and big, unstoppable hooks were every bit as power pop as their scruffier cousins, and Donnie Iris is one of them. His records often have the trappings of album rock in the early '80s, but the essence of his work is that of a geeky pop fan, turning out anthemic, melodic pop tunes, pumping them up with guitars filtered through Marshall amps. Sometimes, the end result was a little silly -- the pounding "Love Is Like a Rock" is one of the goofiest songs ever recorded -- but when it clicked, like on "Ah! Leah!," it clicked perfectly, illustrating that the gap between true power popsters and the supposed charlatans was simply a matter of style. And 20th Century Masters does indeed capture Iris at his best, hitting all of his big, catchy pop tunes on one 12-track collection. Yeah, he does succumb to the sound of the times -- which is endearing at times, especially when the production is as era-specific as that on "That's the Way Love Ought to Be" (it helps that the song works, too, of course) -- but the best songs here will be irresistible to anyone with a serious power pop jones and no pop snobbery.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine