New York Dolls

Actress: Birth of the New York Dolls

  • AllMusic Rating
    6
  • User Ratings (0)
  • Your Rating

AllMusic Review by

Actress: Birth of the New York Dolls is a revealing collection of rehearsal recordings by the "Pioneer Dolls" (as they are referred to in bassist Arthur Kane's liner notes). At the time (circa 1971) the group was known as Actress and featured future New York Dolls Johnny Thunders and the aforementioned Kane, as well as drummer Billy Murcia, who died before the Dolls signed a deal. Guitarist Rick Rivets left the band after David Johansen was added to the fold. Taped at their practice space with one microphone, the sound is raw and rough for sure, but far from unbearable. Hints of things to come are everywhere you turn here, as many of the Dolls' trademarks (and a couple of tunes) are already in place. The title of "I'm a Boy, I'm a Girl" alone is proof of the boys' early androgynous leanings, and other shelved numbers like "Coconut Grove" and "Take Me to Your Party" possess the Dolls influential rock & roll swagger. "That's Poison" is an essentially completed "Subway Train" (from New York Dolls), with some eventual lyric fine-tuning by Johansen. "It's Too Late" would be subsequently reprised and rearranged for inclusion on their second album, Too Much too Soon. Both "It's Too Late" and "Oh Dot! (Take 2)" feature minor psychedelic garage rock freak-outs, one path the succeeding Dolls didn't go down. Thunders' distinctive leads (he was also the singer at this point) are another sign of things to come, with many familiar-sounding riffs that would continue to be recycled throughout his career. "We Have Been Through This Before" and "Why Am I Alone?" point toward the type of ballad found in his solo work. Actress: Birth of the New York Dolls is for fans only, but those searching for the Dolls' roots won't be disappointed.

blue highlight denotes track pick