David Johansen

In Style

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David Johansen's first solo album was a triumph, a savvy blend of the New York Dolls' swagger and a more conventional but no less idiosyncratic hard rock style that left plenty of room for Johansen's eclectic musical outlook. Unfortunately, it didn't sell, and for his second post-Dolls release Johansen and producer Mick Ronson aimed for something with a bit more polish and a better chance of getting onto the radio. The result, 1979's In Style, earned the wrath of many New York Dolls fans for the disco pulse of "Swaheto Woman," the slick R&B accents of the opener "Melody," the dandified reggae beats on "She Knew She Was Falling in Love," and a general lack of emphasis on straight-ahead rock and roll. However, time has been kind to the album; Johansen sings as well as he ever has in the studio on these sessions, and given his well-established enthusiasm for vintage soul, he brings a hard-won, bluesy compassion to the more dance-oriented material, while "You Touched Me Too" is a subtle but clear homage to the girl group sounds that had always been one of Johansen's clearest influences. There are a couple potent rockers on the album, most notably the hard-edged "Wreckless Crazy" (the one moment that truly emulates the Dolls) and the aggressive, passionate "She," and the epic closer "Flamingo Road" manages to sound street-smart, stylish, and deeply personal all at once. In Style may have started out as an effort to sell David Johansen to the mainstream audience, but by the time he was done, he'd made an album that managed to reflect his heart and soul nearly as well as his debut, even if the music didn't connect quite as well.

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