Grand, grandiose, obsessive, overbearing, precocious, pretentious -- you could spend a lifetime browsing the thesaurus and still never put your finger on everything that makes Jobriath's debut the legend that it is. Part of the problem, of course, is reputation -- after 20 years of being hammered as the hype that scuppered glam rock in the U.S., then five more of rediscovery and absolute reinvention, Jobriath is today revered as much for its maker's status as gay America's first public icon as for its actual contents. Maybe even more so. Strip away such hullabaloo, however, and you're still left with an album that merits all the applause. Of course it's rock -- "World Without End" and "Earthling" are even funk rock, and so smartly shade David Bowie's "Fame" and "Stay" bookends that one cannot help but wonder -- but it's so much more than that. Jobriath's voice falls somewhere between vaudeville over-elucidation and operatic emphasis; his lyrics ooze pierrots, aliens, and movie stars, and his arrangements make Queen sound like an underachieving garage band. A few years later, Meatloaf would take a similar grasp on the vastness of excess and make a million. Jobriath made a millstone, but the parallels are apparent all the same. Heartfelt ballad as medieval battering ram. The stars of the show are spotlit from the start. Eddie Kramer's production ranks among his most unrestrained ever, so that even the piano ballads are draped across the broadest of stages. Add the band to the brew, and you can hear the kitchen sinks flying in. But if Jobriath (like Bat Out of Hell) is awash in brain-charring overkill, the surfeit is by no means gratuitous -- or rather, it is, but only because it needs to be. In any other surroundings, songs like "Movie Queen" and "Inside" would seem slight and trite. Here they are the shade that prefigures the light -- the sun-bright blast of "Morning Starship," the Rocky Horror boogie of "Rock of Ages," the unfettered majesty of "Take Me I'm Yours." Jobriath's songs are big-screen Cinerama, the slightest motion ten feet tall, the tiniest whisper Sensurround sharp. And just when you think they can't get any bigger, "Blow Away" wraps things up with a choral concerto, a hammy hymn, an exaggeration so huge that even the lyrical lift from Three Little Piggies sounds dramatic and profound. Grand and grandiose, obsessive and overbearing, precocious, and pretentious -- it's Jobriath. What else did you expect?
by Dave Thompson