N.W.O.B.H.M.: The Very Best of Dragster

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The most important thing to know about 1999's N.W.O.B.H.M.: The Very Best of Dragster is that, unlike most similarly packaged retrospectives of the period, it does not in fact contain music from the band's original New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Rather, this is late-'80s material recorded by a significantly altered group of musicians, who, though they may have been technically superior to their predecessors, also lacked the rude charm so inherent to the movement in question. Having said that, the "Dragster" lineup assembled here (including guitarist Andy Trafford and drummer Steve Grant from the original membership) seems to feel right at home with slickly produced metallic rockers such as "So This Is England," "Destiny," and "Running," often recalling early N.W.O.B.H.M. giants Saxon due to singer Glenn Whatmough's Byfford-like warble. Ironically, purists may get a bigger kick out of the album's more under-produced moments (there being four different sessions sourcing the material heard here); but even though Dragster's best known early single, "Ambitions," enjoys two runthroughs, neither the polished first version nor the more demo-like second sounds remotely like the original song -- so radically has it been reworked. Hardly anything here falls completely flat, however, until you get to the final four cuts: all covers of rather predictable (the Sweet's "Hellraiser" and "Action") or unnecessary (Gary Glitter's "Didn't Know I Loved You [Till I Saw You Rock & Roll]" and Rod Stewart's "Hot Legs") nature. And yet, these also speak volumes about this collection's cobbled togetherness, and, quite frankly, misleading advertising -- so collectors beware. The fact that the music itself could have been a lot worse is little comfort.

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