Too Much Junkie Business

Johnny Thunders

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Too Much Junkie Business Review

by Mark Deming

Even though Johnny Thunders died in 1991, he's managed to maintain the sort of busy release schedule that Tupac Shakur might envy, though like Tupac, Thunders' posthumous recording career is primarily devoted to recycling various scraps of tape the musician imprudently left behind. Too Much Junkie Business is a two-disc set that recycles live material from three different Johnny Thunders live shows, all of which have been released before on various albums. Disc one is devoted to a 1987 show in Los Angeles (previously released as Panic on Sunset Strip; a video of this show is also available) which reunited Thunders with his former New York Dolls bandmates Arthur Kane on bass and Jerry Nolan on drums. While the set in question sounds a lot more like the Heartbreakers than the Dolls thanks to the song list, having a simpatico rhythm section for a change certainly makes a difference, and Thunders sounds relatively focused and confident here, with the sloppiness purposeful rather than a product of his take-it-or-leave-it attitude towards his craft. Disc two starts out with a ten-song set recorded in Detroit near the end of 1980, with Thunders fronting a pared-down version of the Heartbreakers; Thunders sounds dismissive of his audience, and while there are many worse live tapes of the man floating around, there are also plenty of better ones. (This show was previously circulated on the album Thunderstorm in Detroit.) And finally, this package closes with a genuine curio -- an acoustic show in which Thunders is accompanied only by his guitar and Stevie Klasson on saxophone, which took place in Tokyo only 15 days before Thunders' death. While he was never as compelling on the acoustic guitar as he was on the electric, there's an emotional urgency to this performance that compensates for it, and Klasson's sax work adds some unexpected textures to the songs; it's hardly the way you'd expect Thunders to go out, but it's also somehow fitting. (The Tokyo concert was previously released on the album Add Water & Stir.) The recording quality is at least decent most of the time on this set, and if you've got a jones for some live Johnny Thunders material, this isn't a bad way to go, but longtime fans will want to check to see if they don't already have this stuff first.

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