Jobriath’s self-titled 1973 debut received positive notices, but the ensuing publicity hype all but sunk the artist’s critical reputation. He’d delivered the musical goods, but his manager’s hype machine and a failed-to-materialized grand tour of European opera houses hung over this follow-up like a rain cloud. The notoriety that greeted the first openly gay rock star’s debut had turned to scorn and apathy, resulting in little notice of a sophomore album that featured some wonderfully crafted, dramatic glam-rock. It probably didn’t help that Jobriath’s manager stuck his name in the credits as “Jerry Brandt Presents Jobraith in Creatures of the Street,” and suggested the album was a romantic comedy.
Co-producing once more with engineer Eddie Kramer, Jobriath’s second album’s broadens his reach with additional orchestrations and showy production touches. He continues to sing in a high register, retaining a tonal resemblance to Mick Jagger and Mott the Hoople’s Ian Hunter, but here he adds gospel and classical elements to both the vocal arrangements and his piano playing. Despite suggestions that this was a concept album, the concept remains obscure. Still, much of the album sounds as if it were a cast album to a stage musical with rock-opera pretensions. “Street Corner Love” is rendered as mannered show rock, and the stagey “Dietrich/Fondyke” combines a full orchestral arrangement, piano flourishes and a female chorus into a dramatic splash of film nostalgia. The funky “Good Times” sounds as if its tribal-rock vibe was lifted from “Hair” – a period play in which Jobriath had performed a few years earlier.
More inventively, the grittily-titled “Scumbag” is rendered as the sort of music hall country-folk the Kinks recorded in the early 1970s, and Jobriath’s orchestration for “What a Pretty” is impressively threatening. Only a few songs, “Ooh La La” and “Sister Sue,” break free of the theatricality to stand on their own as glam-rock. There are many similarities to Jobriath’s debut here, but the overall result is more fragmented and contains few nods to radio-ready compositions. After promotional fiascos consumed Jobriath’s debut, there seemed to be no interest in commercial pretensions on what would be his swansong. Dropped by both his manager and label, he retreated from the music industry, reappearing a few years later as a lounge singer named “Cole Berlin,” and passing away largely unnoticed in 1983. With the reissue of his two Elektra albums, modern-day listeners can hear his music in place of his hype, and the music – particularly the debut album – is worth hearing. [©2008 hyperbolium dot com]