Too Much Too Soon (album)
|Too Much Too Soon|
|Studio album by New York Dolls|
|Released||May 10, 1974|
|Recorded||A&R Studios, New York City|
|Genre||Hard rock, proto-punk|
|New York Dolls chronology|
|Singles from Too Much Too Soon|
Too Much Too Soon is the second studio album by American hard rock band the New York Dolls, released on May 10, 1974, by Mercury Records. It was recorded at A&R Studios in New York City and produced by Shadow Morton, whom frontman David Johansen enlisted after the band's disagreements with their previous producer Todd Rundgren. It was titled after the 1958 biography of the same name of actress Diana Barrymore. Too Much Too Soon featured more cover songs than the band's self-titled debut album and a refined production by Morton, who incorporated a large amount of studio sound effects and female backing vocals.
The album was released to poor sales and only charted at number 167 on the Billboard 200. After a problem-ridden national tour, the New York Dolls were dropped by Mercury and disbanded in 1975. Too Much Too Soon was well received by most music critics, who praised the band's raw sound and felt that it was improved by Morton's production. The album was reissued on CD in 1988 by Mercury and in 2005 by Hip-O Select.
After being signed by Mercury Records, the New York Dolls released their self-titled debut album in 1973 to poor sales. Although it received praise from critics, the band was not satisfied with producer Todd Rundgren's sound for the album and subsequently had disagreements with him. Guitarist Johnny Thunders wanted to produce Too Much Too Soon himself, but frontman David Johansen enlisted Shadow Morton, who was best known for his work with the Shangri-Las. He was also Johansen's original choice for their debut album. The album was recorded at A&R Studios and mastered at Sterling Sound and Masterdisk in New York City. Morton had Johansen record his vocals several times and incorporated sounds effects such as gongs, gunshots, and feminine choruses to the songs.
Music and lyrics
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According to Billboard magazine, Too Much Too Soon is another album of hard rock by the New York Dolls, but with more sophisticated production from Morton. Along with original songs, the album features covers of the Cadets' 1956 hit single "Stranded in the Jungle", Archie Bell's 1969 hit "There's Gonna Be a Showdown", and Sonny Boy Williamson's "Don't Start Me Talkin'". According to music critic Robert Christgau, it had more cover songs than the band's debut album because, "like so many cocky songwriters, David Johansen overloaded his debut with originals and then found that record promotion wasn't a life activity that inspired new ones."
On the album's novelty covers, Johansen impersonates different characters, including a high-stepper in "Showdown" and Charlie Chan in "Bad Detective". On "Stranded in the Jungle", he alternates between a comical reject and a lecherous man at lover's lane. Johansen sings with a tough, loud New York accent on "Who Are the Mystery Girls?". "Chatterbox" was sung by Thunders. Johansen said that "Puss 'n' Boots" is "about shoe fetishism, or as Arthur [Kane] observed, it's about 'the woofers in relationship with the woofee'." "It's Too Late" poses lessons from trivia history against nostalgic fads and makes reference to actress Diana Dors in a lyric rebuking drug use. On "Human Being", Johansen addresses critics of his songwriting.
Release and promotion
Too Much Too Soon was titled after the biography of the same name on actress Diana Barrymore. According to music journalist Jon Savage, the title was "more than applicable to the Dolls themselves. 'Johnny had got into junk,' says Sylvain, 'and Jerry [Nolan] had hepatitis. It was heavy, heavy drinking.'" A dedication to Barrymore was printed in the album's gatefold LP. The album's front cover shows the band in a mock live performance and avoids the drag style of their debut's cover. For shock value, Thunders held a doll in his arm as if to strike it against his guitar.
Too Much Too Soon was released on May 10, 1974. It was another commercial failure for the band, as it only charted at number 167 on the Billboard 200. Two double A-sided, 7" singles were released—"Stranded in the Jungle / Who Are the Mystery Girls?" in July and "(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown / Puss 'n' Boots" in September 1974; neither charted. The New York Dolls coincided the album's July release in Europe with appearances at the Buxton Festival in Derbyshire and the Rock Prom Festival at Olympia in London. The band also embarked on their second tour of the United States, which was marred by cancelled shows, escalating drug and alcohol addictions, and internal strife. They were subsequently dropped by Mercury before breaking up in 1975.
Too Much Too Soon received positive reviews from contemporary music critics. In his review for Rolling Stone magazine, Dave Marsh hailed the New York Dolls as "the best hard-rock band in America right now" and praised Thunders' "inventive" guitar playing, drummer Jerry Nolan's competent performance, and Johansen's ability to add depth to characters. Marsh asserted that, because producer Shadow Morton had highlighted the band's "rough edges", "even their nerviest attempts turn out successes." Robert Christgau, writing in Creem magazine, said that the sound reproduction is "almost slick" without any "loss in rawness", particularly with Johansen's vocals and Nolan's drumming, and remarked that Rundgren "should be ashamed—Shadow Morton has gotten more out of the Dolls than they can give us live on any but their best nights." Robert Hilburn of the Los Angeles Times viewed it as a markedly better-produced album that proves the New York Dolls are "the real thing" and hailed it as "perhaps the best example of raw, thumb-your-nose-at-the-world, punk rock since the Rolling Stones' Exile on Main Street." Reviewers who were critical of the album felt that it sounded unfinished and overproduced. In a negative review for NME, Nick Kent called it "messy and shot through with unfulfilled potential." Circus magazine panned it as "cut after cut of annoying screeching."
Too Much Too Soon finished 10th in the voting for The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics' poll for 1974. Christgau, the poll's creator, named it the third-best album of the year in his own list, In a decade-end list for The Village Voice, he named Too Much Too Soon the fourth best album of the 1970s. Richard Cromelin of the Los Angeles Times included it on his list of personal favorite albums of the decade and wrote that Morton's production makes the album slightly better than the band's debut. In 1985, Sounds magazine ranked Too Much Too Soon number 60 on its list of the 100 best albums of all time.
|The New Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|The Rolling Stone Record Guide|||
In 1988, Too Much Too Soon was reissued on CD by Mercury. Don McLeese of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote that Morton's production highlighted the band's sense of humor and was rendered "in vivid detail" by the CD reissue, but felt that the album was marred by inconsistent material. Don Waller of the Los Angeles Times asserted that the "largely underrated" album was just as much an "instant classic" as the band's debut. Joe Gross, writing in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (2004), believed that the band's attempt to garner more airplay by enlisting Morton did not work because, "with a slicker sound, background choruses, and cleaner riffs, the Dolls just sounded skankier".
In 2005, the album was remastered and reissued by Hip-O Select and Mercury. In a review of the reissue for Blender magazine, Christgau said that both the New York Dolls' debut and Too Much Too Soon comprise "a priceless proto-punk legacy". He felt that, although Johansen's best original songs are on the debut, Too Much Too Soon has "sure" hooks, "smart" lyrics, and "magnificent" cover songs, including "two R&B novelties whose theatrical potential was barely noticed until the Dolls penetrated their holy essence." In his review for Allmusic, Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that the "obscure R&B and rock & roll covers" were perfectly appropriate for the band, whose "gleeful sleaziness and reckless sound" were embellished by Morton's production details, including a large amount of studio sound effects and female backing vocals.
|1.||"Babylon"||David Johansen, Johnny Thunders||3:31|
|2.||"Stranded in the Jungle"||James Johnson, Ernestine Smith, Al Curry||3:49|
|3.||"Who Are the Mystery Girls?"||Johansen, Thunders||3:07|
|4.||"(There's Gonna Be A) Showdown"||Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff||3:37|
|5.||"It's Too Late"||Johansen, Thunders||4:35|
|6.||"Puss 'n' Boots"||Johansen, Sylvain Sylvain||3:06|
|8.||"Bad Detective"||Kenny Lewis||3:37|
|9.||"Don't Start Me Talkin'"||Sonny Boy Williamson II||3:12|
|10.||"Human Being"||Johansen, Thunders||5:44|
- Album Graphics – graphic supervision
- Dennis Druzbik – engineering
- Bob Gruen – photography
- Gilbert Kong – mastering
- Hans G. Lehmann – photography
- Pieter Mazel – photography
- Shadow Morton – production
- Paul Nelson – A&R
- New York Dolls – arrangements
- Dixon Van Winkle – engineering
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