I recently wrote about the excellent and essential documentary, Jobriath AD, and was chuffed to learn that a collection of archival recordings was to be released. Entitled As The River Flows, this ten-song collection gathers up a handful of recordings from 1971, before his solo career began in earnest. What amazes is these recordings, made before he began his transformation into the glam (failed) superstar he would soon become, easily better his two official albums. Listening to these lost recordings–which often only feature Jobriath and his piano–it’s clear that he would have been a formidable challenger to Elton John‘s throne as eccentric glam piano man.
It’s also clear that his image undercut his actual talent. While he took great pains to better the outré figure defined by David Bowie‘s Ziggy Stardust persona, it seems that he never quite got that Ziggy Stardust was a persona. Trying to be a real-life incarnation of such a comical figure could only end in becoming a gross parody, one whose novelty would overwhelm the talent, and that’s exactly what happened.
As The River Flows, then, satisfies the hope of those who might have found the Jobriath persona way too overwhelming. The ten songs here showcase a man who could write a delicate piano ballad like “Little Dreamer” and “Inside,” whilst also being able to churn out fun, funky songs like “Amazing Dope Tales” and “Wildfire in Memphis” with the same sort of ease. Though his two albums are fine, their overt sexuality and over-the-top nature drown out the subtleties found on these ten songs.
Had these recording been released as is, without the weird alien-boy artwork or the publicity machine behind him, it’s not hard to envision the resulting album sitting next to Madman Across The Water or Honky Chateau both in the charts and in record collections across America. Alas, it was not to be, and though it’s four decades later that we’re hearing these recordings, it’s better late than never….