"Kings and Queens of the Underground" (Kobalt; 2014)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Billy Idol, 1980s bad boy with a string of Number One hits, a snarl worthy of a dragon and enough charisma to light the city of Los Angeles. In 2005 he cut a release, "Devil’s Playground," that kicked all sorts of rock'n'roll ass (see my review below). And, in 2014 he did again with "Kings and Queens of the Underground."

With the "Devil's Playground" album Idol sings about the drugs, wildness and the all-around debauchery of the 1980s music scene. In "King and Queens of the Underground," his lyrics focus more on what it is like to be sober and how much he is enjoying life. Each track is a twelve step process showcasing what it was like to be Billy Idol. Don’t get me wrong, this release is not boring or too light in any way; it still has all the Billy Idol growl, excellent songwriting and superb musicianship. You can thank (and should thank) his longtime guitarist, Steve Stevens, for his contribution to this killer album.

I do have to say it lacks some of the overall strength of "Devil’s Playground," but is still a very strong release. It's funny, but if we were back in the 80s and you were to tell me that Billy Idol would be one of my favorite songwriters, I would have told you to get lost, but after experiencing "Devil’s Playground" and now "Kings and Queens of the Underground" I would have to say that Mr. Idol is simply one of the best song smiths around today.

Simply put, this is yet another outstanding collection of tunes from Billy Idol and crew. I look forward to more.

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"The Very Best of Billy Idol: Idolize Yourself" (Capitol Records; 2008)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Well, by my count, this is the fifth "Best Of" collection from iconic rocker Billy Idol (and I'm not counting 2002's "VH-1 Storyteller, although that's basically the same thing) and, although it's justify yet another greatest hits collection, at least this latest one is probably the definitive one ... well, so far.

The double-disc version of "Idolize Yourself" contains a CD with eighteen audio tracks and a DVD with thirteen videos. An CD-only version is also available but why would you bother? The audio tracks are pretty much what we've seen on previous "Best Of" compilations, the exceptions being "World Comin' Down," a tune from his latest CD, "Devil's Playground," and a track from the movie "Speed." There are also two new tracks included: the hautning "John Wayne" and the pumping "New Future Weapon."

The DVD includes thirteen videos, all of which are available for the first time on DVD, and two videos ("Hot in the City" and "Cradle of Love" that are presented in versions never before available anywhere. Idol rode the wave of MTV music video popularity and this collection of videos is ample evidence of why he succeeded when others did not. His charisma and energy translated well to the video medium.

Did we need another Billy Idol Greatest Hits collection? Probably not. Is this a good one? Well, yeah, it's probably the best and most complete one. Is it perfect? Of course not. Idol fans, like fans of any other artist, will spend hours arguing what should have been included and what shouldn't have. Regardless, if you're looking for one package of great Billy Idol material, look no further than "Idolize Yourself."

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"Devil's Playground" (Sanctuary; 2005)

Reviewed by Snidermann

Billy Idol is back after too many years of silence and he's back in a big way. 

"Devil’s Playground" is classic Billy Idol. This release could have come out of the 80s, it is that good and that tight. Sure, it's a little nasty, but what else would you expect from Billy Idol?  

Of course, I have to admit I did not like all the cuts on this CD, but then again I rarely do. Sometimes the music on "Devil's Playground" got a little too slow for me. But the music that rocked hard hit me like a sledgehammer and those tunes have been ricocheting around in my head since I first listened to the CD. 

"Devil's Playground" struck a long forgotten chord within me. If you liked Billy Idol's music as much as I did in the 80s, you'll be thrilled with the way he's taken that classic sound and pulled it into the 2000s. Idol's musical style hasn't changed that much and I was impressed with how he has stuck with the sound that made him famous. 

If there is any musical justice in the world, "Devil's Playground" will be a huge success and we'll get lots more Billy Idol in the future.

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"VH-1 Storytellers" (Capitol Records; 2002)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

Billy Idol is one of those artists who you don't know who to categorize as punk rock, hard rock or (gasp!) new wave. His music always has a rough edge and his live performance is purported to be awesome. Whatever his final category (if there is one) the fact remains that he's made an impact and his recent VH-1 Storytellers appearance confirms that.

The first part of this companion CD to the VH-1 program plays more like an "Unplugged" session than a "Storytellers." In fact, its sound reminds me most of the KISS "Unplugged" CD that was released a few years ago. There are some electric guitars here but not much - songs like "Cradle of Love,' "White Wedding" and "Flesh For Fantasy" get a virtually unplugged presentation while "Dancing With Myself" has some raunchy, razor-like, electric guitars guiding it. So does most of the second half of this CD. That's when the CD really rocks. 

Idol has a lot of hits and the 14 songs on this CD are all instantly recognizable. It's also fun to hear Idol have fun with some of the lyrics. For example, when he sings "Cradle of Love," he adds the lyrics, "This song is cheesy, it's so cheesy, baby!" Idol's having fun throughout the CD and that's apparent through his performance.

Is this "Storytellers" CD your best bet as far as Idol is concerned? Probably not. We'll take the fully plugged, studio versions on his previous albums first. But this is a pretty good collection of unique performances of Idol classics and, again, it's fun to have fun with Idol. The only thing better here, of course, would be a DVD or VHS - and we're pretty sure those will be available, too.

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"Vital Idol" (Capitol Records/Chrysalis; 1987)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This 24-bit, digitally mastered collection of the titular "Vital" Billy Idol cuts does contain some of his best known tunes including hits such as "White Wedding," "Mony Mony," and "Dancing With Myself." Unfortunately, these are re-mixes of the original songs that were re-tooled circa 1987 for maximum impact on the dance floor. Great if you're looking to dance, not so great if you just want to listen.

While interesting to the Idol fan, "Vital Idol" don't have much to offer the casual listener. You're better off picking up the "Greatest Hits" collection instead. 

Unless, of course, you're in the mood to hit the discos.

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"Rebel Yell" (Capitol Records; 1983)

Reviewed by Snidermann

It is very interesting to listen to early Billy Idol releases. You really get to know why he sounds like he does today, more than twenty years later. I guess you can say that about any performer in history but it's still very interesting to follow their trajectory.

"Rebel Yell" was originally released in late 1983. The tracks on this album were all over the place on radio in those days: The title track, "Eyes Without a Face" and "Flesh for Fantasy" became staples in the Idol repertoire for the rest of his career, but you'll recognize the others as well.

This recording and Billy Idol’s sound then are signs of the times: loud, unapologetic and ready to say, "If you don't like me, well, fuck off!" "Rebel Yell" (the CD) is all about what is happening in the world of music at that specific time. The release is full of MTV-ready punk music that, for good or bad, is part of the culture of 1984.

What I take out of recording is a wholesale conglomeration of what it is to be musical industry at the time. Billy Idol's "Rebel Yell" is right up there with any other music of that era. The deep cuts are just as entertaining as the recognizable tunes on the recording. Billy Idol rocked hard in 1984 and he still does in the new century. Idol is one of the most influential voices of rock music and he has proven to have true lasting power.

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"Billy Idol" (Capitol Records/Chrysalis; 1982)

Reviewed by R. Scott Bolton

This brilliantly re-mastered re-release of Billy Idol's first solo album contains a couple of the songs that went on to make him a superstar - "White Wedding (Part 1)" "Hot In the City" and "Dancing With Myself" (with Generation X) - as well as a few other songs that didn't.

"White Wedding" has never sounded better than it does here. The guitars are clear and crisp, Idol's vocals are pure and the mix just sounds awesome. "Dancing With Myself" and "Hot in the City" sound pretty good, too, as do the other tracks. Although only the three big hits are well known, the other songs herein aren't bad either.

What really stands out is how well the majority of this CD hold up after 20 years(!). Idol's blend of punk, blues and rockabilly truly shines on this CD and the 24-bit digital remastering brings them all to life again. 

Fans of Billy Idol who already have this CD should pick it up again just because the sound quality here as been so enhanced. Others familiar with only Idol's biggest hits might want to pick up the "Vital Idol" CD, also recently re-released and digitally remastered. That particular CD contains eight of Idol's most popular tunes.

Performing on "Billy Idol" are: Billy Idol - vocals, guitar; Steve Stevens - guitars; Phil Feit - bass; Steve Missal - drums. 

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Rating Guide:

A classic. This record will kick your ass.

Killer. Not a classic but it will rock your world.

So-so. You've heard better.

Pretty bad. Might make a nice coaster.

Self explanatory. Just the sight of the cover makes you wanna hurl.

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