“I’d do anything for you or to you,” Jobriath snarls on opener “Take Me I’m Yours” — a perfect introduction to the man ridiculed in 1973 as an overhyped, overcalculated glam-rock flop, and credited now as the first openly, actually gay rock star. But Jobriath is much more than the Americanized Bowie clone he was pitched to be. Jobriath, too, is an omnisexual metamorphosizer, but he encapsulates many roles in a single persona, synthesizing the grandest moments from prog, disco, and Broadway into a near seamless style, growing deeper and more nuanced in each song without becoming completely contradictory. His predatory opening promise to become “a slave to your perversity,” is offset but not negated by the tenderness of bombastic cuddling anthem “Be Still.” Both are immediately overshadowed by the biblical apocalypse described in the gospel glam “World Without End,” but any implied relationship between the sexual and the cosmic is intentional. And the wandering gaze and sci-fi showmanship of “Morning Starship” ultimately betray a desire to transcend reality through stylized artifice, something fully realized on this classic debut worthy of rediscovery.
Creatures of the Street, in comparison to his self-titled debut, is a truly spectacular failure. The melodramatic charm and gender-bent flirtations that defined his first release are here too often borderline self-parody. “Dietrich/Fondyke (A Brief History of Movie Music),” with its swollen strings and operatic chorus, could soundtrack a pompous Academy Awards montage, while “What a Pretty” plays like a creepy middle-school musical production. But a few tracks sound beautifully broken. “Street Corner Love,” with its plea “Love me like we never met,” is poignantly delivered by a man prematurely dismissed after too much hype and media saturation. Most affecting, though, is “Gone Tomorrow,” in which former major-label poster boy Jobriath, who would finish his life performing in cocktail bars, proclaims, “I don’t believe in here today, gone tomorrow,” with all the hard-lived resolve of bloated Elvis singing “My Way.” Now, 25 years after his death from AIDS-related illness, these high-quality reissues of his revelatory albums give a new generation of music fans the chance to prove him right.