To rock audiences, Jim Carroll's crowning achievement was the near-hit "People Who Died," a brutally emotional punk record saluting the victims of the New York drug culture. In truth, however, Carroll's artistic legacy was considerably more complex and far-ranging -- an acclaimed diarist, poet, actor and spoken-word performer, his formative years even served as the subject of the film The Basketball Diaries.
The product of a working-class background, Carroll was born and raised in New York City. A highly-touted basketball prospect, Jack Kerouac's On the Road inspired him to begin keeping a journal at the age of 12; later published in 1978 as The Basketball Diaries, his early writings vividly chronicled his teenage addiction to heroin, which led him into a life of crime and hustling. By the time he was 16, Carrol was a published poet; 1973's Living at the Movies further established his reputation as a prodigy and funded a move to Northern California, where he was finally able to shed his drug habit.
Inspired by the success of his friend Patti Smith, who also married a background in poetry with a career in rock music, Carroll began writing songs; in 1978, backed by the San Francisco band Amsterdam (comprised of guitarists Terrell Winn and Brian Linsley, bassist Steve Linsley and drummer Wayne Woods), he cut a handful of demos, and was signed to Rolling Stones Records. Produced by label head Earl McGrath, the Jim Carroll Band's debut album Catholic Boy appeared in 1980; the subject of significant critical acclaim, it featured "People Who Died," the group's definitive moment.
After a move back to New York and the replacement of Terrell Winn and Brian Linsley by Paul Sanchez and John Tiven, the Carroll Band returned in 1982 with Dry Dreams, followed by 1984's I Write Your Name, which received lackluster reviews. With his three record contract fulfilled, Carroll dismissed the group members and resumed his prose and poetry work. After an appearance in the 1985 film Tuff Turf, he published The Book of Nods in 1986 and Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973 a year later.
During the remainder of the eighties, Carroll balanced his poetry and prose material while writing tracks for other artists such as Blue Oyster Cult Club Ninja and Boz Scaggs Other Roads.(from Allmusic.com)
Jim Carroll's Dry Dreams is in a style similar to that of his debut release. Despite the expanded instrumentation suggested by the personnel list on the album cover, the music here is still generally new wave-oriented, stripped down, and often propelled by an itchy beat. As one might expect from the author of The Basketball Diaries, Carroll's lyrics are wonderfully evocative and literate, to be favorably counted among rock music's best. Parallels to Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, and Patti Smith (this last pointed up by including guest guitarist/co-songwriter Lenny Kaye on the final track) are especially noticeable. Songs here are generally fine, if perhaps not quite as punchily memorable as those on his prior album. A few interesting alleyways are explored here, including the more traditionally tuneful and more fully scored "Rooms" and the multisectional "Barricades," which alternates slower Bob Dylan-derived music with faster, rocking material. This sturdy disc is well worth hearing. ~ David Cleary, All Music Guide
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