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David Johansen’s alter ego of the last decade-plus, Buster Poindexter is a prime example of the successful live act that never quite conjures the same magic in the studio. Previous Buster discs have concentrated on everything from his loungey side to ’40s jump blues borrowed from the likes of Roy Brown. Those albums have also run the gamut from the flawed (the self-titled first, which birthed Buster’s cover of the Arrow soca anthem “Hot Hot Hot”) to the failed (1989’s Buster Goes Berserk, which tried to follow up on that success with godawful programmed drums and other tinny production tricks). Now working the salsero tip, this character comes across about as well as he ever has offstage. No covers this time out, which leaves Johansen plenty of room in which to celebrate his beloved New York (“Downtown Dream”) and its various cultural landmarks (“Iris Chacon,” the hot hot hot Latina TV personality) and to mourn the Giuliani regime’s clean-up efforts in Times Square (“Nueva Broadway [They Don’t Smoke]”). Buster also salutes the good life in general with “My First Sin” and “Let’s Take It Easy,” which manifests the generosity of spirit that has been a major part of Johansen’s spiel since his New York Dolls days. In a roundabout connection to the garage, “Mean Spirited Sal” both takes “Louie Louie” back to its cha-cha roots and recalls the Dolls’ remake of the Sonny Boy Williamson tall tale “Don’t Start Me Talkin’.” If Spanish Rocket Ship isn’t the souvenir Buster fans wish for, it’s a good explanation of why we still care.

—Rickey Wright