Friday, January 16, 2009

David Bowie 6: Aladdin Sane

So now he was a superstar, which meant he had to prove himself as more than a gimmick. Bowie rose to the occasion with his next album. Aladdin Sane kept the Ziggy persona going without sounding like a retread.
The album leaps from the speakers on the opening track, the muffled but driving “Watch That Man”. The title track follows, complete with a subtitle that references the years before each of the century’s world wars and an extended piano solo that manages to avoid any key, melody or structure, yet still fits. “Drive-In Saturday” lays a template for Roxy Music, with its mix of ‘50s nostalgia and futuristic decoration. “Panic In Detroit” gives you a reason to dance, even though we’re not sure what it’s about. “Cracked Actor” lands with a round of feedback going into a riff and a honking harmonica, and ends much too soon.
“Time” is another attempt at a grand statement along the lines of “Changes”, and succeeds in adding an extended wordless singalong for the end. “The Prettiest Star” is an uptempo remake of an earlier single, but in the new style. Continuing the trend of odd covers, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” is wrenched away from the Stones and given a homosexual coat of paint that unfortunately doesn’t go well with the drapes. “The Jean Genie” is the odd single, with a simple riff pounded into the ground and clever dynamics toward the end. “Lady Grinning Soul” brings the cocktail piano back for a lackluster ending.
The Ryko reissue strangely had no bonuses. That was rectified somewhat with the eventual 30th Anniversary edition, which added some rarities, single mixes and live tracks, some previously released. There’s yet another version of “John, I’m Only Dancing”, and Bowie’s own recording of “All The Young Dudes”, which Mott The Hoople did best. While they’re all nice to have, you’ll be happier with the album itself, which sounds great.

David Bowie Aladdin Sane (1973)—
30th Anniversary Edition: same as 1973, plus 10 extra tracks

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