Wednesday, January 13, 2010

David Bowie 21: Tonight

Amidst his newfound—or rather, regained—superstar success, Bowie managed to throw together another album. The continually derided Tonight wasn’t much of a departure sonically, leaving some critics and fans to accuse him of playing it too safe. In addition to the horn section, that damn marimba is on practically every track. Once again it’s a grab-bag of truly bizarre remakes, along with some collaborations designed to send some royalties the way of his old friend Iggy Pop.
The opener, “Loving The Alien”, is his own composition. It’s something of a muddy meditation on organized religion, and suffers from dated production, but it’s still worth revisiting. A jazzy reggae take on Iggy’s “Don’t Look Down” has a nice groove, but the version of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” is just hideous. The recently revived Tina Turner, in the midst of her own comeback, joins him for a tepid version of “Tonight” in a dull reggae arrangement that doesn’t include Iggy’s original intro, which made it clear that the song was being sung to an overdose victim. So a strong start, and a letdown.
Side two also teases promise. “Neighborhood Threat” is a faster version of Iggy’s superior grungy track; it has a few good lines, but that’s it. But finally, with “Blue Jean” we get a song that’s up there with his best of the decade, even if it did get lashed to an overindulgent video. The remainder of the album isn’t really worth mentioning, but we have to: two more co-writes with Iggy—the travelogue “Tumble And Twirl” and a duet on “Dancing With The Big Boys”— sandwiching a horrible version of the old ‘50s chestnut “I Keep Forgettin’”.
Since the good parts were so good, it was truly a shame that the rest of Tonight was so disappointing. Perhaps his enjoyed sobriety kept him from getting too out there, preferring to do guest spots like the embarrassing “Dancing In The Street” with Mick Jagger for Live Aid. Some extracurricular soundtrack work was added as bonus tracks to a reissue of Tonight in the ‘90s, including “This Is Not America”, his collaboration with Pat Metheny for The Falcon And The Snowman, the superior theme for the otherwise ignored Absolute Beginners, and one track from the Muppets-meet-the-Ewoks experiment that was Labyrinth. (He contributed a total of five slick songs to that soundtrack, along with his “acting” services.) These were not included on the 1999 reissue.

David Bowie Tonight (1984)—2
1995 CD reissue: same as 1984, plus 3 extra tracks

1 comment:

  1. Carlos Alomar to me in 1987: “We had so much other stuff to do and had to rush through the studio real fast. It was 'just another album.' David didn’t have much time for it – he just came in with the demos, and that was done and we did it.”