David Bowie - Aladdin Sane (1973)

Part 2 of the Bowie glam reviews:

When we last saw Ziggy, he was contemplating suicide in front of a stage full of admirers. It’s clear now that what he really needed, more than anything, was a trip to the States.

Aladdin Sane or ‘Ziggy Discovers America’ is undeniably weird. Opener “Watch that Man” should be an instant glam classic- but Bowie’s voice is so far down in the mix that, on public transport, it sounds like an instrumental. With jazzy pianos, thick guitar chords and camp backing vocals, this should be triumphant. As it is here, however, it becomes vaguely unsettling. This all makes sense on track two, the avant-lounge piano freak-out that is “Aladdin Sane”. Bowie sung about the dark underbelly of the pop world on Ziggy- but now it sounds like he knows what he’s talking about.

Witness the schizophrenic pace changes from thick, sleazy rocker “Cracked Actor” to the slow fade vaudeville mindfuck of “Time”- the pretense of Ziggy disappears as it seems that Bowie himself is, probably for the first time in his career, emoting.

There are mistakes here: the Stones cover “Let’s Spend the Night Together” and remade early Bowie single “The Prettiest Star” are, for this reviewer at least, skippers. All is almost forgiven however, with Bowie’s two best glam singles- “Drive in Saturday” and the crunchy R&B anthem “The Jean Genie”.

Weird, dark and uncomfortable- this is something of an overlooked (outside of its iconic cover art) classic. Bowie makes being all over the place sound compelling and seductive- it’s hard to see how he could keep it up (here’s a clue for the next review- he couldn’t).

(84 - AI)
Combined Rating = 87

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