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David Bowie - Aladdin Sane

Review: 222
Date: 9 Apr 05

 


Rating: 5 Stars

Musicians:
David Bowie - Vocals, Harmonica, Saxophone
Mick Ronson - Guitars, Piano, Vocals
Trevor Boulder - Bass, Vocals
Mick (Woody) Woodmansey - Drums
Mike Garson - Piano
Ken Fordham - Bux-Saxophone, Flutes

Tracks Listing:
Original - Disc One
Watch that Man
Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)
Drive-In Saturday
Panic In Detroit
Cracked Actor
Time
The Prettiest Star
Let's Spend The Night Together
The Jean Genie
Lady Grinning Soul

Bonus Material - Disc Two
John I'm Only Dancing
Jean Genie (single version)
Time (single version)
All The Young Dudes
Changes (live)
The Supermen (live)
Life On Mars? (live)
John I'm Only Dancing (live)
The Jean Genie (live)
Drive-In Saturday (acoustic)

 


David Bowie had already been written off as a one-hit-wonder after he failed to follow up his hit single ‘Space Oddity’ (1969) with any commercial success. His first full length album was just a hotch-potch of songs he had collected over the years, and certainly gave no clue as to what was to come. By 1970 David Bowie had hitched up with guitarist/arranger Mick Ronson, who was to become the perfect foil during Bowie's rise to fame.

The next album, 'The Man Who Sold The World' (1971), although a good album, suffered from too many long guitar solos, repetitive themes, and lack of direction from the man himself. 'Hunky Dory' (1972) was a concerted effort of Bowie to catch up with his friends like Marc Bolan, who was riding high in the charts. Even though it was brilliant, it just failed to spark the public’s imagination, or perhaps too much imagination as on the cover Bowie wore his hair long - and worse - a long dress, too.

A quick re-think, a sharpening of the sound, a haircut and dye, the stage act re-shaped, the band ‘The Spiders From Mars’ solidified into the perfect little hard rockin' outfit of the blonde haired bombshell Mick Ronson on guitar; the impossibly side burned bassist Trevor Bolder; Mick Woodmansey on drums looking like a reject from the Bay City Rollers; and avant-garde keyboard player Mike Garson. Then came the startling appearance on Top of the Pops with the new single ‘Starman’, and David Bowie was the most famous pop star in the world. Easy when you know how.

The Album ‘The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars’ was a massive hit around the world. But could they follow it up? Could David Bowie turn himself into a proper musician and not just some pop star here today, gone tomorrow?

It would of been easy for an album of Ziggy Stardust Part Two, but instead the record company demanded more products and Bowie's manager, Tony DeFies, lined-up tour after tour. They rode the crest of popularity while it was up. It was not all plain sailing though as America did not immediately roll over. In St. Louis for example only 180 tickets were sold out of a possible 11,000. Aladdin Sane was written and recorded on the road. That makes it even more of an achievement as it outstrips its predecessor in brilliance. It's a record that defines the high-glam period of the spring and summer of 1973, a period that indisputably belonged to David Bowie, The Spiders From Mars, and their millions of fans.

By the day of its release, April 13th, 1973, Aladdin Sane had already chalked up advance sales of 100,000, making it the fastest selling British pop album since the heyday of the Beatles. It became Bowie's first UK number one, a position it held for five weeks. It contained two top 3 singles in 'The Jean Genie' and 'Drive In Saturday', and was also the first Bowie album to reach the US Top 20. Indeed, Aladdin Sane heralded a period of chart dominance for Bowie. During the summer of 1973, Bowie had five albums in the UK charts at the same time for a total of 19 weeks.

The songs on Aladdin Sane were the work of a man on the cusp of genius. The playing of the Spiders was inspirational (try the piano solo from Mike Garson on the title track, or Mick Ronson's guitar riff on Panic in Detroit to get some kind of idea). The choice of the Rolling Stones cover 'Let's Spend The Night Together’ is perfect. It is over thirty years since Aladdin Sane was unleashed on us, and he sounds as fresh and fruity today as he did then.

EMI have released a 30th Anniversary edition which comes in booklet form with over 40 pages of stories and reminiscences from the players and the production team, plus a whole host of never seen before photos. But best of all, a whole second CD full of live tracks, b-sides, and storming studio versions of 'All The Young Dudes' and 'John, I'm Only Dancing'. Although David Bowie went on to be one of the longest lasting rock stars, I do not think he ever quite reached these heights again.

 

Made up by Mott the Dog
Cut by Ella Crew

E-mail: review@mott-the-dog.com


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