Thursday, August 13, 2015

Let's Dance - David Bowie

Album number 15, and overall number 17 (19 if you include Baal Ep and Peter and The Wolf). This is the album that directly follows Scary Monsters. That album is kind of awesome. This album is a big, huge leap from the former in terms of sound, players, and even producers and the label too. It's more of a dance album. It's also definitely more commercial, definitely less personal. I don't believe there are any real Ashes to Ashes moments. Not that nor Teenage Wildlife nor any other. This LP was also the first album since 1977's Low, to not be produced by on and off again producer Tony Visconti. It should be noted Visconti first started with David Jones on his second self titled album, and in the states titled Man of Words/Man of Music, back in 1969. Instead you have Nile Rodgers of the disco group Chic producing. He would return ten years later to produce Black Tie White Noise another more pop oriented record, for the time at least. Though it's much more artsy than this one. The other change was this was the first of 4 records, including the collaborative soundtrack to Labyrinth, on EMI America. And lastly the players, I don't recognize a single on for any album prior to this. I may be wrong here or there about it, but I'm pretty sure.
  1. Modern Love: One of my favorite songs ever, this has such an infectious beat. This song makes me want to get up, sway my arms like an idiot, and not give two shits. This is such a feel good song, I wish the rest of the album was like this. Everything about this song is done right, from the performance to the vocals to the infectioustisoty to the instrument choice. It's something that holds up after 60 or so odd listens and multiple months of not hearing it. I have to fight my self to not sing along. I love the little piano and the sax solos and the just 80's this is. This is done right and much like other 80's tracks done right, that include sax, being Rio and Just The Two of Us I feel this isn't going anywhere. Honestly I can't find anything wrong with this track, other then why is it so good and everything else here pales in comparison.
  2. China Girl: This is a cover of a song that was co-written with Iggy Pop and features on his 1977 album, The Idiot. My favorite thing about this track is that I watched a documentary. In the documentary Niles was the one who said he came up with the riff and said something like "you can't have a song called china girl and not have it convey something about chin". Something along the lines of that. So  Bowie was only racist in the slanting if his eyes for the music video, not for the arrangement. :') But seriously, I dig this track. And yes its another case if the originals better, this is an interesting arrangement and execution but not on par with the first. The singing here isn't really that anything, the best part is probably the bass, especially on the part "I walk into to town, just like a sacred cow". I love Carmine Rojas' playing, on the track at least. But in reality, even by way of soloing this is underwhelming. It doesn't even sounds like Stevie is playing. Hell I played a better solo on the spot while listening vs the on that made the record. The solo should be spit fire, Width Of A Circle esque. Packs a punch, this just ends like a little old lady, not powerful enough to hit anyone. It has a decent music video, just like the track before this and following. But look for the uncensored one, just because there is one. All and all Pop's version is the far far far far far far far far superior. This is the type of track the needs a General Turgidson character performing it vs a non personality driven person whom I can't quite think of at the moment. 
  3. Let's Dance: The only track with a co-credit form Rodgers, this is the song where the album gets it's title. When I first started listening to Bowie I liked this song a lot. And I still dig this song, though 7 minutes of this can be difficult. I mean I can't really complain, there isn't anything wrong with this track. It goes at a good pace, it have interesting sound choices, a killer solo from SRV and even great vocals. Vocals that quite frankly, in a different song, could bring a chill down your spine. Maybe it's too many listens, maybe it's that it's 7 minutes, maybe it's I want another Modern Love but this isn't the best song here. 
  4. Without You: "I can't live, I can't give anymore." Sadly it's not a cover of the classic track if the same name I just quoted. No instead this is a Bowie original. And hey another Stevie Ray guitar performance. Honestly I really can't say much about this track. I just started and ended. And even when I listen I still don't have anything to say
  5. Ricochet: Question; if this track is "on the ricochet", will in then indeed "going to hit" me. Another original, but a terrible horrid arrangement. I mean hearing this and how off it is I'm not shocked Bowie has a track like this. Hell The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and any other hugely talented artists will have (regardless of if they stole a song, or about a back catalogs worth of songs) some tracks that just don't work. Some that sound off. That's what's called an demo, or an outtake or a track you don't use for an album. What I can't understand is how the fuck did this make it to the album. Upon re-visitation thought, closing my eyes and envisioning what's really wrong.... I got it. This is in it's simplest form a reggae number. Now this band, because most of it would go on to play on Tonight, would do a solid easy pretty reggae with the title track from that album... but here it just doesn't work. Not only does it not work, it could have worked if they took the time to rearrange it. Slow down the refrain, practice it more those two thing could have made it work. But the fact that they didn't do that proves, and clearly shows they either didn't care about the track or didn't track the time. David on the worst tracks here shows no emotion, but at least the backing track is either pretty great (Cat People) or good enough (Shake It). But on this track.... not it just doesn't.  And it could have..... UGH. And that's cutting the whole radio telecaster thingy some slack. It kinda just sounds like they just cluttered a bunch of Oingo Boingo tracks together.
  6. Criminal World: This is a cover of the 1977 Metro track, off their self titled album. The original is actually a pretty solid track. I like it, but this cover.......... Well at least Stevie Ray plays the solo again. The original has feeling that builds up from the beginning. While I don't believe it has the full impact it could, it doesn't take away from it. It's still like a solid 7 or 8. Also that solo, and ending in the original awesome. Then you get this. Yes it is very faithful to the original, and is even faithful to the previous tracks and style of this album but I don't know. I feel like this could possibly be better and more exciting then the original. Thought the solo is lesser here than on the original.
  7. Cat People: This is a noble effort, sorta. This is a re-recording of the track from the Cat People soundtrack. You know the song that he wrote the lyrics to and Giorgio did the music too. Bowie wanted to use it but he couldn't get the rights to the far far far superior version so they reworked and rerecorded it for this album. The original is very bare bones, synths and vocals and then the instruments come in. But it maintains a primal-istic feeling, like a primal urge. The first thing you hear on this is a guitar, and if I don't expect this to play I usually laugh. The instrumentation and Niles again has an interesting interpretation for the instruments but here the biggest flaw his Bowie himself. He isn't even trying. Where on the original I envy him and his vocal chops, here I feel nothing. And the backing vocals accompanying him for the "Putting out fire". I give them props for the rearranging the track and making it kind of an ambitious rerecording, the solo even sounds pretty solid. And what a tone, but Bowie literally sinks it when he's present. Hell this solo would have made China Girl a better song.
  8. Shake It: " off" (?). Actually that's good advice. This is the last track, shake off the negativity and biases your forming towards the album. Allow yourself to view this, hopefully worthy of letting go of the past encounters that led to me beginning to accept the stereotypes of this album as fact, as a new experience and truly end on a high note. Does David do that? Will this be another blunder like previous tracks? Will I ever get to the point? Do I really care if i use proper English and grammar? Have I been watching too much Danger Mouse lately? The quick answer no to all but two. Also you can never have too much DM. But I will give them credit for reminding me of two artists that were putting out much better material during this period Duran Duran and Prince. And the backing vocals that don't really sound that great reminds me of The Mothers back in the 60s, those gave the song personality, theses...... don't.
Overall I have to give this a 6.5/10. Bowie has personality, just not here... minus the first track. He was probably too busy almost marrying Janet Majors to make a records, and also staring in a movie with Farley Flavors and Janet as a vampire. But then again.... I don't blame him. I'd rather do that, especially back in the day, then make a stupid album. All and all this isn't his worst. Trust me its not even close.... Well I mean if we were in 1983 and you were able to look 4 years in the future that's the worst thing he's ever done. But regardless I still have enough here go revisit this and even revisit the "not very good" tracks. So yeah. Also the whole, two Giorgio kinda reviews in a row was unintentional. Also a plus here is that it's only 35 minutes long. Also I don't know how to feel about Sammy Figueroa playing on this... he also played percussion on a favorite Mingus track of mine Three Worlds of Drums off his 1979 Me Myself and Eye.

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