Needing to break America and so adopting a sound-mixing strategy from The Rolling Stones in order to try, the loose concept for Aladdin Sane
was 'Ziggy goes to America'.
The bulk of the material was written by Bowie while on tour in the US, and it's the first Bowie album written from a position of fame. The Ziggy
album was about achieving stardom - an album about stardom written by a person who wasn't at that point an actual star. But having now achieved that, Aladdin Sane
set out to widen his appeal globally, and also challenge existing Bowie fans who might have preferred more of the same.
With Glam still all the rage, there are a number of straight Glam pieces here to please the multitude of Bowie worshippers back home, the most obvious being the stomping "Jean Genie", a single written very much to the Glam formula. Bowie's cover of The Rolling Stones "Let's Spend the Night Together", whilst not quite as convincing as the original material here, is also pleasing enough.
It's most obvious through the opening "Watch That Man", but a few other songs also suffer from very low almost inaudibly-mixed Bowie vocals. The idea was apparently to take a leaf out of The Rolling Stones book and use the vocal as almost another instrument. "Watch That Man" is still one of the finest rockier numbers here, yet could have been better with a more audible vocal.
Of the more ambitious songs, none rank more so at stretching the Ziggy Glam formula than "Aladdin Sane" itself. Mike Garson had joined the Bowie band, and his avant-garde Jazz noodling is the central point of interest musically through the 5+minute title song. "Time" also features Garson in a prominent role, being a strange kind of vaudeville number. "The Prettiest Star" and "Drive In Saturday" round out the album highlights, both being strong melodic pop songs.
A pretty varied set of songs then, the variety turning out to be both a good and bad thing, as Aladdin Sane
loses out to Hunky Dory
and Ziggy Stardust
as a cohesive listening experience. It's a more than fine album though, there isn't really a weak song on it. Rated:
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews