Aladdin Sane by David Bowie

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Aladdin Sane by David Bowie
Aladdin Sane by David Bowie

Album Released: 1973

Aladdin Sane ::: Artwork

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1.Watch That Man4:30
2.Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)5:07
3.Drive-In Saturday4:36
4.Panic In Detroit4:27
5.Cracked Actor3:01
7.The Prettiest Star3:31
8.Let's Spend The Night Together3:10
9.The Jean Genie4:06
10.Lady Grinning Soul3:52


Half a great album. Mick Ronson's guitar plays a more prominent role, for which I am thankful, churning out gutbucket riffs by the Yardbird-full.

If on the last album Bowie went for a hyped-up version of T. Rex, here he apes The Rolling Stones - the giveaway's the reference to Mick Jagger in "Drive-In Saturday", an anthemic ballad that was so good that Mott the Hoople wanted it as the follow-up to "All the Young Dudes", which Bowie had graciously lent the band (he didn't want to give up "Drive-In Saturday" though).

And the character in the opener "Watch That Man" is probably Jagger too - He talks like a jerk, but he can eat you with a fork and spoon. The raunchy, slowed-down groove proves that Bowie can play more than one style of three-chord rock successfully - dig the killer riffs on "Jean Genie" and "Panic in Detroit".

The title track is a spookily elegant pun on 'Who'll love a lad insane?', and the homosexual whore / john pickup in "The Cracked Actor" is Bowie at his queen bitchiest.

The rest I don't care for. "Time" finds Bowie in his tortorous ballad mode, archly singing about New York Doll Billy Murcia's 1972 death from alcohol poisoning. "The Prettiest Star" and "Lady Grinning Soul" are limp-wristed exercises of Bowie at his most fey, and the cover "Let's Spend the Night Together" (I knew I was forgetting some other Stones connection) is a total mistake.

A pretty conventional album for Bowie, and enjoyable despite its inconsistencies. Scratch it up as a good but minor album.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

Alright, I'll fess up. If I'm going to rate Aladdin Sane this highly, then I'm a lad insane, seeing as most reviews I've read are lukewarm at best.

But I swear, I can listen to this album and enjoy the freaking dickens out of it. Nonetheless, I can still agree with everyone who says it's a weak sequel to Ziggy Stardust, with nowhere near the level of bright songwriting, or melodies, or that overall 'epic' quality.

At the same time however, seeing as that album was a masterpiece, there was still plenty of room for a weaker follow-up to still be considered 'great' (else I'm a starry-eyed David Bowie fanboy who can't think straight!!).

This album features everything that makes David Bowie great - fantastic melodies and an alien sparkle. There's not a whole lot of originality here though, I'd say it's even less original than Ziggy Stardust, since most of the songs can be classified as either 'lounge-jazz', or 'show-tunes', or 'R&B', or ordinary 'Hard Rock'. But Bowie's able to add some sort of extra edge to them, turning what would have be ordinary ditties into something worth blasting out of your stereo at a level much higher than your eardrums can handle. And I've done that plenty of times! ... something I'll remember when I'm 60 and in need of hearing aids.

There's not much use really in comparing this album to Ziggy Stardust though - they're very different records. Ziggy Stardust was much more of a pop album, whereas Aladdin Sane is more rock'n'roll, and Bowie has never rocked this hard.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

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.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

Although it's still very good, Aladdin Sane is something of a step down after the twin peaks of Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. Possibly the main reason for the album's lower status in the Bowie catalogue is that it fails to break much new ground, and that's something of an anomaly for a Bowie album of the time.

If there is anything new, it's the subtle touches of Jazz and R&B, courtesy of new pianist Mike Garson. And as Mick Ronson is still onboard, that means plenty of riff-laden rockers like the opening "Watch That Man", and the single "The Jean Genie".

Perhaps another reason for the album's lesser status is that it doesn't quite have the coherent feel of its predecessors, it lacks a consistent vision or coherent sound. That isn't crucial though, as Aladdin Sane is still punchy and entertaining, and Bowie hadn't stayed with Glam long enough to entirely wear it out, even if the weird campy ballads and trashy throwaways here are artistic dead ends.

For starters, the album includes some of the lesser singles from the Bowie of this era. The bluesy rocker "The Jean Genie" and the piano-based ballad "Drive In Saturday" are both solid enough, but neither is electrifying in the way that antecedents "Ziggy Stardust" and "Life On Mars" were. And the singles are overshadowed anyway, by the opening one/two punch of the sharp glammy "Watch That Man" and the cabaret-flavoured title track, coloured by Garson's jazz piano.

Some might object to the pair of decadent throwaways - the sexually explicit "Cracked Actor", and a trashy cover of The Rolling Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together" - but they are energetic and fun. If any of these songs could be considered 'weak', then it's campy ballads like "The Prettiest Star", though they're merely unremarkable really.

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])

Aladdin Sane was the first Bowie album that failed to grow appreciably over its predecessor, if not in quality then at least in diversity, and one that finds Bowie oddly unsure of himself.

It's essentially Ziggy's comeback sans concept or attempts at meaning, being a rather simplistic set of ten sci-fi fever dreams and excuses to posture shamelessly. Of course, nobody quite postured shamelessly like Bowie, and his band were still one of the better fast-rock outfits of the early-70's, so maybe marking time was better than shooting the whole Glam thing into the bin.

A quick listen gives up the classic nonsensical stomp-rocker "The Jean Genie", the savage "Cracked Actor" and "Panic in Detroit", and the ecstatic "Watch That Man", very good Spiders rockers each one, probably thanks more to the band than Bowie's writing skills, which never advance much beyond the 'hook with words that sound cool together' level.

"Cracked Actor" is pretty acidic I suppose, with Bowie cajoling his subject to crack baby crack, show me you're real, which I guess is what just about everybody wanted Bowie to do at the time, but the rest of the tracks are "Suffragette City" re-spins only. Still, that's not bad considering most bands reconfigure and re-release their best songs much more than Bowie did, and at least "Suffragette City" was a kickass song.

The slow songs, along with the points where Bowie decides to get wacky with his artistry, is where Aladdin Sane begins to feel like it's a hefty two hours long instead of 40 minutes. Bowie is into big band, lotsa piano, lotsa saxophone overstatement this time round, so a song like "Time" - which on Hunky Dory would've been small and cute - begins to weigh a bazillion pounds with its crazy Nazi cabaret section that sounds like a reject from Springtime for Hitler.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])