The opening sounds of mechanics and trains indicates that perhaps David Bowie had discovered Kraftwerk about this time, and the following year's Low
would reinforce that.
Anyway, the epic opener is something you really have to get your head around in order to enjoy this album to any real extent. Apart from that title song only five other songs are present, and one of those is the inexcusably simplistic pub-rock of "TVC15", easily the worst of the bunch.
Still, going back to the opening title track, it's a song that introduces one of Bowie's great character creations - the Thin White Duke. The song sounds magnificent, with good lyrics, though it didn't need to be as long given its position at the start of the album, rather than say the end. That seems a poor decision as far as sequencing the album is concerned.
A far better opener, as a knock-out punch to follow-up the hugely successful Young Americans
, would've been "Golden Years", a classic Bowie single, riding on a strong funk guitar groove and pop hooks in the chorus.
Bowie was apparently so out of his head on cocaine that he can't even remember recording this album. Such a fact makes the sheer beauty of "Word On A Wing" even more remarkable - whatever Bowie was experiencing in his personal life, with him becoming ever more remote, the feeling in the vocals of "Word On A Wing" is something to be treasured and marvelled at. Luxurious backing vocals, also provided by Bowie, also enhance the track hugely.
I've already mentioned "TVC15", a song I've never quite been able to enjoy. It does have some merit, the introduction is kooky. Sadly, the song deteriorates as it progresses, with uninteresting lyrics and an absence of strong vocal hooks. Still, it breaks up the album, the following song being another wonderful track, a brilliant funk / soul track that could've come from the pen of Isaac Hayes, circa "Shaft".
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews