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David Bowie - Young Americans CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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2.83 | 218 ratings

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4 stars After three albums (plus an uninspiring covers disc) Bowie realised that the glam rock game was getting overcrowded, and decided to jump ship before the genre turned into a complete parody of itself. Taking a leaf out of his old pal Marc Bolan's book, he decided to spice up his sound by injecting a little soul into his music - but this time around he overdosed, creating a full-fledged Philly soul album with the aid of new guitarist sidekick Carlos Alomar and a few guest appearances from one Mr. J. Lennon.

This is an album it took me a long time to fully get to grips with. Around half of it, I really loved straight out of the gate - the title track, Right, Somebody Up there Likes Me, and especially Fascination benefit from fine backing singers, an excellent replication of the soul aesthetic, and Bowie's cocaine-fuelled, wild-eyed, barely-controlled performance.

It's where the album slows down a bit that it becomes a bit harder to appreciate. Even if you are a Bowie fan, this is still a radical departure both from his preceding glam rock period and from his subsequent art rock period running through Station to Station, the Berlin albums, and Scary Monsters. For the listener, it is best to step aside from such expectations and just let the soul aesthetic wash over you without thinking too hard about comparing it to anything else; in parallel, as far as the album is concerned, it is at its best when Bowie completely gives himself over to the particular zeitgeist he was tapping into here and falters the most when he starts overthinking it.

I remain of the opinion that the cover of Across the Universe on here is a bit of a misstep, but after some time I think it's not quite as bad as I first thought it was, and I've begun to enjoy the strange, repetitive avant-soul of Fame. Can You Hear Me? is a bit of an overlooked gem, bookended as it is by the Lennon-inspired tracks.

The Who Can I Be Now? boxed set includes The Gouster, an unreleased album which is essentially a highly reconfigured early pass at Young Americans with a different running order and somewhat different mixes on most of those songs which overlap, with only Young Americans itself being the same across the two versions. It's a useful companion piece to this one, and having heard both I think I can appreciate where Bowie was going with this much better than when I had only heard the one.

Warthur | 4/5 |


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