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David Bowie - Sorrow / Amsterdam CD (album) cover


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3 stars Aladdin Sane, probably my favourite album of David Bowie, was followed within the same year by one of his least notable albums ever, an all-covers release Pin-Ups. Haven't heard it completely, for frankly I'm not very interested in it. Bowie covers songs of e.g. Pink Floyd ('See Emily Play', easily the most interesting one), The Who and The Easybeats: in most cases such early/mid-60's pop songs I've never been very keen on. 'Sorrow' was originally a hit for The Merseys in 1966. I'm not sure if I've actually heard the original, but I can imagine it being faster and sounding notably different from Bowie's soulful and hurriless version. Not highly memorable song to start with, but the cover is done with a good taste and it feels as if Bowie might have written the whole thing himself. His vocals fit to the song very well.

However, the flipside song of this single is much more interesting, and not only because it didn't appear on Pin-Ups (or on any of Bowie's albums). Belgian-born Jacques Brel was a master songsmith of the chanson -- many of his songs were succesfully covered by the late Scott Walker. 'Amsterdam' is one of Brel's most powerful songs. The vivid, cinematic lyrics are very much the raison d'etre for the whole song, which demands for a raw, ripped-down and heart-breaking performance from the singer. And that's exactly what Bowie does. His vocals are backed by acoustic guitar only, but he really makes the seedy scenes from the port of Amsterdam come alive. Both the spirit of Jacques Brel's original is captivated perfectly and Bowie puts his own heart & soul into it. Definitely not a song for casual or often repeated listening, but a song that makes one's hair stand, if the listener is in the right mood.

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Posted Tuesday, September 24, 2019 | Review Permalink

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