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David Bowie - Tonight CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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2.29 | 140 ratings

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1 stars Ah, now there's the hideous album I was expecting last time. From a dollars and cents perspective, it made sense for Bowie to get an album out as soon as possible in order to capitalize on the commercial success of Let's Dance, but consider: it had taken Bowie more than two years to come up with two good new songs, an updated version of a good track he'd done in a collaboration half a decade previous, a good cover of a song from that same period, and a bunch of mediocre filler. Somebody in Bowie's camp really should have been able to fight their syncophantic urges and make a case that it was a good idea to take some more time with the followup. Instead, we get an album with no great hit singles ("Blue Jean," one of only two songs on here credited solely to Bowie, might have been a moderate hit, but it's nowhere near as addictive and fun as the big three from the last album, and I'd actually say it kinda stinks), none of the absurdly incongruous and great guitar work SRV was able to provide on Let's Dance, and a whole lot of other problems. Bowie relies on his old friend Iggy Pop a lot on this album, and every instance of it is a disaster. "Don't Look Down" (credited to Pop and fellow Stooge James Williamson) and the title track (a cover of a track from Pop's 1977 solo album Lust for Life, though to be fair Bowie actually wrote it) are excursions into the world of directionless 80's synth-based faux reggae, and they're every bit as bad as that description makes them sound. "Neighborhood Threat," another retread from Lust for Life, attempts to rock out but is undermined by the production, and both "Tumble and Twirl" and "Dancing with the Big Boys" are messy, practically melodyless attempts at something dancable but that don't even really work on that level.

Guess what? This only leaves three more tracks! The cover of "God Only Knows," soaked with standard production values of the day, is just as shlocky as can possibly be. I'm not an enormous Beach Boys fan, and I'm not offended at the very idea of somebody covering the track (I think the cover Justin Hayward did a few years later on his Classic Blue album is just lovely), but this doesn't work on any level other than pure kitsch. The cover of the old Leiber and Stoller song, "I Keep Forgettin," is definitely better, as it's kinda fun and goofy, but it's still just a pleasant throwaway. And so that leaves the opener as the only track that even comes within sniffing distance of a great Bowie song. "Loving the Alien" would have been better served with a different production approach, of course, but it has enough legitimate anthemic and emotional power to justify its seven minutes, and it has the only really nice guitar solo on the album, so while it's not in the top-tier of Bowie tracks, I can at least envision how it might have reached that level in another incarnation.

It might be tempting to shrug one's shoulders on this and say something like, "Oh, this is just a product of its time, just enjoy it for what it is." If you think this, do yourself a favor and listen to this back-to-back with Purple Rain, which came out just a couple of months before this one. If you really can't tell the difference in quality between that (a good pop artist at the height of his powers) and this (another good pop artist entering a career valley), then I don't know what to tell you. Find "Loving the Alien" somewhere, but don't spend good money on this.

tarkus1980 | 1/5 |


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