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David Bowie Young Americans album cover
2.82 | 195 ratings | 14 reviews | 9% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 1975

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. Young Americans (5:10)
2. Win (4:44)
3. Fascination (Bowie, Luther Vandross) (5:43)
4. Right (4:13)
5. Somebody Up There Likes Me (6:30)
6. Across The Universe (John Lennon, Paul McCartney) (4:30)
7. Can You Hear Me? (5:04)
8. Fame (Bowie, Lennon, Carlos Alomar) (4:12)

Total time 40:06

Bonus tracks on 1991 remaster:
9. Who Can I Be Now? (1974, previously unreleased) (4:36)
10. It's Gonna Be Me (1974, previously unreleased) (6:27)
11. John, I'm Only Dancing Again (1974, Single) (6:57)

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / vocals, guitar, piano, vocal arrangements, co-producer

- Tony Visconti / string arranger, co-producer
- Carlos Alomar / guitar
- Mike Garson / piano
- David Sanborn / sax
- Willie Weeks / bass
- Andy Newmark / drums
- Larry Washington / congas
- John Lennon / vocals & guitar (6,8)
- Earl Slick / guitar (6,8)
- Emir Ksasan / bass (6,8)
- Dennis Davis / drums (6,8)
- Ralph MacDonald / percussion (6,8)
- Pablo Rosario / percussion (6,8)
- Luther Vandross / backing vocals, vocal arrangements
- Ava Cherry / backing vocals
- Robin Clark / backing vocals
- Anthony Hinton / backing vocals
- Diane Sumler / backing vocals
- Warren Peace / backing vocals
- Jean Fineberg / backing vocals (6,8)
- Jean Millington / backing vocals (6,8)

Releases information

Artwork: Eric Stephen Jacobs (photo)

LP RCA Victor - RS 1006 (1975, UK)

CD RCA - PD80998 (1984, Europe)
CD EMI - CDEMD 1021 (1991, Europe) Remastered by Toby Mountain with 3 bonus tracks
CD EMI - 521 9050 (1999, Europe) 24-bit remaster by Nigel Reeve & Peter Mew

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
Edit this entry

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DAVID BOWIE Young Americans ratings distribution

(195 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(9%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(26%)
Good, but non-essential (36%)
Collectors/fans only (23%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)

DAVID BOWIE Young Americans reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy

Bowie has been very diverse so far. Folk, hard-rock, glam-rock or just simply rock. The fans have been through these musical genres. Which direction now?

We've seen him deeply influenced by the US during "A Lad Insane", and to a lesser extent "Diamond Dogs" as well. Some soul-ish atmosphere could already be felt while listening to "1984" and Rock & Roll With Me". And he will (deeply) pursue in this style. Which marks a drastic change, not only musically but in terms of look as well.

From now on, David will surprise his fans with almost each of his release. Lots of them won't understand this dramatic swap (I belong to these, as far as "Young Americans" is concerned). During the post "Diamond Dogs" tour, Bowie starts a "Philly Dogs Tour" to present his new musical orientation. In November 1974, in front of an unprepared audience the new show is taking place.

As an opening act, his band is playing some soul anthems la "You Keep Me Hanging On". On top of this, the band seems unprepared and even the great Carlos Alomar couldn't save the bill. The reactions are rather mixed to say the least.

During the final mixing of the album, he will invite a few fans who were waiting for an autograph outside the studio (in Philly) to listen to a couple of songs and give their first impressions. According the legend, David was rather anxious after having heard the comments. I bet you!

I have never been into soul nor funk, so there were basically no reasons at all why I should like this album, except my admiration for the man. But it was not enough. You know, the no more heroes syndrome I guess.

The only bearable song to my ears is the title track. A political observation of the US as they are in these mid seventies. And the three bonus tracks available on the remastered version won't change my mind. The extended version (almost seven minutes) of "John, I'm only Dancing" is totally indigestible.

Bowie's sole number one hit in the US is the co-written Bowie-Alomar-Lennon (yes, John). The funky "Fame". Lennon was even surprised to be mentioned as such;he would even declare not having had a lot of influence for this song.

David is also busy with his actor career. He will have a major role in "The Man Who Fell To Earth". Sounds as if the movie was written for him.

In those days, Bowie is fed up with the rock scene. He declared: "I'm not interested in rock'n'roll any more. Rock'n'roll is completely dead. It looks like a toothless old lady".

David is severely under heavy drug influence (like his old friend Iggy) and some of his extreme right declarations will be inputed to his drug addiction.

The album will fall short of the first spot in the UK. But it will still peak at a very decent second place. My rating is two stars. Sorry David.

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars Judging from this album's cover it looks like David has ditched his glam-progressive rock bi-musical personality and given us the ultimate sex album that we all knew he was capable of. It's a pretty funny tongue-in-cheek cover with soft air-brushed ciggerette smoke, spectral highlights on his bracelet, some kind of nuclear explosion behind his hair and David's fetching come hither look. So the question is, can David step into the ring with lover's RnB greats like Marvin Gaye and Barry White, can he take on Isaac Hayes, the master of progressive musical sex odysseys. The answer is not quite. There are some great RnB songs on here that deliver on the promise hinted at on David's faux centerfold album cover, then there are some other songs that probably should have been on another album.

Win is probably the best song on this album. Lush is the best word to describe this aural equivalent of a soft core porno movie. The strings and David Sanborn's late night sax playing are the icing on this delicious bit of sweet ear cake. Other songs that fit well with this theme of sensual RnB include Right and Can You Hear Me. There are some other RnB songs on this album, but they are a little more upbeat and funky. Some of these songs would include Young Americans, Somebody Up There Likes Me and Fascination. These six songs could work well on an album together, but then there are two other songs that kind of throw the whole mix off.

First of all there is Across the Universe, which is Bowie's plodding version of an already plodding John Lennon song. David tries to make the song more 'soulful' with his overwrought singing and it used to seem like it fit back in the day, but this song hasn't aged well and it no longer sounds like it belongs on this album. The other sore thumb is Fame. Fame is a great song on it's own, but it doesn't fit the rest of the album. It's too weird and harsh to fit with the other smooth RnB songs.

We are all too familiar with Fame now, it has been played to death on the radio, but there was a time when it would turn heads and either shock people or make them laugh. This song was on the cutting edge of the exploding mid-70s funk scene with it's hard post-James Brown rhythms, dissonant guitar chords and weird art-rock vocals and it gave Bowie access to a whole new audience. I can remember one evening in the mid-70s, I was chillin with my dance music loving girlfriend and the TV show Soul Train was playing in the background when all of a sudden I about fell over because there was 'Space Oddity' Bowie talking to Don Cornelius and the dancers about his love for soul music. Oh David.

OK, there isn't any 'prog-rock' on here, but if you want to expand your collection a bit, this might be better to put on the next time your significant whatever comes over instead of all seven movements of your favorite rock opera/symphony.

Review by Chicapah
2 stars I've always been rather ambivalent towards David Bowie. I do admire his willingness to be a musical chameleon, to be a trend-setter instead of a fad follower, to follow his fickle muse wherever she leads. All of which takes balls of brass. But, other than a few of his songs that I find highly original and enjoyable, his creations have never thrilled me much and I never felt the urge to buy any of his records. Except this one. I picked up this LP in '75 because Wayne Sloan, the new lead singer in my band, thought Bowie hung the moon and coerced us into adding some of his most recent material to our repertoire. That was fine because staying current was a requirement for finding decent-paying gigs and besides, Wayne could imitate the Thin White Duke down to every hiccup. I dutifully learned my guitar parts and then shelved the album for decades until I came across it the other day and wondered if it has gotten better with age. It hasn't.

The slick cover pose says volumes. David ain't Ziggy anymore. Seems that in the midst of his tour promoting "Diamond Dogs" Bowie booked time in Sigma Sound Studios (the home of Philly Soul) and became convinced that it was time for him to become a black R&B artist. He hired former James Brown sideman Carlos Alomar and a host of crackerjack session men like Andy Newmark, Willie Weeks, David Sanborn and Luther Vandross to assist him. This was all well and good but David was still the main composer and therein lies the gist of the album's troubles. This pale white boy from London couldn't morph into Superfly overnight and he doesn't even come close.

"Young Americans" stumbles out of the gate with one of the thinnest saxophone sounds that Sanborn ever put on tape but Bowie's excited, word-crammed vocal may be the best of the whole album. Not a lot of ch-ch-changes going on throughout the proceedings but the mildly abstract, esoteric lyrics ("All the way from Washington/her breadwinner begs of the bathroom floor/'we live for just these twenty years/do we have to die for the fifty more?'") are some of the most interesting he's ever produced. Musically it's a pretty good effort overall but the horribly out-of-tune guitar at the end of the bridge section makes me cringe ever time.

Unfortunately the compliments stop there. On "Win" David tries his damndest to be a soulful crooner but someone should have talked him out of it. "Well, I hope that I'm crazy." he sings and maybe part of him knew he was recklessly venturing into restricted territory that he had no business in. Vandross's chorale arrangements are splendid throughout but they're ultimately wasted on this vacuous stuff. "Fascination" is a too-busy disco ditty that's repetitive beyond reason. Bowie's falsetto is not one of his strong points but perhaps his wispy whimperings are what inspired the then-teenage Prince to follow suit. Who knows? David even has the audacity to utter the phrase "Sho Nuff" midway through and once again he broaches his mental stability with the line "I know that people think I'm crazy/but pleasure seeks this thing like fascination." Whatever.

"Right" is yet another in a series of extremely tepid tunes that go nowhere. He warbles that there's "never no turning back" but he should have anyway. "Somebody Up There Likes Me" represents a slight improvement in the songwriting department at this juncture but it's still entirely too predictable to give life to this mannequin. David strives to be Marvin Gaye even if it kills him. Or us. A cover of "All Across the Universe" follows and, even though I've never been wild about the tune in general, it's got to be the worst version of a Beatles' song I've ever heard. Bowie and Lennon had been hanging out together in the mid 70s and perhaps this was David's way of honoring his friend but this is more of a put-down than a tribute. Bowie comes off manically overwrought and ridiculous in his delivery. I hope John never had to endure this travesty. "Can You Hear Me" suffers from the same lame deficiencies as those that preceded it. It's said that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. I'm sure Bowie meant well but this is just BORING beyond belief. "I'm checking you out one day/to see if I'm faking it all," he avows. Wonder if these days he ever revisits this snooze-fest? I doubt it.

As far as prog goes, "Fame" is the only track that comes within a hundred miles of the genre. Built upon one of Alomar's funky guitar riffs, the number is as infectious and alluring as its subject matter and succeeds mainly because David isn't trying to be something he's not and the clever words don't pull any punches. "Fame, what you like is in the limo/Fame, what you get is no tomorrow/Fame, what you need you have to borrow." he laments. Turned out to be his first #1 hit single in the states and it has stood the test of time well. Pretty much everyone finds something to like about this one.

Without the title cut and "Fame" (both of which might be more wisely acquired on a greatest hits CD) this album would qualify as a humorless prank played on his fans. "Then why review it at all?" you might ask. Because it's there. And because anyone who is tempted to purchase "Young Americans" needs to know what they're going to get for their hard-earned buck. As I expressed earlier, I have no beef with David Bowie. Anyone who's lasted this long in the cutthroat record biz deserves serious props but a turd is still a stinker no matter how much perfume you spray on it and proggers should keep their distance from this one.

Review by Evolver
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
2 stars On this album, Bowie foregoes playing the sax himself, and gives the job over to David Sanborn. That, and the big band he assembled for this release gives this album a sound reminiscent of the Saturday Night Live Orchestra playing Philadelphia soul. Bowie does okay on the two his here, Young Americans and Fame (the latter with the assistance of some guy named John Lennon), but the rest of the tracks are completely forgettable, including the three bonus tracks on the Rykodisc release.

And prog? No, there's not a hint of it to be found here.

If you want to hear a white guy singing Philly soul, get a Todd Rundgren album.

Review by fuxi
4 stars All through the 1970s David Bowie could do no wrong. Album after album formed a stepping-stone in a fascinating musical evolution, and YOUNG AMERICANS is no exception. (The only 1970s album I personally consider a slight dip is ALADDIN SANE, which lacks some of the energy and the natural flow of, say, ZIGGY STARDUST or "HEROES" - but even ALADDIN SANE still contains a handful of indispensable tracks.)

It is strange to see that YOUNG AMERICANS has little to recommend it in the eyes of Progarchives reviewers. What exactly is it that irrates these people? Do they dislike the album because it ain't rock 'n' roll, because David dared to venture into "blue-eyed soul" territory (and let's face it, this IS one of the most inventive examples of the genre), because there are no hysteric guitar solos by the likes of Robert Fripp or Earl Slick?

Whatever the reason may be, detractors of the album are WRONG.

First of all, YOUNG AMERICANS is fun. Its three gorgeous ballads especially ("Win", "Right" and "Can You Hear Me") have been a major source of pleasure to me for more than three decades. Their melodies are lovely, the lyrics are firmly tongue-in-cheek, and David 's interaction with the backing vocalists is a triumph of style. It's this music, more than any other, which had a huge influence on Culture Club, ABC and a host of "New Romantics" which brightened up the British hit charts in the early 1980s. Oops! Maybe I should be careful what I say! "Progressive rock" and "hit charts" do not fit together! (Still, I'd rather listen to ABC's LEXICON OF LOVE than to that dreary "Owner of Lonely Heart"...)

Secondly, Y.A. is of musical importance. It's the first album on which David sings in the lower register throughout. Until Y.A., he'd mainly affected "parlando" styles and high-pitched delivery, strongly influenced by the likes of Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, Marc Bolan and Anthony Newley. "Sweet Thing" (on DIAMOND DOGS) was the first track where he tried a totally different manner, and on Y.A. he takes this "crooning" to unexpected heights. Surely anyone who's got an inch of music in them will be astonished by David's lead vocal on the album's title track. Not only does the track have a politico- philosophical meaning which goes far beyond the navel-gazing that had hitherto characterised most of David's work ("Took him minutes, took her nowhere, Heaven knows she'd have taken anything" etc.) but it's also an acrobatic tour-de-force. David would further develop this crooning, and use it to great effect (much to be parodied by satirists) on certain albums (such as STATION TO STATION and "HEROES") which are considered the greatest masterpieces in his oeuvre. Another notable fact is that Y.A. contained his first collaboration with the great Carlos Alomar, whose electric guitar can be distinguished on "Win" and "Right", neatly foreshadowing David's greatest ever ballad (even though it was not written by him personally), "Wild is the Wind".

The two collaborations with John Lennon I consider to be of limited importance. "Fame" has never appealed to me (although its live performance was one of the highlights of the Serious Moonlight tour, a wonder to behold!) and "Across the Universe" is drearier than the dire Beatles original. Also, listening to Y.A. in the 21st century, I must admit I get more than a little irritated by the fact that David Sanborn's sax is used as solo instrument on virtually EVERY track. But what the hey. This is still a lovely album. If you can get hold of it, I especially recommend the 1991 Ryko remaster, which features (among other goodies) a highly inspired re-working of David's early 'glam' single "John, I'm only dancing".

YOUNG AMERICANS is not "a masterpiece of progressive music", but in my view it deserves a place in all record collections which aim to honour the greatest artists of the 1970s. Four stars, no doubt about it!

Review by Dobermensch
1 stars Uuurghh! The worst Bowie album ever recorded... Awfulness from beginning to end. The absolute nadir of all his albums... Shockingly shallow and predictable. I'd rather listen to 'Tin Machine' than this garbage.

What on earth's going on with all this Americanism stuff? It sounds so alien and unwarranted other than gaining a few yankee bucks. All I know is that 'Young Americans' is utterly out of place in the chronology of Bowie's groundbreaking 70's works.

Tons of hideous saxophone and gospel singing are horrendously overpresent, which make my toes curl in annoyance.

In my opinion this is an utterly plain and dull album from the mid 70's that presents nothing new or interesting at all.

Give me the other worst Bowie album - 'Never Let me Down Again' any day... Yeeucchhh... Must be the drugs...

Review by tarkus1980
2 stars This has to be one of the most fascinating and confusing "throwaway" albums ever released by a major pop star. Years onward, Bowie's desire to make a funk/soul/proto- disco album seems somewhat odd, but not quite shocking; after all, the soul influences had been becoming more prevalent for about a year, courtesy of Diamond Dogs and the ensuing tour, and it's not too surprising that Bowie would jump onto the disco bandwagon when the genre wasn't quite mainstream yet. What fascinates me most about this album, personally, is that I'm still not sure if Bowie actually enjoyed the music he was making during this period. Just a year-and-a-half after releasing this album, he described this album, in the infamous Playboy interview, as, "... the definitive plastic soul record. It's the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak, written and sung by a white limey." What kind of messed-up back-handed compliment is that supposed to be??!!! Part of me almost gets the feeling that the place of this album in Bowie's catalogue is actually most analogous to the place of Cruising with Rueben and the Jets in Zappa's catalogue, but Bowie never really showed a knack for full-fledged genre satire in the rest of his career, so I'm not sure how accurate that is. What a strange dude.

Of course, as much fun as can be had in ruminating over what this album means (a silly thing to do, given how lightweight it is), I can't escape the fact that I only enjoy three tracks on here: the title track, "Fascination" and "Fame." The title track is an upbeat classic full of lyrical allusions to not-so-upbeat social issues, and the backing vocal-driven groove is one of the most addictive ideas to make it onto a Bowie album. Plus, David's singing here is far better than anything on David Live, especially in the great moment when he sings, "Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?" in falsetto.

The other two great tracks of this album join it on the list of "awesome songs to listen to when driving down a highway on a sunny day." "Fascination" may just be straight-up dance music, but between the funky guitar licks, the backing vocals and the various keyboard sounds (I know it's not listed, but I'm pretty danged sure I hear a clavinet in there, which is good given my theory that there's pretty much no track that can't be improved with the addition of clavinet), it lives up to everything I'd hope for from such a track. Bowie's singing is no great shakes here, but I can work around that. And as for "Fame," well, I wasn't too impressed on first listen, but every listen since has driven home to me why even detractors of the album tend to praise this one. This one has a co-writing credit for John Lennon, but that's probably overkill; his contributions were limited to having provided Bowie inspiration for the lyrics and in contributing some backing vocals. Nah, this one belongs to Bowie (and to Carlos Alomar, Bowie's new guitarist, who contributed the main riff that drives the song) and he deserves all the praise for it. The main thing that interests me in the song is how it's just such a strange combination of funkiness and noisy stiffness, the kind of music only a really drugged-out white man trying to play the black man's music could conceive. I mean that as a compliment, obviously.

Too bad that's only three songs, with five remaining. The only track that stands out strongly is the ill-conceived cover of "Across the Universe," with Lennon himself providing background vocals (given that Lennon hated the song seemingly within a few weeks of first writing it, it's not too surprising he gave his blessing to this version getting recorded). Let's just say that Bowie gave it a poor vocal interpretation and leave it at that. Otherwise, the album is pure muzak; "Somebody Up There Likes Me" and "Can You Hear Me" each could have been decent songs at half of their final lengths, but as is, they fail to leave a good impression (whereas "Win" and "Right" don't leave any impression at all).

Anyway, if you can find this for really cheap, give it a whirl, but otherwise, just look for the worthwhile tracks online. Thank goodness Bowie started snapping out of this phase about as quickly as he got into it.

Review by Warthur
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.

Latest members reviews

3 stars Better than Diamond Dogs. Either loved or panned, this huge change in Bowie's style was bound to confuse, if not offend, fans of his earlier works. Bowie was expert in completely changing styles, often just when his fans had accepted the previous style. But in doing so, he kept his own approach ... (read more)

Report this review (#1698178) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permanlink

2 stars I'll never understand how Bowie could managed to get from his extraordinary world, full of aliens, glitter and apocaliptyc worlds to a R&B pop "Young American". The last album was a good one, with pop hits and artistic seriousness. This is such a weak album, that all music sound kinda the same an ... (read more)

Report this review (#1207057) | Posted by GKR | Tuesday, July 8, 2014 | Review Permanlink

3 stars "Young Americans" was indeed a strong departure for Bowie. Although I wouldn't sit the album up there with his four and five star classics, it's still very good and it kicked off a new creative period. He had already signposted his change of direction on his last album. This one however, is so ... (read more)

Report this review (#615937) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Sunday, January 22, 2012 | Review Permanlink

3 stars David Bowie has played an impressive amount of styles in his musical career. Young Americans was the soul project of Bowie. He wanted to play soul music and hired a black female background choir to fulfill his wish. Entitled Young "Americans" this became his biggest commercial succes as Americans ar ... (read more)

Report this review (#185552) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

2 stars Young Americans is not of a genre I can appreciate. It does however have a dome good songs, but his lyrics are poor considerng the potency of the lyrics on Diamond Dogs. Having said that the title track is a masterpiece and captures a unique mood with its great lyrical imagery. Win is a good ... (read more)

Report this review (#185481) | Posted by burtonrulez | Monday, October 13, 2008 | Review Permanlink

3 stars Ziggy Stardust traded his guitar for a saxophone Young Americans was released in 1975 and has a much different sound and style than on Bowie's classic three (Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane). The style has suddenly ch-ch-ch-changed from glam rock to soul. During this period Bowie had de ... (read more)

Report this review (#175362) | Posted by Jake E. | Wednesday, June 25, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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