Review Summary: A Lad Insane.
When you have a blueprint as delicious as Ziggy Stardust
, what is there to do other than repeat the formula that transformed you into a superstar? And, essentially, that’s what David Bowie did on Aladdin Sane
- belted out another tantalising slice of glam rock glory; albeit with a few scant tweaks and adjustments.
Evolving his Ziggy character into the lightening-bolt faced Aladdin Sane, forever immortalised by the shock of flame-red hair atop Bowie’s lavishly decorated face; Aladdin Sane was, by Bowie’s sometimes dubious accounts, “Ziggy goes to America”. Having begun to pick up small traces of success stateside (still far from reaching the levels of fame achieved back home - Aladdin Sane
debuted at #1 in the UK, compared to the steady climb to #17 the album managed in the US), Bowie’s firsthand experience of touring and travelling the States left an indelible mark, as evidenced by Aladdin Sane
’s wealth of references to it’s iconic cities - New York (‘The Jean Genie’), Detroit (‘Panic in Detroit’), Los Angeles (‘Cracked Actor’), to name a few.
The album is still naturally buoyed by links and references to Britain, most identifiably the exhilarating cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Let’s Spend The Night Together’, as well as a direct reference to the aforementioned band’s front man on ‘Drive-In Saturday’ (“When people stared in Jagger’s eyes and scored”). Speaking of ‘Drive-In Saturday’, one can’t express enough how fantastic it is. An apocalyptic tale of two youngsters who struggle make love due to the irradiation caused by a fictitious nuclear attack; the number somehow manages to remain light, swaying with warm passion throughout its 4 minutes and 36 seconds. Fleshed out by phased synthesisers and sultry sax warbles; the track is undercut by a 1950’s do-wop vibe, and is undoubtedly one of the finest songs in Bowie’s hit-cannon.
Apart from swaggering rockers like the paranoid-as-hell ‘Panic In Detroit’, the dangerously sexy ‘Cracked Actor’ (easily the heaviest tune on the album), and the irrepressible riff and sporadic harmonica of ‘The Jean Genie’; Aladdin Sane
finds room to experiment and diversify via the phenomenal jazz piano flourishes of Mike Garson. His talent ensures numbers such as the exquisite ‘Lady Grinning Soul’ and the bizarre title track reach levels of sumptuousness never previously witnessed on a Bowie record.
Conclusively, Aladdin Sane
takes the glam foundations and lyrical concepts laid down by last years effort and builds upon them to include slight avant-garde leanings (such as the irregularity of the gorgeously odd ‘Time’), and rougher rock tracks - rougher in comparison with Ziggy
’s polished, sparkly glam-rock, anyway. That’s precisely why it works - why fix something that isn’t broke? Sure, the album was cut super-fast and can seem a tad rushed if one digs beneath the surface; sure, it doesn’t expand much on the Ziggy Stardust
blueprint; sure, it’s perhaps not as
ambitious or deep as last years’ effort; but when all is said and done, Aladdin Sane
still remains as one of the most instantly enjoyable albums Bowie ever recorded, and is too much of an uninhibited delight to condemn.