I’ve read of Aladdin Sane as David Bowie just spinning the wheels of Ziggy Stardust, but that’s so off-base, because this isn’t all that much like Ziggy at all. There’s a lot of American influence on this album, and I’m sure I’m not the only person who hears that. I think that’s why I’ve always been a little bit less interested in this album than a lot of his others, because I don’t care all that much for American rock music in the ’70s when British was where it was at.
Actually, I hear a lot of Rolling Stones influence on the album. He covers Let’s Spend the Night Together even! But also Watch that Man is in their style. You can hear it in the honky-tonk piano (also on Time), background vocalists, and general swagger of the song – plus he even sounds like he’s trying to vocally emulate Mick Jagger to me. That same swagger has its fingerprints all over the album. This is the first time David Bowie sounded like a superstar. Throughout the album, he’s so confident, and there’s a superstar decadence like he could conquer the world (or sell it). He even name-drops Mick Jagger in Drive-In Saturday, one of my favorites on the album for its alien atmosphere and background “wop-doo-wa”. Bowie has always been good at ballads, I think, and I really enjoy the melody and everything of this song.
Panic in Detroit has super cool percussion and back-up vocals. I like when he plays with the drums and the rhythm, like on the saucy grooves on Man Who Sold the World and the whole hip-hop beats on the Ziggy album. Overall, the guitar riffs are a little crunchier on this album, like you can hear on the opener, this, and Cracked Actor.
CRACK BABY CRACK SHOW ME YR REAR is an A+ lyric, and I was so happy to hear him reference his love of bottoms again in Lazarus, a fan of butts to the very end.
I used to listen to the Deep Cuts station on satellite radio when I drove to school in high school, and that’s how I discovered this album via the title track. It’s insane (sorry), because it introduces Mike Garson who’s an awesome jazz pianist (whose piano on the whole album is so good), and he goes hard on the piano here. The album is worth his Aladdin Sane solo alone.
I’m always a little disappointed when I listen to The Prettiest Star, because it’s not nearly as good as the original version he did in 1970. The original is so lovely and stripped of the extra glammy stuff (and features Marc Bolan on guitar!). Both are great, but I feel like the original is more sincere, especially the story around it that Bowie called his wife and sang it to her. Listen to them both.
The second half of the album isn’t as strong as the first, despite Time and Lady Grinning Soul. Time has this amazing squealing guitar and is super sinister except for some of the verses that turn really emotional. I love it. Jean Genie is super well-known and while it’s no Cracked Actor, it has a very catchy (and crunchy) guitar riff. Then there’s Lady Grinning Soul. I love the swirling pianos and Bowie’s delivery is so different from the rest of the album. The bass is really wonderful and mesmerizing, as it is on the title track.
This isn’t as cohesive and tight as Ziggy, but it’s a bunch of great glam songs with solid guitar and amazing piano.