David Bowie – Aladdin Sane (1973)

Sigh like Twig the Wonder Kid

I was going to listen to the album for the first time in many moons. I put it on and a few seconds into the first song “Watch that man” I got goose bumps running up my arms. I was flung back through time to my childhood’s summers out on the island Tjörn on the Swedish west coast. I was walking on the narrow sloping path through the gnarly pine trees towards the warm cliffs down at the waterline for yet another dip in the salty ocean. Sverker, Lottie, Ulrika and Marika were not far behind. It was the best of times. “Aladdin Sane” was played over and over again on the TDK AD cassette tape. On the flip side I had “Diamond Dogs” but we loved “Aladdin Sane” the most…

I love this album and it feels cemented in my mind. It’s such a treat to sit down and listen to it from start to beginning. Time moves differently when I hold the large foldout cover of the LP and stare into Ziggy’s face. Truly one of his top 3 album covers.

“Watch that man” is a straight forward rocker, not the most interesting song on the album but a great lead off track. It also, apparently, unlocks all that nostalgia. “Aladdin sane” is a little bit of a challenge. It took me many years to love this complex song, the jarring experimental melody, the jazz piano almost progressive in nature. Nowadays, I love it. The rest of side A is even better, borderline superb.

“Drive in Saturday” may be the second-best song on the album but damned me if it is not my personal favourite. Again the strong memories from my childhood. It is somewhat melancholic but it packs a great melody. “Panic in Detroit”, the slow burning rocker with unrelenting drums. David almost sounds bored when he sings. “Cracked actor” may be the ultimate Bowie song from the seventies with the edgy lyrics, the melody, the instruments, the singing. It’s a blast.

The second side is great but a little more uneven. “Time” must be the best song from the album. It’s dramatic and theatrical. David’s singing is among his best all time. It is getting better and better the more you listen to it. The song is of course brutally good live. A song that heavily influenced Swedish singer Magnus Uggla I would think. “Livets teater”!

“The prettiest star” is somewhat of a filler. But you can never go wrong with hand claps! And you must love the bap-bap by the backing singers. The only real miss on the album is the never to be missed cover song. This time it’s Stones’ “Let’s spend the night together” that gives me the shivers. No value at all to me. Why? How? Why?

“The Jean Genie” is a great slow rocker, a staple for live shows. Also a favourite of mine. One of many songs on the album with interesting lyrics. The last song “Lady Grinning soul” is like a companion to “Aladdin sane” and “Time” with the flowing piano, the mysterious atmosphere and more advanced musical theme. A great ending to the album.

Song for song it may not be the best bunch of Bowie songs, stand alone, but collectively as an album it is up there among my top 3. Of course, it gets a bonus by force of nostalgia, but that is how it should be with music you have loved your whole life.

My rating: 9/10

Side A:

  1. Watch that man
  2. Aladdin sane (1913-1938-197?)
  3. Drive-in Saturday
  4. Panic in Detroit
  5. Cracked actor

Side B:

  1. Time
  2. The prettiest star
  3. Let’s spend the night together (cover of the Rolling Stones song)
  4. The Jean Genie
  5. Lady grinning soul

Best songs: “Drive-in Saturday”, “Time”, “Cracked actor”and “The Jean Genie”

Produced by: David Bowie and Ken Scott

Media: 2013 remaster 180 gram vinyl, reissued in 2015 as part of the Five Years (1969-1973) box.

Released: April 13, 1973

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