Another in our series of Home Audio Exercises with advice on what you should be listening for when critically evaluating your copy (or ours) of the album.
The average RCA copy of this album is bright, grainy and hard to some degree, like most RCA pressings I come across. If you’ve been stuck with an average copy, you’re not going to believe how smooth and sweet the best ones sound.
This is one of my favorite Bowie albums. Nobody seems to care about it anymore. They dismiss it as disco junk, but it actually has some of his best music on it. I especially like the song Win. David Sanborn’s saxophone sounds like it’s coming from 60 feet behind Bowie, a nice effect.
Both sides here are AGAIG — As Good As It Gets, Master Tape Sound. The overall sound is open, spacious, and transparent with lots of DEEP bass. You can easily pick out all the background vocals, and Bowie’s voice sounds just right. The strings have amazing amounts of texture — you can really hear the sound of the rosin on the bow. The highs are silky sweet and the bottom end is punchy and powerful. You won’t believe how superb the cymbal crashes sound — you’re right there in the room with these guys!
A Great Copy But No Demo Disc
This recording will never win any awards for sound. It’s good but it ain’t that good. Sonically I’d put it somewhere between Ziggy Stardust (amazing) and Station to Station (decent but problematic). If you want to hear Young Americans at its best, this copy will let you do that, but I doubt you’ll be demo-ing your stereo to others with this.
I have an original British pressing of this album which is quite a bit smoother. In fact, it’s a bit too smooth and loses some of the energy found on the best domestic copies like this one. There are always trade offs in audio and this appears to be one of them.
I Got Turned On to David Sanborn
This was the record that turned me on to David Sanborn. After hearing this album, and reading that he was responsible for the amazing sax work found here, I went out and bought a bunch of his jazz albums. They were uniformly awful I’m sorry to say. It was years before he actually made a good one, Backstreet, which is still a personal favorite.
By the way, that’s John Lennon on guitar for Across the Universe and Fame.