David Bowie / Aladdin Sane

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  • An outstanding vintage UK pressing of Bowie’s 1973 post-Ziggy classic with solid Double Plus (A++) sonic grades – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Remarkable for the richness, smoothness and warmth that the best Ken Scott Tube Recordings are renowned for
  • Plenty of Bowie Classics: Watch That Man; Aladdin Sane; Panic in Detroit; Cracked Actor; The Jean Genie; Lady Grinning Soul and more
  • “Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as ‘one of the most urgent, compelling and essential’ of his releases.”
  • Fun fact: Bowie “ruled the (British) album chart, accumulating an unprecedented 182 weeks on the list in 1973 with six different titles.”

THE BIG BOWIE SOUND for this wonderful follow-up to Ziggy Stardust! We just finished shooting out a number of import pressings of the album, and this import was one of the better copies we heard. This one’s got the kind of Tubey Magical Richness that takes these Glam Rockers to a whole new level.

This vintage UK pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What outstanding sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1973
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments (and effects!) having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
  • No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is, of course, the only way to hear all of the above

What We Listen For on Aladdin Sane

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ken Scott in this case — would have put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Watch That Man
Aladdin Sane [1913-1938-197?]
Drive-In Saturday
Panic in Detroit
Cracked Actor

Side Two

Time
The Prettiest Star
Let’s Spend The Night Together
The Jean Genie
Lady Grinning Soul

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

Ziggy Stardust wrote the blueprint for David Bowie’s hard-rocking glam, and Aladdin Sane essentially follows the pattern, for both better and worse. A lighter affair than Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane is actually a stranger album than its predecessor, buoyed by bizarre lounge-jazz flourishes from pianist Mike Garson and a handful of winding, vaguely experimental songs. Bowie abandons his futuristic obsessions to concentrate on the detached cool of New York and London hipsters, as on the compressed rockers “Watch That Man,” “Cracked Actor,” and “The Jean Genie.”

Bowie follows the hard stuff with the jazzy, dissonant sprawls of “Lady Grinning Soul,” “Aladdin Sane,” and “Time,” all of which manage to be both campy and avant-garde simultaneously, while the sweepingly cinematic “Drive-In Saturday” is a soaring fusion of sci-fi doo wop and melodramatic teenage glam. He lets his paranoia slip through in the clenched rhythms of “Panic in Detroit,” as well as on his oddly clueless cover of “Let’s Spend the Night Together.” For all the pleasures on Aladdin Sane, there’s no distinctive sound or theme to make the album cohesive; it’s Bowie riding the wake of Ziggy Stardust, which means there’s a wealth of classic material here, but not enough focus to make the album itself a classic.

More Reviews

Critical reaction was generally laudatory, if more enthusiastic in the US than in the UK. Rolling Stone remarked on “Bowie’s provocative melodies, audacious lyrics, masterful arrangements (with Mick Ronson) and production (with Ken Scott)”, while Billboard called it a combination of “raw energy with explosive rock”.

Bowie encyclopedist Nicholas Pegg describes it as “one of the most urgent, compelling and essential” of his releases. The Rolling Stone review by Ben Gerson pronounced it “less manic than The Man Who Sold The World, and less intimate than Hunky Dory, with none of its attacks of self-doubt.”

Wikipedia

Wikipedia on Aladdin Sane

The name of the album is a pun on “A Lad Insane”. An early variation was “Love Aladdin Vein”, which David Bowie dropped partly because of its drug connotations. Although technically a new Bowie ‘character’, Aladdin Sane was essentially a development of Ziggy Stardust in his appearance and persona, as evidenced on the cover by Brian Duffy and in Bowie’s live performances throughout 1973 that culminated in Ziggy’s ‘retirement’ at the Hammersmith Odeon in July that year. Lacking the thematic flow found on its predecessor, Aladdin Sane was described by Bowie himself as simply “Ziggy goes to America”; most of the tracks were observations he composed on the road during his 1972 US tour, which accounted for the place names following each song title on the original record labels. Biographer Christopher Sandford believed the album showed that Bowie “was simultaneously appalled and fixated by America”.

His mixed feelings about the journey stemmed, in Bowie’s words, from “wanting to be up on the stage performing my songs, but on the other hand not really wanting to be on those buses with all those strange people … So Aladdin Sane was split down the middle.” This kind of “schizophrenia”, as Bowie described it, was conveyed on the cover by his makeup, where a lightning bolt represents the duality of mind, although he would later tell friends that the “lad insane” of the album’s title track was inspired by his brother Terry, who had been diagnosed as a schizophrenic. Bowie himself came up with the idea of the lightning bolt over his face, but said the teardrop was Brian Duffy’s idea: “He [Brian] put on that afterward, just popped it in there. I thought it was rather sweet.” Regarded as one of the most iconic images of Bowie, Mick McCann writing for The Guardian called it “The Mona Lisa of album covers.”

The majority of Aladdin Sane was recorded at Trident Studios in London in January 1973, between legs of Bowie’s US Ziggy Stardust tour. A desire to rush release the record was blamed for mixes on the Rolling Stones influenced “Watch That Man” and “Cracked Actor” that buried vocals and harmonica, respectively. Bowie and producer Ken Scott later rebuffed this suggestion regarding “Watch That Man”, claiming that a remix they produced which brought the vocals forward was considered by Mainman management and RCA Records to be inferior to the original that was eventually released.

Aladdin Sane featured a tougher rock sound than its predecessor Ziggy Stardust, particularly on tracks like “Panic in Detroit” (built around a Bo Diddley beat) and Bowie’s breakneck version of the Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together”. The album was also notable for its exploration of unusual styles such as avant-garde jazz in the title track and Brechtian cabaret in “Time”. Both numbers were dominated by Mike Garson’s acclaimed piano work, which also featured heavily in the faux James Bond flamenco ballad “Lady Grinning Soul”, inspired by singer Claudia Linnear.

With a purported 100,000 copies ordered in advance, Aladdin Sane debuted at the top of the UK charts and reached No. 17 in America, making it Bowie’s most successful album commercially in both countries to that date. The album is estimated to have sold 4.6 million copies worldwide, making it one of Bowie’s highest-selling LPs. The Guinness Book of British Hit Albums notes that Bowie “ruled the (British) album chart, accumulating an unprecedented 182 weeks on the list in 1973 with six different titles.”

In 2003, the album was ranked among six Bowie entries on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time (at #277) and was later ranked No. 77 on Pitchfork Media’s list of the top 100 albums of the 1970s.

A Brief Bowie Overview

[These notes are from about ten years ago and are completely out of date now. We have made every effort to devote the resources needed to do shootouts for all the great titles by the man himself, the ones we mention below that are were so hard to do ten years ago. With all the advancements we’ve made in every area of the business they no longer present the challenge they once did. Now they can be regularly found on the site in Hot Stamper form. For that we thank our customers. They’ve made it clear to us that the great Bowie records we offer are worth every penny of the high prices we have to charge to make them available.]

Aside from Young Americans, Bowie didn’t record another studio album that sounded this good until he did Let’s Dance in the ’80s. It’s exceedingly difficult to find good sounding copies of Diamond Dogs. We’ve found decent Hot Stamper copies of Station To Station, but we’ve never heard one that really blew our minds. The Eno-assisted trilogy of Low, Heroes, and Lodger are three more titles that we’ve never heard sound amazing, and we’ve just never found the time to do any serious evaluation for Scary Monsters — but stay tuned.

What does that leave for us audiophile Bowie fans? Young Americans and Let’s Dance can both sound wonderful on the right pressing. We knocked out a David Live shootout last week and were thrilled with how good it can sound. Ziggy Stardust, of course, can be out of this world, but it’s very difficult to find good imports in clean condition. Hunky Dory is an even tougher ticket. We love the music, so we’ll keep on trying to find you exceptional pressings, but don’t expect to see too many Hot Stamper Bowie albums available on the site on a regular basis.

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