David Bowie - Aladdin Sane
(Why is it that I reserve my highest praise for the most under-rated and overlooked album? I mean, if I look at my list of top ten bands or 500 best tracks and under-rated, obscure and over-looked defines a lot of them). But I digress. The reality is however, that some of these songs were left over from The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars but were given a significant reworking on this album. As a consequence, this album is often compared with its immediate predecessor rather than being viewed in its own right. Another reason for this comparison is that the persona of Aladdin Sane is pretty much an extension of Ziggy Stardust, though this is even less of a concept album than its predecessor. But whereas Ziggy's was a personal decline, Aladdin's is more a decline of the society and world around him.
The album is led by the hit single and stand out track, "Jean Genie" which is one of my all time favourite Bowie tracks. But there are other gems on here too - "Panic In Detroit", "Drive-in Saturday" and the title track to name just three. Some of them are glammed up to a point of campness. Others are straight forward rockers, as exemplified by cover of the Stones' "Let's Spend the Night Together". All of them deal with issues of disassociation and societal decline. I am not sure if the three dates on "Aladdin Sane", two being the year before each of the two World Wars started, and the third ending with a question mark, is really necessary. It adds a touch of needless pretension to the album as well as dating it considerably as the World War never happened. However, it could merely point to a feeling of decadence in the immediate pre-war periods, as if Bowie was making a point that après moi, le deluge. In general though, the album is more up-tempo and while it lacks the coherence of a recognised theme, it plays up all the better for it in my view, though that is not widely shared.
By the time Aladdin Sane was released, Bowie had cemented himself as the rising star of British pop music. He had taken this phase of his career as far as it would go. But clearly he saw the writing on the wall for glam rock and knew he could take this ideal no further. Bowie abandoned Ziggy as a character shortly after this (some would argue that Aladdin was already a separate character, distinct from Ziggy). Having worn out the concept, Bowie tried to kill him off, but as with the hairstyle he initiated, Ziggy proved to be a longer lasting concept that Bowie would have imagined or hoped for. The Major Tom character, a sort of establishment version of Ziggy/Aladdin, would have to musically resurrected six years later in order to kill off the myth as well as the persona. If you asked me, Ziggy bowed out on a high note. Never again would Bowie reach the heights which he managed to achieve here.
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on 2011-02-22 CharlesMartel Said:
In my view, controversially perhaps, this is Bowie's best album. I will always maintain that if this album had come out before "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars" it would have eclipsed that album in most critical opinions.