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4.7 out of 5 stars227
4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 7 July 2008
Although Hunky Dory has always just shaded this as my favourite Bowie album, listening to Aladdin Sane again thirty-five years later, I'm convinced that this could be his masterpiece. It almost doesn't quite hang together as an album but its sheer brilliance and breadth, and its assortment of angles and images, make for a very impressive body of songs. It is as rewarding as a great novel with its multitude of references, and echoes of other times and places from thirties Berlin to the golden age of Hollywood, as well as to the contemporary street hassle of seventies America. Each song triggers the imagination and seems to resonate beyond itself into a greater mindscape. Bowie's singing is at times incredible, and the band, arrangements and production are as good as it's ever going to get. Special mention of course must go to the inspired guitar playing of Ronson (it's a guitar masterclass) and the brilliant addition of Mike Garson that takes the album into the stratosphere - where did Bowie get him from ? Nobody else could pull an ace out of the pack the way Bowie did with Garson.

Opening with the pounding Watch That Man and its wonderful lyrical rhythm, the album never lets go, and perhaps even the Stones at their very best could rarely match this arresting power and energy. From that to the decadent lounge jazz of the title track, all swirling piano chords and lost romanticism suddenly intercut with Garson's superb free-jazz solo that takes the song to another level altogether. Drive in Saturday is a paean to the old movies that Bowie so loves and is packed with fabulous imagery. Panic in Detroit is pure Stones again but Mick and Keith never quite "jumped the silent cars that slept at traffic lights". Time melds the Threepenny Opera with one of Bowie's most affecting show stoppers that kicks anything by Andrew Lloyd Webber into the front row of the balcony. The fey Prettiest Star is the album's Kooks and could so easily have come from Hunky Dory while over a simple blues riff, The Jean Genie is Bowie's tougher and harder edged Walk on the Wild Side. As other reviewers have already said, Lady Grinning Soul is perhaps Dave's finest moment - ice cold beauty with Ronno and Garson sharing equal honours - a stunning finale. You can probably tell I like it.
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*** 40th Anniversary Edition - 2013 Remaster ***

Bowie fans have had their fair share of reissue rehashes - 'Anniversary' markers on Seventies Classics that crassly milk an endless reservoir of affection. Yawns and sighs can only have greeted the announcement of yet another. But that is until you actually 'hear' this astonishing 2013 audio overhaul.

Hot on the heels of a 20th and 30th Anniversary CD remaster of Bowie's "Aladdin Sane" (both with bonus tracks) - here comes a straightforward transfer of the 1973 LP in April 2013 as a '40th Anniversary' reissue (41:47 minutes). This time it's been done in conjunction with David and remaster engineer RAY STAFF - assisted by Kevin Reeve and Jo Blair who co-ordinated the project for EMI. Kevin Reeve is a name familiar to me - his credentials have popped up many times when I'm trawling for quality remasters. Reeve has in fact done large swathes of much-praised reissues for Universal (see my Tag for their "Originals" series). But the aural hero this time is one RAY STAFF - who needs to be put on DB's staff retainer-list right away. What a job he's done. His name was always Buddy and here are the painted-face details...

1. Watch That Man
2. Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-19??)
3. Drive-In Saturday
4. Panic In Detroit
5. Cracked Actor
6. Time
7. The Prettiest Star
8. Let's Spend The Night Together
9. The Jean Genie
10. Lady grinning Soul

Released on CD April 2013 - "Aladdin Sane: 40th Anniversary Edition" is on EMI DBAS 40 (Barcode 5099993447423) and reproduces the April 1973 UK/USA vinyl LP packaging of RCA Records RS 1001. The 5" gatefold repro card cover even goes as far as the inner lyric sleeve - and a very nice touch indeed is a tiny facsimile of the rare 'I Love You David' Fan-Club Invite that came with original copies of the LP (a 55p postal order and fandom was yours). Even the CD label reflects the original yellow RCA Records label. It's tastefully done. But the real fireworks comes with the stunning remaster...

The second you play the opening song "Watch That Man" - this sonic overhaul makes mincemeat of those that went before. But it's not until you hear the fabulous piano playing of MIKE GARSON on "Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?)" that your jaw drops. As others have commented - it feels like he's in the room - it's a true audio revelation. Bowie then gets vaudeville funky with Twig The Wonder Kid on "Drive In Saturday" while the wonderful Mick Ronson gives us some Glam Rock swagger guitar on "Panic In Detroit" (T.J. Bolder's Bass is so clear too).

The lyrics of "Time" still have the power to shock - as does the superb melody of the "Lie Lie Lie" sing-a-long chorus. Once again Ronson's guitar leaps out at you on "The Prettiest Star". And I cannot get enough of Bowie's fantastic remake of The Rolling Stones "Let's Spend The Night Together" - a rollicking guitar fest - and just what the album needed at that point on Side 2 ("...our love comes from above..."). Thinking it can't get any better - it does - "The Jean Genie" still a huge fan favourite to this day. It ends on more piano clarity on "Lady Grinning Soul".

In the same way that STEVE WILSON has revitalized the JETHRO TULL and YES catalogues - I'm pretty certain Bowie fans want this nice RAY STAFF geezer set loose on those other nuggets. Let's hope we don't have to wait another bloody decade to see his catalogue finally be given the respect it so obviously deserves...
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on 16 April 2013
If it has "David Bowie" on the cover, I tend to buy. Hence I've now got the 40th Anniversary version of this disc to go along with that last anniversary disc, the EMI release, the Japanese Mini LP, The Rykodisc release and original RCA. Oh, and the vinyl from yesteryear. Why? Obsessive compulsion I guess. All these "remasterings" can get a bit much, can things really get better?

I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of people following on from this review who will be hailing this as the definitive version, or saying it's "close to the vinyl" - you'd think 40 years after the first release of this recording we'd be demanding it to sound better, not the same. But I digress.

First the sound - is it better than ever before? I don't think so. I think it's on a par. It sounds nice, there is a ton of detail, everything is as it should be. But if someone is perfectly happy with the last version, I really don't see this one changing much. I found the previous reissue of Ziggy Stardust in a 2013 remaster a little brittle (which pits me against those who proclaimed it as some kind of sonic revolution). This doesn't suffer from that, so that's a plus. For example the cymbal hits in Panic in Detroit can be a problem on this record, yet they're nicely contained here.

Frankly this album has been reissued so many times surely the only way it could sound significantly better is if some new technology is created, or high-resolution versions become available. Improvements are always going to be marginal at this point. Yet people like myself keep hoping and dreaming, and buying!

In short then, yes this sounds excellent, it is perhaps equal to the very best this album has ever sounded - at least in my collection. However, anyone expecting a night and day step up from previous releases are going to be disappointed, imo. Except we live in a world where new is always hailed as better.

Where this CD does win is in the packaging, which almost wins a ten out of ten. Almost. They have brought back the original gatefold, with the original artwork, which is nice. But they also went a step further and included the lyrics on the inner bag. Not enough? Well, they included the invitation to join Bowie's fan club that shipped in original copies of the vinyl. These are much appreciated, and really show they're going that extra mile. I already had them as part of the Japanese mini lp, but it's good to have them here too.

Still, I can't go too overboard on the packaging - who ever thought it was a good idea to put a big blue bar down the front of the cover art proclaiming "40th Anniversary 2013 remaster" needs their heads testing. Iconic cover made..... Having gone the extra mile on reproducing the cover and inserts, this is a poor choice, imo. Have they never heard of stickers? Oh well.

The music is clearly 5 out of 5. The sound on this remaster is excellent. And the packaging is almost perfect. The lack of bonus tracks is going to be problematic to some, especially as previous releases had them - but on the plus side at least we have the original album here as it should be heard, as one complete experience. Should you upgrade from a previous version? Hm. The 1999 remasters are good, as was the last anniversary release. If you have those then I wouldn't rush. Previous to that, yes, pick this up.
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on 18 March 2002
Aladdin Sane is Bowie at his Rock best, and this LP stands the test of time. Recorded and released in 1973, "The Jean Genie" was already a massive hit. On balance, Bowie needed a couple of songs and covered the Stones' "Let's Spend The Night Together" by bringing an erotic push to the song. The other song, "The Prettiest Star" featuring Marc Bolan on lead guitar, was added to the LP but had already been a single in 1970. Nevertheless, the track is worthy and memorable. "Time" is offensively good, but the real gem here is the final track, "Lady Grinning Soul" - quite frankly, Bowie's greatest love song. Coming out of the Ziggy haze, "Aladdin Sane" the title track kills off our hero once and for all. "Panic In Detroit" and "Cracked Actor" are just simply great rock tracks, and "Drive In Saturday" was a single and echoes Bowie's following lyrics which mastered his songs in the early 70s. Let's not forget Mick Ronson's work and pay tribute to his wonderful understanding of Bowie and music. The obvious raunciness is here with the power-rock, no more so evident than the CD/LP's opener, "Watch That Man." And so, The Spiders are no more, and the curtain comes down. Ziggy has left the building.
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on 7 June 2003
If your waivering having already shelled out for the 1999 reissue then take the plunge because its good value. The CD comes in a booklet which makes for excellent reading..comments from Bowie, Mick Rock, Ronson, Tony De Fries and Mike Garson give a real sense of what was going on as Bowie and his entourage toured the states. The album itself remains great spoilt only by the hideous take on the Rolling Stones LSTNT but I can forgive Bowie that when it contains the beautiful Drive In Saturday and the piano part on Aladdin Sane. The bonus CD is only 36 minutes which suggests the vaults have already been well and truly raided. Two previously unreleased tracks a live take of Life On Mars? (surely from Hunky Dory - Ed) and a fantastic live acoustic version of DIS with some slightly different lyrics..actually the whole things worth it for this alone. So fellow Bowieites show your loyalty reach once again into your deep pockets and lets chalk up another sale until the next reissue!
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on 10 February 2013
I have had this on vinyl since it was first released and also saw Bowie at the civic hall Wolverhampton when he was touring this album ( I still have the concert programme). I haven't played any Bowie for some time but my interest was re-awakened with the news of a new album. This sounds as good as when I first got it all those years ago; Watch that man, Cracked actor, Drive in Saturday; how can an album with all these quality tracks possibly fail to impress. Absolute quality!
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on 2 March 2016
The vinyl version is reissued in a close repro. of the 1973 gate-fold cover edition with the lyrics on the inner record sleeve, plus it has a reproduction of the David Bowie fan club leaflet. It also has the original '73 issue label with the places the songs were written printed under the titles, this was missing from some later vinyl reissues. It's more than l nostalgia trip for some of us, more like time travel. The vinyl is pressed from the 2013 remaster and sounds great to my ears, but I haven't compared it to the 1973 issue and my deck and amp are goodish but not audiophile quality. Wish they were! . Of course the music is as enchanting and powerful as it was 43 years ago! Amazing man. Great to have this again on vinyl,
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on 20 February 2010
What a truly insane blend of musical influences "Aladdin Sane" is! The title-track, "Time" and "Lady Grinning Soul" smack of cabaret, the Berlin of the 1930's, particularly as seen through the Lou Reed lens. "Hunky Dory" and "Transformer" have a lot in common, although it always seemed to me that despite Bowie's liner note generosity Reed was more the benificiary than the benefactor for that pair of albums showing mutual influence. This time, Bowie seems more indebted to Reed; it's just ironic that the last of those three 'cabaret' songs is the one to which Suede owed almost their whole career. Try listening to the last 100 seconds of "Lady Grinning Soul" and tell me that that guitar part isn't the origin of the Suede sound!

Bowie's cabaret is more playful than Reed's, but he shows a harder edge in songs like "Cracked Actor", taking the Ziggy glam rock style and making it much nastier and dirtier. The other tracks on this album tend to be glammy reimaginings of American 50's Rock - "Drive In Saturday" and "Watch that Man" being perfect examples of this style. The cover of the Stones's "Let's Spend the Night Together" is also a superb lesson in how covers should be done, never an ego-trip, always a musical reincarnation.

My absolute favourite Bowie album will always be "Hunky Dory", but "Aladdin Sane" is a comfortable second place. An indispensible CD with a respectable 99 remaster, if only someone would come and give these 70s classics from Bowie the treatment Dylan enjoyed for that Hybrid SACD release a few years back!
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on 15 March 2016
I got given a record player when I was thirteen in1977 but had no records so went hunting through my older sister's record collection coming across this I was struck by the intensity of the cover intrigued I borrowed it and started listening to it from the opening watch that man it hooks you in on this journey of soundscapes and the word smithery of David bowie it sends your imagination and emotions on a journey that you just don't expect and now forty plus years later it's the only album I own on every format and the first bowie album I play to my kids I loved it then and love it still truly a timeless classic and an album that made me want to explore so many other artists
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on 12 January 2007
My first album, bought in 1973. The cover & gatefold pic were about the most marvellous things I'd ever seen, & then the music!

Many of the below reviews really nail it. Let me add a couple of other thoughts.

First, AS captures a fascinating moment of transition. Ronno plays with great expression (notably on Lady Grinning Soul) & the Spiders are generally tighter than on Ziggy. At the same time, the American urban landscape moves centre stage for the first time (& thence to Diamond Dogs) & glimpses of the soul influence (leading to Young Americans). Of longer term significance, enter, Mike Garson.

I'm not sure quite why MG's playing complements DB's voice so well. It certainly seems to stretch him to some of his most operatic performances (such as The Motel & Bring Me The Disco King). And it starts here. Instantly recognisable & uncopyable.

AS gathers together a broader range of influences than Hunky Dory or Ziggy & was, I believe, largely written on the road. It was the biggest selling album of the year, despite featuring 40s-style stride piano & flamenco guitar. With hindsight, we can see AS as the clearest sign of DB's potential as a fecund & challenging genius, capable of achieving both commercial & critical success.

Please return in 2037 for my review of Reality.
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