on 23 February 2005
The 2005 issue of "David Live" is a significant improvement on previous issuings of the album, thanks to the labours of producer Tony Visconti. What we have now for the first time is a complete 1974 Diamond Dogs show. The sound has been genuinely polished up and Bowie's vocals are incredibly strong. The album feels much more 'live' than previous issues. A good example of the improved quality of the recording is 'Sweet Thing' where, for the first time, you hear the echo on Bowie's opening vocals. People in the UK or Europe never had the chance to see this tour, so it's all in your head (helped by the unforgettable images one has from the BBC documentary 'Cracked Actor' of the mid-70s). The album sounded weird when it first came out and still sounds weird today with Bowie classics given an unorthodox musical treatment. It all adds to the strangeness of this album with oboes and flutes working majestically alongside the electrifying guitar work of Earl Slick. The best thing about the new recording, and worth the investment of money alone, is the inclusion of 'Space Oddity'. I am sure that for many Bowie fans this will be the best 1974 recording of the song they now own (here it's even better than the bootleg version from Los Angeles 1974). It's the eeriest live version of the song you'll ever hear and quite stunning. In my opinion this is the best official live album in Bowie's catalogue, superior to 'Stage' as a live album. The sheer energy of the performance is quite extraordinary. For anyone seeking genuine Bowie magic you'll find it in abundance on this live album. "David Live" has consistently been under-appreciated in my view; it's always been one of my favourite Bowie albums, live and un-live. The new edition is an absolute treat - for hardcore fans it's a 'must' buy, for others it will surprise you at every turn. It catches Bowie at a singular and unique moment in his development as a singer and artist.
on 17 August 2010
Of everything I own by David Bowie -- which starts with vinyl I bought in the early '70s -- this double-album set, recorded on Bowie's Diamond Dogs Tour (at the Tower, Philadelphia) has been replaced more often than any other item. It was out of print for a long time, and I payed a king's ransom for a slightly-used CD set from overseas.
Now it has all been re-mastered. 'Here Today, Gone Tomorrow', a slower, pensive, theatrical performance of 'Space Oddity', and a barely recognizable 'Panic in Detroit', which were omitted from previous CD sets -- as they were from the vinyl -- are all there. This version of 'Panic in Detroit' has little to recommend it; perhaps it should have been left on the cutting room floor. I find it the dullest stretch of the entire concert.
In terms of concert-material, the tracks are mostly drawn from Diamond Dogs and Aladdin Sane, with 'some extras', such as Bowie doing an unmissable performance of 'All the Young Dudes', made famous by Mott the Hoople (but written by Bowie).
Everything in this concert has more 'musicality'; it comes across more melodic than the studio versions, in large part because of the orchestration for the tour. There is a lot of saxophone, and distinct soul-jazz-blues influences in the arrangements. The presence of a sax, and some funky percussion in the band brings a brighter, jazzier, or low-down-dirtier mood to many of the songs. Many of the flatter-sounding songs, from those two albums are performed here with much more depth and texture. Bowie's vocal style is at it's richest, most theatrical, and most musical. I have always rated this concert as the most consistently sexy music in any one collection by David Bowie. Both from his voice, and from the arrangements, there is a radiant (bi-)sexuality. 'Cracked Actor' sounds much dirtier -- more consistent with the actual words -- than the studio vesion. Aladdin Sane's 'Time' is dramatic, raunchy, and campier than the proverbial row of tents! The campy play needs no visuals, to create atmosphere. Such is the magic of modern remastering, that songs I have known as well as was possible, since 1974, are new and fresh again. I am hearing nuances which were too subtle to be picked up in the original mixes, for the first time.
Not everyone thinks sax solos are sexy. If you don't like a lot of saxophone, you will not like this performance. If a instrumental guitar breaks with too much distortion get on your nerves, or mannered 'voices', and campy posing seem silly to you, you will hate this. Bowie pulls out all his rowdiest gay-bar innuendos and drama on songs like 'Watch that Man' and 'Time'. (In the pre-HIV early '70s, gay bars were... risqué places).
Some might complain that they like the 'purity' of the studio versions. I do, too. They are the studio versions. That does not make them definitive.
This is not a studio version. This is David LIVE, obviously having a grand time! It is clear, just by listening, that he was having fun on that stage. No concert is ever enjoyable, unless the performer is enjoying him/herself. Well, this is a young, energetic David Bowie, playing with his music and his audience, and wrapping the audience around his little fingers. He flirts outrageously, in voice, in attitude, in the choices of music and how he constructed the concert, which is nearly impeccable.
In a live performance, getting off to an exciting start is important. Bowie delivers an electrifying version of '1984', followed by a rollicking performance of 'Rebel, Rebel', which slides into a high-energy version of 'Moonage Daydream', and carries on with a sexed-up, dirtied-down rendition of Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing which still blows my socks off. The middle section has some revved-up performances of everything from 'Suffragette City' to a heavily soul-influenced rendition of 'Diamond Dogs'. The concert pace moves along very well, and the songs segué smoothly. Other than 'Panic in Detroit', which is noticeable for its mediocrity, all the songs are energetic, engaging, sexy and fun. The performance of 'Big Brother' has tantalising shades of masochism. The finale of the concert is a passionate, fast, raw performance of 'Width of a Circle', followed by an unrepentantly outrageous 'Jean Genie' (on which the finger-snapping is audible) with a long guitar-break, and closes with a very pretty version of 'Rock-n-Roll Suicide'.
One could complain that the music is over-orchestrated. One might say they think it's lacking precisely the stark qualities that mark Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. It is not, perhaps, 'dark' enough -- though I think that is wholly subjective, and find these versions very 'dark' in their own way. The open and cheerful sexuality of the performance might not fit with the Orwellian themes of Diamond Dogs, in everyone's mind. Those are all questions of taste.
Taste is really the deciding factor. 'David Live' made my mind up in 1974, and it has done so again. If you are really not sure, download one Mp3. I suggest something like '1984' or 'Big Brother', where the 'feel' of the record is very much present. If you like what you hear, you will enjoy this recording. Completionists may want to update their CDs, because earlier CDs did not include three of the songs present here.
on 11 February 2005
For many, their choice of favourite David Bowie album is an easy one. Ziggy? Hunky Dory? Let's Dance? For me, though, this 1974 over-the-top, drug-crazed extravaganza is the one. Unfortunately for me, I'm the only Bowie fan I know who can make this claim. Sure, the playing in parts is patchy, the production not always up to the mark, and the set list unfamiliar to many. But the atmosphere of the show permeates everything and Bowie's vocals are superbly dramatic as he wrings every drop of emotion from the performance. This was originally released about the time of the famous BBC documentary about Bowie, just before Young Americans was released, and my own memories of this music are illustrated by scenes from that programme. If you enjoy Bowie-lite, go somewhere else. However, if you prefer your Bowie full-on, this is the CD that repays repeated plays.
on 30 September 2015
Bought this originally back in 1974 when it was released as a double album. The sound was pretty bad and, being a fan of Ziggy/Hunky Dory/Aladdin Sane Bowie, at the time I didn't like the way he was changing into a more soulful phase. Looking back my taste in music has broadened and, having remained a Bowie fan, I wanted to add this to my CD collection. I bought the 2005 2 CD release and I have to say I was stunned by the improvement in sound quality, Bowie's incredible singing - his best vocal performance on any of his live CDs in my opinion, and the performance of his great band at the time - another reviewer has mentioned the excellent version of "Panic in Detroit", with a brilliant guitar solo from Earl Slick. All the tracks are great, this has become my favourite Live Bowie CD,
Another nostalgia trip returning within a time machine to the mid 1970's. First bought it on a school trip to Paris, spent all the money I had on this double album bought from some mart on the Champs Elysees, but unfortunately whilst everyone else was out shoplifting I left it on a radiator to warp, so the beginning always jumped into 1984. Still I continued to play it for years until punk rock came along and David no longer seemed so far out of the cosmos and this was filed somewhere else.
Journeying back to the mid seventies has produced a pleasant surprise, a big thanks to a thirteen year old self who first came across this. It was made during a prime period, just after Diamond Dogs and before the new soul rebel of Young Americans. Bowie's prime lasted, for me at least, the whole of the 1970's, as he defined the decade.
The picture on the cover shows an anorexic cocaine fuelled skeleton, in the throes of an emotional crisis, who during this period met up with Iggy Pop also emerging from the shell of his own self immolation. During the 1970's everyone thought Bowie looked cool in this emaciated pose of near destruction, dressed in the height of his own soul boy fashion. Sparking a revolution in style this was de rigeur before punk rock came along and reappeared again with the foppy new romantics.
Gazing backwards the album has since been derided by Bowie and other luminaries including the musicians who made it. However 30 plus years later, listening again to this double, the whole thing appears stilted but also festooned with a strange jazz sultry late night feel, an exotica wafting from within it, mixed of course with the soul croon, as Bowie plays Anthony Newley and whoever else he discovered during this era ; James Brown for exmple who he later ripped off note for note with "Fame."
So this album marked a juncture between the rock Bowie alien and the thin white duke playing an Isherwood role, as he stumbled across his inner Nazi self, later on when he drove through Victoria in London.
Presumably when he looks back on his life there are those wince moments, when the memories emerge and this may be one of them.
As far as his artistic output goes I would much rather listen to this than Diamond Dogs for example as the songs appear more fleshed out.
Therefore for those who may have left their 70's self behind, it was not all bad.
on 19 April 2005
This was, as commented above, panned by DB & certainly most of the biogs suggest it was recorded amidst scenes of band mutiny and near-collapse on the part of the singer. That said, for me its his best album. The versions of Changes, Cracked Actor, All the Young Dudes, Space Oddity, Sweet Thing & Rock & Roll Suicide are so from the heart - all the more powerful for the tattered vocal and breathless near-death quality of the delivery. This version sounds superb - Garson and Slick in particular shine - and knocks the anodyne & at times histrionic 'Stage' into a cocked hat on every level. Its a shame they couldn't shoehorn Alan Yentob's BBC Cracked Actor documentary onto the DVD issue as its the perfect coked out complement to the music (as Milt explains eloquently above) and finds DB in stunningly eloquent, self deprecating and paranoid form. I gather the boots of the later soulier shows contain better performances but this reissue has been created with love and would be my desert island disc without question.