10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
*** 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 Bowie.com 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
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...
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 20 October 2014
One of the few missteps in the 'Rough Guide to Rock' is that it describes this as tinny-sounding and fails to select it as one of his best. WRONG! It was the first I really got into and one of my teenhood's favourite memories is hearing the screaming guitar of 'Watch That Man' and wondering about "Jung the foreman [who]prayed at work" as we were beguiled by this weird genius on Top of the Pops, a semi-spaceman in odd clothes who sang about stuff we'd never heard the like of....plying a new sort of ballad he pioneered, in his wailing, wonderful voice, the Beck-influenced Ronson the perfect complement in sound and vision: Hull bottle-blond roughboy with effete Beckenhamite. Wow, didn't see THAT coming, no-one did. 'The Jean Genie' had rather silly lyrics - got me into Genet though ('based' on him' as some opined is a stretch) - on which hung one of THE great riffs and a brilliant finale; 'Watch that Man', while having the vocal subdued, still has a mania that is really excited; 'The Prettiest Star' is truly, er, sweet, it really is tender; nice bit of piano vamping in the off- key Modern jazz style as Mike Garson introduces 'Let's Spend the Night Together' and the interpretation veritably scampers, racy guitar to match; 'Time' (not just the in-your-ear-ruderie also "the sniper in the brain" indeed) with Garson's twinkling piano; "Lady Grinning Soul" so beautiful it seems to tower, the control is just tremendous, with that superb voice to the fore; 'Cracked Actor' with its scornful rich man's cynicism ("forget that I'm 50 cos you just got paid") married to superb snarling guitar. Far from being 'tinny' it is actually a rich-sounding, textured and HEAVY collection of quite brilliant songs...stuffed with so many that I nearly forgot to mention 'Aladdin Sane', the only fault the weak pun, the deliberate faux cockernee of singing 'Sayne' then the Garson who trills as if he were Coltrane reincarnated for piano with THAT lovely little Bowie On Broadway coda to fuddle we nippers (echo of Bolan 'doing' Chuck Berry on 'Get it On' perhaps?). This marvellous record can be seen to have anticipated the sonic experiments Bowie made with Eno later in the decade; but already he paints pictures with sound, not just in the striking imagistic lyrics. The third full-flowering of Bowie as a genius and probably my favourite. I mean, 'Drive in Saturday', did I mention its teatime science fiction unusually intelligent, imagined AS SciFi ("with snorting head he gazes to the shore" and "pour me out another 'phone", better than anything in Heinlen, more P.K. Dick class) AND as a chart hit! I was luckier in my youth than I knew; but we all knew Bowie was a genius and we loved him: he was OUR genius! Even if we all pronounced his name wrong. A great, great album. Buy more than one copy; I dare you.
49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 May 2014
After two classic albums - Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust - it seemed impossible for Bowie to reach the same quality but somehow he managed it with a third timely classic.
This was the third of Bowie's classic albums that seemed to roll so effortlessly through the early 70s. After Aladdin Sane I felt that Bowie's prowess as a songwriter of quirky and catchy rock/pop songs dropped off. Over the years he has had other high spots but never reached the excellence of Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. This one still excites with the jazz piano of Mike Garson on Lady Grinning Soul maybe suggesting some of the experimentation that Bowie would be undertaking in the future. Drive In Saturday, Time, The Prettiest Star are all seminal Bowie.
This album showed a man at his creative peak and reminds us that Bowie was a great artist. Listen to these songs and you can see exactly where bands such as Suede come from. Ziggy had gone, Bowie had moved on but everything was still okay with the world. Every track here is another absolute gem - as good as anything Bowie wrote. Ironically the one track I'm not fond of is Let's Spend the Night Together - a song borrowed from the Rolling Stones. This album is about the human condition with songs such as Panic in Detroit, Cracked Actor and Time.
Again there are so many highlights. The Prettiest Star is one of my favourite Bowie songs. Many many years later when Bowie's input had sunk through experimentation. I looked back on the trio of albums as Bowie at his peak and thought "why can't he write songs like those any more?" But time passes and Bowie's journey had many miles to run as we shall see.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
If Hunky Dory brought David Bowie to the publics attention and Ziggy Stardust catapulted him into the stratosphere, then it was Aladin Sane that consolidated his position, as well as moving the music even further forward.
I have hugely fond memories of discovering this record back then, goggling at the gatefold sleeve almost in disbelief (I was a very naive teenager back then) and marvelling at the music on offer - the progress in music recording and production allowing a far denser and more powerful sound than on his previous recordings, which sounded superb on the sixth form stereo as I recall...
The musicianship is superb, the jazzy piano giving a totally different feel to some of the tracks and the compositions to me have far more abandonment and "danger" to them - WONDERFUL!. David was on a magical roll at this time and really leading the pack in my view.
I'm not sure if this is the right Bowie album to start with (I'd go to Hunk Dory or perhaps even earlier to start with), but I suspect most who buy this will be familiar with it anyway.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 22 November 2002
Being the follow up album to hugely successful one is never easy, so the pressure was on "Bowie" to repeat the magic that he had created on "Ziggy".
With that in mind the songs here sound like first drafts with the arrangements and lyrics not quite polished off. But what the artist has come up with is even more insane than the last character. The biggest change to the sound that "Bowie" was using was the addition of "New York" jazz man "Mike Garson" which gave the tracks on the album more of a filled out sound. Here this 24bit version sounds better but has loads of faults, such as the last part of the title track being clipped off! On the original vinyl at the end of the track you could hear quite plainly "David Bowie and "Mick Ronson" laughing and a little keyboard burst from "Garson" which added to the track.
Forgetting this and other faults for me is quite difficult having bought the albums as they came out from 1973, but the improvement in the sound kinda of makes up for it. So until the men in charge of the music we listen too get this, and other pieces of music history right, we the music buying public will have to smile sweetly. Don't get me wrong I love this album and if you haven't heard the original release it sounds fab, but please for us old guys get it right!!!This is music history and should be treated with respect.....
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
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.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2015
This review concentrates on the 2013 40th Anniversary edition.
This remaster is the business, being, in my opinion, the definitive release so far.
The 1999 remaster is nowhere near as bad as people say, and the 30th Anniversary one improves on that slightly, but this one takes all the best elements and enhances them. The rumbling bass on the title track, the parping saxophone, Mike Garson's jangling piano. Mick Ronson's guitar on "Watch That Man" (although Bowie's vocal is always too low down in the mix on that track). The contrast between bass and acoustic guitar on the wonderful "Drive In Saturday". The frantic congas and percussion in my personal favourite, "Panic In Detroit", and the way Bowie enunciates every schoolboy's favourite line in "Time". Peerless.
Other remasters are poor - the appalling original RCA CD release and the dull Ryko 1990 release.
This remaster makes the most of what is my own personal favourite Bowie album. Yes, I did buy it on the day of release in 1973 and listening to it again now in this quality is a delight. Well done to all concerned. Wish they would do it with "Dogs", "Americans", "Station" and, especially, "Low".