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4.8 out of 5 stars
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4.8 out of 5 stars
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on 18 August 2016
The schizophrenic cousin to '...Ziggy Stardust...' & sometimes referred to as 'Ziggy goes to America', this follow up to that seminal album is almost as good - some might say better - than its illustrious predecessor. There's no denying that it has a harder, rockier sound & the lyrics are far more cynical than on '...Ziggy...' In many respects, 'Aladdin Sane' depicts the harsh realities of stardom, where the previous album was very much the wide-eyed dream. It boasts much the same line-up as that masterpiece of popular music, with Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder & Mick Woodmansey all returning but the addition of Mike Garson on piano gives 'Aladdin Sane' a jazzier, avant-garde & perhaps more authentic feel. Most of the tracks are wonderfully sleazy & decadent, with a jaundiced Bowie commenting on what he saw beneath the glittering façade of fame & the American entertainment industry. The album's final trump card is its cover; surely one of the most iconic record covers ever!

1. Watch That Man - I wasn't keen on this song when I first heard it but it has grown on me over the years. I think the main reason it took me so long to appreciate it was because I could barely make out the lyrics as Bowie's voice was so low in the mix. Apparently, it was done to give the song a rawer, Stones-like feel. The lyrics themselves seem to refer to some decadent, drug-fuelled party.
2. Aladdin Sane - One of my favourite tracks, largely due to Mike Garson's brilliant, utterly deranged, avant-garde piano solo mid-way through the song. What it's about, I'm not entirely sure but it seems to hint at society's decadence before the outbreak of war with (1917-1938-197?) suggesting that Bowie was anticipating a further outbreak in the not too distant future.
3. Drive In Saturday - Fusing 50's doo-wop with a futuristic soundscape, the song reached number #3 in the charts, yet it seems to be the forgotten Bowie single as it rarely features on a greatest hits compilation. Shame, as it's a wonderful song!
4. Panic In Detroit - Tales of revolutionaries in Motor City, propelled by Ronson's bluesy guitar & soulful backing singers, it has a wonderful opening line... "He looked a lot like Che Guevara, drove a diesel van..."
5. Cracked Actor - Bowie's harmonica & Ronson's guitar sound downright sleazy, which is appropriate for a song about an aged actor, well past his sell by date, paying for sex in some Tinseltown back-room.
6. Time - Arch, theatrical & brilliantly bonkers! It's yet another wonderful song in which Garson's piano playing distinguishes itself. From the lyrics, I have a vision of Bowie & the Spiders, bored out of their minds, waiting in the wings for some terrible act to get off stage & allow them on. Also includes drug references & a certain rude word - oh, my!
7. Prettiest Star - Some more 50's doo-wop, nostalgic lyrics & a great guitar solo from Ronson, in what is one of the more pleasant sounding tracks from the album.
8. Let's Spend The Night Together - A camp, dazzling, deranged & speeded up cover of The Rolling Stones classic, which manages to do what all good covers should do & that's to be different from the original. It is also completely in tune with the album's pervading air of decadence.
9. Jean Genie - One of Bowie's biggest hits, reaching number #2 in the charts, it is a perfect slice of glam rock. Rumoured to be inspired by his great friend Iggy Pop, it has an irresistibly catchy guitar riff that bears a striking resemblance to The Sweet's number #1 'Blockbuster,' which was released at around the same time. Apparently, it was just a coincidence that they sounded remarkably similar.
10. Lady Grinning Soul - Beautiful song with a gorgeous arrangement; rippling piano & flamenco guitar. I don't think it would have been out of place as a Bond theme, as Bowie paints a vivid picture of a sensuous seductress who is always one step ahead of you. It's a great song on which to end the album.

In many respects, 'Aladdin Sane,' marks the end of the Spiders, with Mick Woodmansey being effectively sacked over a pay dispute & Trevor Bolder & the brilliant Mick Ronson dropped after the next album, 'Pin-Ups.' Bowie, easily bored & restless for change, wished to take his music in a new direction & so he did.
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on 5 March 2017
Perfect
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on 29 March 2017
Fabulous
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on 9 January 2017
Fantastic album, delivered promptly
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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 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
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 19 April 2017
An electrifying album. Got to love ''Aladdin Sane''. Some mellow sax tunes popped in there also. He was a very clever and inventive musician.
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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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on 1 July 2017
from the cover of the album, to the brilliant songs , david bowie at his best, the music to back his lyrics was out of this world. what a star.
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on 3 March 2016
Great
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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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