2020 Album Draft- Round 9 Pick 10- MSJADELI picks David Bowie- Young Americans.
I think I picked this one up a couple of years after it came out and didn’t stop listening until every word and note was imprinted on the cerebral flash drive. Back then it was what I would call cutting edge, this synthesis of a glam star from across the ocean with American funk and soul beats. I didn’t realize until gathering information on the album that John Lennon played guitar and sang (?) on Bowie’s cover of “Across the Universe.” Listening through it again to make notes for each song today, it does sound a little bit dated, but that’s ok.
Young Americans is Bowie’s ninth studio album, released on 3/7/75. It is a marked a departure from the glam rock style of his previous albums, showcasing his interest in soul and R&B. It was his first album in three years to not feature Ziggy Stardust, but rather himself. It is said that during the making of the album, Bowie’s cocaine addiction heightened at a rapid pace and that it had a harshening effect on his vocals.
Young Americans reached the Top 10 in the Billboard charts, with the song “Fame” hitting No. 1 the same year. It was generally well-received by critics. The album has since been reissued multiple times and was remastered in 2016 as part of the Who Can I Be Now? (1974–1976) box set.
Bowie’s eighth studio album Diamond Dogs (DD) was his final album in the glam rock genre, yet it also contained two songs, “Rock ‘n’ Roll with Me” and “1984,” that exhibit elements of funk and soul, which Bowie embraced for Young Americans.
In April 1974, Bowie met New York funk guitarist Carlos Alomar who would become Bowie’s guide into black American music and, for the next 14 years, act as Bowie’s bandleader. For the backing band, besides Carlos, Bowie retained Mike Garson (piano,) David Sanborn (saxophone,) and Pablo Rosario (percussionist) from the Diamond Dogs Tour, as well as added Andy Newmark (former drummer of Sly and the Family Stone,) and Willie Weeks (bass player of the Isley Brothers – and who I recently mentioned as the bass player when Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood reunited at Madison Square Garden!) Alomar’s wife, Robin Clark, and the then-unknown Luther Vandross performed backing vocals for the sessions.
Initial recording sessions took place at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. Later sessions took place at Electric Lady Studios and the Record Plant in New York City.
Following the conclusion of the second half of the Diamond Dogs tour in December 1974 (referred to as the Soul tour), Bowie (and musical associates) regrouped at the Record Plant in New York City to record two new songs, “Fascination” and “Win”. During this time, John Lennon was working at the Record Plant on his 1975 covers album Rock ‘n’ Roll. Lennon had previously met Bowie in Los Angeles. The two reconnected and decided to record together at Electric Lady Studios in New York in January 1975, resulting in “Fame” and a cover of Beatles’ song, “Across the Universe”.
Bowie himself has expressed mixed feelings on Young Americans, at one point describing it as: the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey; yet later saying: I shouldn’t have been quite so hard on myself, because looking back it was pretty good white, blue-eyed soul.
All songs written by Bowie unless stated otherwise.
Young Americans “They pulled in just behind the fridge, he lays her down, she frowns, ‘Gee my life’s a funny thing, am I still too young?’ “ With the spaced out drumbeats, finger sweep of the ivories, and saxophone, have you ever heard cooler opening lyrics to a song? The lyrics pour out like pouring bright paint out onto a cement floor then dancing on it. I sing this song like a mantra. The words are more than pretty, they are sharp as glittering glass*******
***** Win is the one that won me over on choosing this album. Honestly, it’s probably my favorite Bowie song, and you know how many contenders there are for top place in his discography. The lyrics are sheer poetry and every repeat of the refrain drives home that feeling of aching sorrow of love on the rocks. The music conjures a lush spacey bubble that cushions and controls the pain **********
****** Fascination (written by Bowie and VanDross) funky dance tune ******
****** Right this one has Bowie coming as close to rapping in between a mantra-like chorus with the backup singers*****
***** Somebody Up There Likes Me a ballad about a cultural icon******
**** Across the Universe (written by Lennon, McCartney) I love the emotions Bowie puts into his cover. This is another favorite of mine. ******
******* Can You Hear Me? The intro to this sounds a lot like how Bobby Gentry’s “Son of a Preacher Man” starts but then it goes on to a heart-wrenching love ballad that has some of the most celestial harmonies you’ll ever hear. Bowie really belts it out towards the end.*******
***** Fame (Bowie, Alomar, Lennon) probably the best-known song on the album. It’s firing on all cylinders. Great one to dirty dance to*****
Info gleaned from wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Young_Americans