Monday, February 8, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Diamond Dogs

Released on May 24, 1974 by RCA Records, David Bowie’s eighth studio release Diamond Dogs marks a transitional period for the artist in which he moves away from the world of glam rock that had made him famous while venturing into newer territory such as American soul music. Produced by Bowie himself, the album featured material from a shelved musical based on George Orwell’s novel 1984 as the album would also mark the first time Bowie would adopt William S. Burroughs’ cut-up writing style. With Bowie playing guitar himself, the album would also feature contributions from producer Tony Visconti and pianist Mike Garson as the record would also feature an appearance from another future collaborator in guitarist Earl Slick for what would be one of Bowie’s darkest yet adventurous albums to date.

The album’s first half definitely owes to not just glam but also would explore some of the newer and adventurous ideas that Bowie would explore lyrically and musically. While the single Rebel Rebel is a straight-up glam rock song with some amazing guitar work from Bowie and ambiguous yet playful lyrics as it’s supported by a bopping rhythm courtesy of bassist Herbie Flowers and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The album opener Future Legend is this eerie intro filled with wailing guitars and Bowie’s creepy vocals to set up a very dark tone as it segues into the album’s title track. The track is definitely a cut with some unique and rough guitar work with an up tempo rhythm and some dark lyrics that play into this dystopian environment as it includes this new character by Bowie in Halloween Jack.

The centerpiece of the album’s first-half is Sweet Thing as it’s part of a suite with Candidate and a reprise of Sweet Thing. It’s a suite that has some unique tempo changes as it starts off very slow that includes some flourishing piano tinkering from Mike Garson as well as these abstract cut-up lyrics by Bowie that feature these intoxicating imagery into the song. By the time it reaches into Candidate, the tempo would change into something more upbeat and sinister with Bowie also providing some saxophone textures as it this very unique suite in the album that is part proto-punk and part-progressive rock. Opening the second half of the album is Rock N’ Roll with Me that is co-written with vocalist Warren Peace as it is this mid-tempo track with reflective lyrics that play into the chaos of the apocalypse as it’s a cut that features guitar work by Earl Slick. We Are the Dead is a ballad that has Bowie providing some abstract cut-up lyrics as it is one of the most eerie cuts on the album with its ominous keyboards and a steady yet chilling tempo.

The last three cuts on the second half album all come from the shelved musical of 1984 as its titular track is this riveting yet chugging track that plays into Bowie’s first encounter with American soul music that is driven by Alan Parker’s guitar work. The lyrics do play into this sense of dystopia as it is also driven by this pulsating rhythm courtesy of Flowers’ bass and Tony Newman’s drumming. Big Brother also maintains that sense of dystopia as it is this mid-tempo cut that features some haunting textures in the sound provided by a Chamberlin while Bowie also provide some creepy vocals. The track would segue into the closing track Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family that is this fast and raw rocking track with some repetitive lyrics as it ends in this off-kilter tone as if the record is skipping.

From the 2004 30th Anniversary Deluxe edition of the album is a second disc featuring rarities, demos, and alternate versions of songs. Among them is an early version of 1984 that features another cut called Dodo as it is presented in a more stripped down yet broad fashion as it was recorded in 1973 with guitarist Mick Ronson while the song’s second half in Dodo would be this mixture of funk and symphonic rock with some different lyrics as it would showcase where Bowie was going in that time. Dodo would be a separate cut of its own as this mid-tempo song driven by keyboards and saxophones as it features . There are two different versions of Rebel Rebel in the second disc as it includes an alternate mix with some percussion flairs and additional vocals in the chorus as it was marketed for a U.S. singles release. Another version is a re-worked take on the song by Bowie in 2003 for a bonus-disc version of his 2003 album Reality as it starts off with just a voice and a guitar and later all of the instruments coming in as it’s a unique take on the track.

From the 1990 Rykodisc reissue of Pin Ups is a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Growin’ Up as it is this uplifting rock track that features Ron Wood on guitar as well as some flourishing pianos that is considered a fitting homage to an artist who was emerging at the time. Two versions of Candidate appears in the bonus disc as the first is a demo that, like Dodo, appeared in the 1990 Rykodisc reissue of this album showcases as it is an interesting demo that features a drum, bass, piano, and an acoustic guitar with Bowie singing the song filled with dystopian lyrics as he also provides some weird keyboard effects. The second version is a remix of sorts made for the Patrice Chereau film Intimacy as it doesn’t do much with the song but it adds some fade into the close as it served as a dramatic take on the song. An edited version of the album’s title cut made for the K-Tel Best of Bowie 1980 compilation is it doesn’t do a lot to cut much of the meat of the song but rather shorten its intro and coda.

Diamond Dogs is a rapturous album from David Bowie as it is this unique transitional record that has Bowie taking on some new risks while hinting on where he was going to go next. Though it isn’t as consistent as other albums Bowie made in the 1970s, it is still this fascinating album that has him stepping up his game and wanting to move forward musically. In the end, Diamond Dogs is a exhilarating album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - “Heroes” - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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