Monday, February 15, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Let's Dance

Released on April 14, 1983 by EMI Records, Let’s Dance is the 15th studio album by David Bowie that marks a major creative turning point for the artist. Produced with Nile Rodgers, the album is an exploration into dance rhythms, pop, and rock that has Bowie going into a more mainstream direction. With Rodgers providing elements of dance and funk with the aid of Chic bandmates in bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson as well as several other session musicians. The album would also mark the introduction of a future guitar legend in Texas blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughn playing lead guitar on the album.

The album would open with three of its singles that wouldn’t just be some of Bowie’s most successful work commercially but it’s also considered some of the defining tune of the 1980s. The album’s title track is a key example as it is led by this funk groove courtesy of drummer Omar Hakim and bassist Carmine Rojas and these jazzy guitar riffs by Nile Rodgers that is followed by blazing horns in the background. With Bowie singing in a cool, baritone vocals style, it’s a song that shows him going into warm lyrical territory filled with dazzling imagery as it includes these spurts of wailing blues licks from Stevie Ray Vaughn. China Girl, which originally came from Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot, is given a remake by its co-writer in Bowie with elements of Chinese melodies and hooks as it is this song that recalls obsession and longing as it is one of Bowie’s best singles that features a nice bass line from Rojas and Vaughn’s soaring guitar in its coda.

The single Modern Love is another upbeat track with a dance-based groove that opens with Rodgers’ driving guitar and hard-hitting drums from Tony Thompson with these melodic keyboard bits and a smooth saxophone solo in the middle of the song. The song has Bowie sing about the conflicts of faith and man as it relates to love as it is one of Bowie’s defining cuts. Another song in the record that was released as a single from a year earlier is a remake of Cat People (Putting Out Fire) as Bowie would take away the brooding textures of the song he made with Giorgio Moroder into a more worldly arrangement with Asian-based synthesizer textures and a more mid-tempo rhythm that would feature fiery guitar solos by Vaughn. Without You is this mid-tempo cut that has this nice and smooth groove backed by a steady rhythm with Vaughn’s soothing guitar work as Bowie sings in a mixture of falsetto and laid-back baritone vocals with these exotic lyrics as it includes these nice bass work from Bernard Edwards.

Ricochet is this mid-tempo cut that features these slow but pulsating rhythm and these soothing synthesizers as it includes these weird vocals and soothing saxophones as it plays into a song that can be described as chaotic but also very accessible to its theme of dance thanks to the interplay between Bowie and backing vocalists Frank and George Simms and David Spinner. A cover of Metro’s Criminal World is this track that starts off with a slow groove and then becomes a more bopping, rhythmic track with Bowie singing coolly and softly while maintaining that sense of dance that includes a blazing solo by Vaughn. The album closer Shake It is this very funky song led by its melodic synthesizer, bopping rhythms, sumptuous horn section, and Bowie’s cool vocals as it include these playful backing vocals to these very warm and fun lyrics. The song also feature some spurts of guitar work from Rodgers and Vaughn that add to the song’s funk and dance groove.

A bonus track from the 1995 reissue by Virgin is the non-LP single Under Pressure that Bowie made in 1982 in collaboration with the band Queen that is considered a high mark for both acts. Led by John Deacon’s bass line and a mixture of rock and funk, the song displays into the chaos of the world with Bowie and vocalist Freddie Mercury trading verses and lyrics while singing in perfect harmony as it is one of the finest songs ever recorded.

Let’s Dance is a marvelous album from David Bowie that showcases him making an album that is accessible to the masses but also appealing enough to the art-rock crowd. Thanks in part to the contributions of Nile Rodgers and the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughn, it’s an album that blends many genres but also one that can get people into the dance floor and just dance. In the end, Let’s Dance is an incredible 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 - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - "Heroes" - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - 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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