Tuesday, February 16, 2016
29 Days of Bowie: Tonight
Released on September 1, 1984 by EMI Records, Tonight is the sixteenth studio album by David Bowie that has him doing something uncharacteristically in his career which was to repeat the successful formula of his previous album. Produced with Hugh Padgham and Derek Bramble, the album features not just a few new songs that includes a couple of collaborations with friend Iggy Pop but also remakes of some of older songs Bowie made with Pop as well as covers. Also featuring contributions from longtime collaborator Carlos Alomar as well as appearances from Pop and Tina Turner. The album would mark a period of mediocrity and questionable choices for an artist who was used to not playing by the rules.
The album’s high points come in the form of two of its singles in Blue Jean and Loving the Alien. The former is an upbeat dance-based track with blazing horns, a steady rhythm, and Bowie’s low-baritone vocals that play into playful lyrics about flirting and scoring with women as it’s one of Bowie’s finest singles. The latter is a mid-tempo yet somber track with loud and big rhythms from Omar Hakim’s drums and Carmine Roja’s smooth bass that also includes some marimbas in the background and ethereal guitar flourishes. Bowie’s vocals in its mixture of falsetto and baritone is a highlight as well as its lyrics that play into the many conflicts that revolve around faith.
Another single in the album’s title cut is a remake of a song that Bowie co-wrote with Iggy Pop from 1977’s Lust for Life as it’s given a smooth and playful reggae makeover in a duet with Tina Turner. Removing the song’s original intro that was much darker in its original version, Bowie would go for something that is more pop-driven with its slow and steady rhythm that suits more to Turner’s vocal range as it’s a good interpretation but cuts a lot of what made the original song so special. Two other remakes of songs that Pop did are also presented such as Don’t Look Down from 1979’s New Values and Neighborhood Threat from Lust for Life. The former is given a more smooth, bass-driven jazz-inspired take that sounds good but its flourishes of reggae and Bowie’s vocals to the song definitely gives the overall presentation a dull one. The original version was more interesting in its mixture of rock and jazz but what Bowie does isn’t very good.
In the latter, it’s a song where the production really suffers as it is clear Bowie wants to create a song that is a full-on rocker but the added elements of synthesizers and backing vocals just ruins it as it just indicative of the kind of music made in the 1980s. Two songs that Bowie would co-write with Pop in Tumble and Twirl and Dancing with the Big Boys showcases Bowie’s take on the world of pop music. The former is this bopping and funky track with blazing horns and mixtures of driving guitars by Alomar as it features very silly lyrics of beach-based imagery where it’s a song that wants to be upbeat but it’s all over the place. In the latter that is co-written with Alomar and serves as the album closer, it’s a song that features big drums, a blazing horn section, big backing vocals, and a driving guitar. It’s a song that is 80s in terms of its production yet Bowie and Pop manage to do some excellent work in the vocals as they interplay while singing lyrics that play into the struggle of man vs. conformity.
The album also features two covers as the first is a cover of the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows as it is one of the worst things Bowie had ever done as his baritone-heavy vocals doesn’t fit in with the song. The presentation with its mixture of string arrangements in the background as well as a bopping mid-tempo rhythm and a soft brass section is just very misguided. The other cover in Chuck Jackson’s I Keep Forgettin’ is a song that that is also indicative of 1980s production with its mixture of synthesizers, horns, and drum machines in a song that is rock n’ roll but in all of the wrong places as it includes those fucking awful marimbas.
From the 1995 reissue from Virgin Records come three bonus tracks of songs that appeared in different film soundtracks as two of them were from films that Bowie starred in such as Absolute Beginners and Labyrinth. In the former, the song’s title track is considered one of Bowie’s underrated singles as it this mid-tempo track filled with reflective and somber lyrics that play into the plight of the film as it features some of Bowie’s best vocal works as well as great piano flourishes by Rick Wakeman. The latter in the ballad As the World Falls Down is a song that features Bowie’s great vocals in this smooth, synthesizer-driven track with some bopping rhythms as it plays into a young woman’s plight into childhood and adulthood. The third bonus track is a song Bowie collaborated with jazz guitarist Pat Methany on the song This is Not America from the 1985 film The Falcon and the Snowman. A mixture of synth-pop and jazz fusion, the song play into the sense of terror and paranoia as it includes synthesizer flourishes from co-writer Lyle Mays as it’s one of Bowie’s finest gems.
Despite two of its singles and the bonus tracks in the 1995 reissue, Tonight is a terrible album from David Bowie. It’s a record that showcases someone being compromised and needing to make hits rather than make something that is worthwhile. It’s also an album that sounds very dated due to its production as it indicates why the 1980s was such a polarizing period in the world of popular music. In the end, Tonight is an album by David Bowie that pretty much fucking sucks.
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) - Let’s Dance - 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 & 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