Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Let’s Dance (1983)


1. Modern Love: A loud, slamming album opener with a big fat chorus given the Nile Rogers treatment, like everything on this album. It’s also an intoxicatingly upbeat and irresistible catchy piece of 80s superficial pop fluff. 7.0

2. China Girl: Slick remake of a co-written Iggy track complete with updated stupid ‘Asian’ guitar lick from Rogers. Actually a very very good song (the grittier The Idiot version still towers above this) and the production, while a little crass, turns this disturbingly dark obsessive piece into a philosophical pop grind with substance. 7.0

3. Let’s Dance: The colossal title track while commercially humongous (topping every chart known to man) is also artistically successful. The whole "serious moonlight" imagery is superb and Bowie is in magnificent voice throughout this song. It’s sumptuous instrumentation adds to it’s inviting grandeur but hard to imagine anyone dancing to it. 8.5

4. Without You: A minimalist groove and bluesy licks from Vaughan cannot save this insipidly hookless track which, to its detriment, follows the opening three pop monsters. I’ve always thought Cat People would’ve rounded out side one nicely. This certainly doesn’t. 3.0

5. Ricochet: The most experimental number on the album and reasonably interesting but lazily written (check some of those lyrics). They were searching for a rhythm and settled on something overly-bombastic and awkward that simply doesn’t work. 4.5

6. Criminal World: A cover of a song by an obscure band called Metro dating back to 1977. This b-side fodder is relatively innocuous and enjoyable in the context of the album but squished beneath the track that follows. 5.0

7. Cat People (Putting Out Fire): Not quite as awesome as the original 1982 soundtrack version he did with Giorgio Moroder (which is one of Bowie’s finest 80s moments) however this is good stuff, with more blistering guitar work from Vaughan and a tremendous vocal performance, as is the whole production extravaganza. Fantastic stuff. 7.5

8. Shake It: An utterly throw away funk ditty and one of the most pointless songs in the Bowie cannon. Sounds like it belongs on Labyrinth. 2.0


VERDICT: Bowie fully committed himself to commercial popularity with the mega-selling Let’s Dance and it paid off in spades – commercially. Let’s Dance saw a complete overhaul of his working musicians (even no Carlos Alomar) and producer (goodbye Tony Visconti), as well as less artistic collaboration, rather passing over an idea or song to producer Nile Rogers and his team of musicians and allowing them total artistic freedom to mould, add, tweak and magnify, leaving the only thing left for Bowie to do was to turn up for vocal takes (which are very impressive) and the odd sax solo. However it was Bowie’s artistic vision that made this the screaming success it was and he seemed far less troubled and ready to have a good time. It’s certainly not a horrible album, and I do not dislike it, I just don’t play it as much as some others and it’s unfair to judge it against anything that came before it. There are some great things about it. The album saw the emergence of the late Texan blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan whose playing all over this album is undeniably wonderful. The accompanying tour proved that Bowie was the consummate professional performer and still theatrically vital and one hell of a singer. This album also turned a lot of people onto Bowie who would not have otherwise heard his 70s material - which I guess is a good thing. Unfortunately all rough edges have been smoothed out and the album now sounds dated and suffers from having that big quintessential 80s buff sound, as well as being horrifically slick and menace-free. Let’s Dance achieved exactly what it was intended to do, however this was also the beginning of a steep downward spiral in the quality of Bowie’s music as he quickly became indifferent to his own recorded output in every way.

NEXT: “Your family is a football team..”

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