Sigh. Here we go again, glancers. It’s another voyage of disappointment into the back catalogue of Mr D. Bowie. Who knows, maybe this time I’ll enjoy it? So far, his most revered work has passed through my ears with little impact so maybe I’ll be one of those weirdo fans who loves the stuff which his most diehard fans despise. Or maybe I’m doomed to never be the fan I assumed I was going to be. Will I be surprised, or will this album further confirm my theory that Bowie, up to this point, has only written three songs – the jaunty ballad, the stomping rocker, and the standalone pop hit? Looking down the track listing, I get confused when I see a Pink Floyd and a Who song that I recognise. What’s going on? A quick look at Wikipedia tells me that this is actually a covers album… interesting, I wasn’t aware that Bowie had done such a thing. More interestingly, there is a quote stating that the album was conceived as being something completely opposite from all he had done previously. Halleloo-yah!
Looking at Bowie’s demented visage on the cover, where he appears to have had a toxic skin peel and face transplant with Twiggy, or else they are both wearing pairs of tights over their bodies (well, it was the 70s), I can only assume that Bowie was still trying on his androgynous waif thing to startle the establishment and confuse heterosexuals. That is all good, but forty years have passed since then, and we are all now living in a future where skinny jeans are the bane of society not because it is a statement of any sort, but because every dickhead is wearing them. We are all well-fed, entitled ghosts. The cover offers little suggestion of what is in store for my listen, other than more coked-up madness. Lets roll.
‘Rosalyn’ (The Pretty Things): Jangly punk chords. Fast, upbeat fun. Bowie not singing like Bowie. I have no idea what the original sounds like. Seems like a fine rock song.
‘Here Comes The Night’ (Them): Segues nicely into this one. Riff, brass, singing, exodus, fast. I’ve heard a few versions of this. This takes away most of the blues, glams things up and while it isn’t cheesy, it’s more light and breezy than other covers I’ve heard.
‘I Wish You Would’ (The Yardbirds): Big riff. Keeping up the high-speed. Bowie attempts to ruin it with silly screeching. Nice, chaotic middle section with Harmonica and guitars shredding each other to pieces before riffs returns. Guitar collapse at end is a good one. Overall, a great tune with a segue into next
‘See Emily Play’ (Pink Floyd): Heavier and more glammed version of Barrett’s original. Overall more bombastic, less spacey. But still weirdo comedy moments between verses and chorus. Nice choices of instruments and sounds. Not sure about the alien vocals. Good drums in middle. This seems much longer than the original. LoveFilm DVD arrives…Dellamorte Dellamore.. sweet, been waiting for this. Mash-up ending noyses.
‘Everything’s Alright’ (The Mojos): I know that riff. I don’t know how. Stomping. Bowie’s voice isn’t best suited to harsh edged blues or punk stuff, but it does give a unique flavour, and it works better with the glam updating of the music. This is just an average song, nothing memorable aside from the riff, sounds like a thousand other songs of era.
‘I Can’t Explain’ (The Who): Big guitars. Trumps. Piano. I actually don’t find this too different from The Who’s version… it’s a pretty straight-forward song and there’s only so much you can change whilst keeping it recognisable.
‘Friday On My Mind’ (The Easybeats): Twiddle hammer on off. This sounds more like something Bowie would have written, too many words. I assume people have made the comparisons with The Cure before? I don’t believe I knew this song, but it’s pretty good, must hunt out the original, maybe it doesn’t have Bowie’s antics on the microphone distracting everyone.
‘Sorrow’ (The Merseys): Lovely sounds. Happy days. Freedom. Love. Sorrow. Sadness. Bittersweet. Dual vocals. Overall, another strong song which makes me want to seek out the original (or past versions as the case may be). Rich ending.
‘Don’t Bring Me Down’ (The Pretty Things): String bends. Riff. Blues. Faster. Again, seems like a fine song, up-tempo, though nothing overly catchy or memorable here.
‘Shapes Of Things’ (The Yardbirds): Bowie chooses to embrace the chaos and psychedelic stylings of the nature, adding plenty of his own flair and additional effects to make something both brilliant and monstrous. The guitars are thankfully still there. I wonder if Beck appreciated this. Collapse end.
‘Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere’ (The Who): Shuddering start. Keeps the Who’s vocal style and doesn’t lose any of Townsend’s guitar attack. Bowie actually lets rip well here in a decent Daltry impersonation. Great song, fine cover.
‘Where Have All The Good Times Gone’ (The Kinks): Drum. Chords. More brass. Another heavier, more glammed up version of the original. Sudden end.
I imagine this ranks up amongst the best cover albums ever. It has a focus which is both a strength and a weakness – the focus on a certain period of music and updating each in a fairly similar style gives a coherence, while limiting the album to songs of a certain period which were already following fairly similar styles means that the album could become a little repetitive. Luckily, most of the songs are stong enough to counter any sameness, with only a few feeling like a fan’s favourites rather than something the rest of us could enjoy. Well done, Dave, you’ve done another good thing here.