Friday, August 12, 2016

David Bowie - Diamond Dogs

As a guitar player, my favorite work of Bowie's has always been the records that he did with Mick Ronson - his uniquely heavy sound and melodic playing truly makes Bowie's classic records "classic". On this record Bowie had already dismissed the Spiders From Mars and used none of them here, relying instead on Herbie Flowers on bass and both Aynsley Dunbar and Tony Newman on drums while Bowie himself took on all of the guitar duties (as well as sax, Moog and Mellotron). I was impressed with David's guitar work, although it is not as compelling as Ronson's. Still, it helps to give this record it's own sound and makes it the tipping point between his Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke personas.

Opening with an Orwellian dialogue which ends with his tag line "this ain't rock'n'roll, this is genocide!", the band leads into the title track. While the guitar tone is thinner than Mick's, this song sounds like it could have come off of Aladdin Sane - nice riff, a 70's rock groove and cool horns. "Sweet Thing" is an emotional ballad that foreshadowed his Young American sound and blends into "Candidate", an intense horn'n'guitar driven kinda soul-rocker, before reprising "Sweet Thing" in this suite and ending with some overdriven, noise guitar.

From there we get the hit of the record, the fantastic rock'n'roller, "Rebel, Rebel". Supremely catchy, simple guitar lick, upbeat rhythm and lyrics of teenage alienation make this among his best tunes and, again, something that would have easily fit in with his Ziggy period. "Rock'n'Roll With Me" is reminiscent of his previous "power ballads" like "Rock'n'Roll Suicide" that segues into "We Are the Dead", which starts as a pretty piano ballad and builds into a dramatic piece. The centerpiece of the album, "1984" (Bowie initially wanted to do a theatrical production of the novel, but was denied rights, so he created his own 1984 Floor Show), features Shaft-esque wah-wah guitars, soundtrack-ish strings (arranged by Tony Visconti, whose biography I am reading now and who had worked with Bowie earlier and would continue to do so) and an insistent rhythm. This is logically followed by "Big Brother", which is awash in orchestration but still retains a very catchy chorus before ending with the quirky but memorably effective "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family". The CD comes with two bonus tracks, the previously unreleased "Dodo" (from 1973) and a demo version of "Candidate".

Not his best effort, but still a strong showing, especially as it was in the midst of change - stylistically and personnel-wise.