Sunday, March 7, 2010

 

Album of the Day: David Bowie (3/7/75) 35 Years!

David Bowie’s 24-odd mainline albums evidence his unusual skill at adapting himself, his wardrobe and his music to changing times and genres. That’s why he frequently called “The Chameleon.” Bowie’s 9th studio album, Young Americans came out on March 7, 1975 and heralded a self-termed “plastic soul” phase in which he briefly embraced the sounds of 60s and 70s American R&B music.

The blue-eyed soul of Young Americans followed Bowie’s late-60s start as a pop and music hall performer, the hard rock of The Man Who Sold The World (1970) and the glam-rock of Ziggy Stardust in the early 70s. But plastic soul was short-lived. Within a year, Station to Station moved him to an avant-pop mode, and 1977’s Low transitioned further into an electronic, synth-pop sound.

Young Americans had a #1 single in “Fame” (co-written by John Lennon, who also provided backing vocals) and a lesser hit with the title track. The album itself made it into the Top 10 in both the U.S. and U.K. It’s available on Amazon and iTunes. Check the Playlist Vault for my interpretation of Bowie's 25 best songs.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

 

Album of the Day: The Rascals (12/15/69) 40 Years!

The Rascals were the quintessential 60s blue-eyed soul band, a blend of hard R&B with gospel influences, pounding rhythms and tight harmonies in the Motown and Memphis veins. In their peak years from 1966 through 1969, they released six Top 20 albums and thirteen self-composed Top 40 hits, including two #1’s (for a Rascals playlist, click here). But the internal desire to expand their music and the external pressure to retain relevance in the days of psychedelic rock caused the group to stray from their core competency – pop/soul singles - as the decade came to a close. Two experimental, near “concept” albums (1968’s Once Upon A Dream and March 1969’s Freedom Suite) delved into broader genres and were thus less focused on what the band did best. But they sold well anyway and each included a big single (“It’s Wonderful” and “People Got To Be Free,” respectively). With the release of their seventh LP, See, on December 15, 1969, the Rascals returned to their roots as a singles band, but it was too late. See was the beginning of the end and was the last Rascals’ album to have any measurable impact.

See is not a bad album at all, it just lacks a monster single or two to grab the listener and carry the band’s return to the gritty, exuberant white soul of their earlier albums. It’s available as a CD on Amazon (click here) but not on iTunes.

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