They got a message from the action man....
Released on 12 September 1980
Recorded at The Power Station, New York City
Running time 45:37
Bowie's 1980 release, coming after the so-called "Berlin Trilogy" was commercially more successful than its predecessor, Lodger. Brian Eno had gone by now. Bowie was on a bit of a new lease of life as a new decade began. After treading water somewhat in the (slightly) undercooked Lodger (although I like it), it seemed as if Bowie had rediscovered his mojo to an extent, however, with this one. He seemed happier, healthier and very creative. This album was a precursor to the huge commercial "comeback" that Let's Dance saw in 1983. Personally, I much prefer this album. Having said, that, for some reason, it is an album I never really got into, either back then or now, not nearly as much I did others. I am not quite sure that is because it is certainly a very good album. In a reference to all the new wave/post punk/new romantic acts influenced by Bowie's recent work, RCA marketed the album as "often copied, never equalled".
For many, though, it has become the "go to" album when talking of Bowie's last great album. It has become something of a cliché to hear "this is Bowie's best album since Scary Monsters" trotted out, lazily.
There is certainly a lot more verve and vibrancy about it, I have to say. Neither was it as quirky or oddball. It contained a massive number one single in the catchy, evocative Ashes To Ashes, where the spirit of Major Tom was evoked, and another big hit in Fashion. with its infectious "ooh-wah" backing vocals. That searing guitar on it was singularly impressive. Robert Fripp was back on guitar, after being replaced by Adrian Belew on Lodger.
1. It's No Game (Part One)
2. Up The Hill Backwards
3. Scary Monsters ( And Super Creeps)
4. Ashes To Ashes
6. Teenage Wildlife
7. Scream Like A Baby
8. Kingdom Come
9. Because You're Young
10. It's No Game (Part Two)
The first six tracks take some beating, including the slightly bizarre ranting vocals and frenetic sound of It's No Game (Part One) .
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and Up The Hill Backwards were also instantly appealing tracks and there is also the "Heroes part two" feel of the impressive, grandiose Teenage Wildlife which features one of Bowie's finest vocals. The quality dips just a little after such a good start, Scream Like A Baby being a bit cacophonous.
Check out the bass, drums and funny sounds on Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) then the lead guitar. Then try that BIG bass intro on Ashes To Ashes, the percussion and the whispering sounds. The intro to the underrated Because You're Young, the drums and Bowie's voice. The percussion on the cover of Tom Verlaine's Kingdom Come. Great stuff. As good as I have ever heard this album.
*The one session track that was not included on the album is:-
Crystal Japan. This (unsurprisingly) Japanese-influenced instrumental is from the 1980 sessions for Scary Monsters. It has a very "Heroes" feel about it, though, in its deep, reverberating and mournful synthesiser passages. It has a lot of the ambience of Moss Garden, for me.
*The 2017 series, supervised by Tony Visconti is another superb re-release. The remastering is, in my opinion, perfect. Full, clear and with the bass to the fore, it is how I like my remasters. Many will probably not like it, as indeed they didn't with the 2017 remasters of Low, "Heroes" and Lodger. Personally, I can't get enough of all of them. They have reawakened my interest in these albums, after all these years.