on June 9, 2007
I love this album. The original stereo mix is great. Great songs, great performances, great sound. I'm not even going to get into that. My review is for those of you strictly curious about the 5.1 mix.
The 5.1 mix, in short, is awful. If you've ever thought to yourself, "Boy, I wish that bongo drum was loud as hell" or "Why can't those backup singers sound like they're singing in a garage down the road?" then maybe you'll like this. The strut and soul of these songs is lost in the obnoxious frills of this surround mix. There are constant issues with the reverb on both lead and backup vocals. I'm sure the original tracks are hard to deal with, but the effects that make this album sound like a classic piece of coked-out 70's soul only sound awkward when shifting around in the stereo field at any instant. The only track that I find even interesting to hear in 5.1 is "Win". The worst tragedy of this remix is "Fame". It sounds so dry and brittle that I can't even handle it. This isn't "Fame". This is something else... Then again "Fascination" sucks pretty bad too. Man, what a waste of money.
The Dick Cavette show stuff is great though. Bowie just can't quit fidgeting with that cane.
on July 12, 2001
Bowie's Glam edifice is reclad in philly soul slacks and swaps Londons West End for Broadway.
During his two year North American drive-thru, performing Glitter caked heavy metal at night,Bowie was by day absorbing the sounds of Galdys Night, Billy Paul et al. By 1974, he had already signposted his change of direction on his Orwellian 'concept' album, Diamond Dogs. Listen to 'When you rock and Roll with me' and you'll get the picture. Just in case no one took the hint, he embarked on another jaunt around the states with a convoy of trucks containing a 'post apocolyptic cityscape' stage set, from which he sang soulfull renditions of his back catalogue. Listen to the resultant 'David Live' album and and you can hear radically reworked versions of, most notably, 'Moonage daydream', 'All the young Dudes' and a spectacular camp-soul version of 'Rock'n'roll suicide.
When his convoy of props ended up in the florida swamps thanks to a road 'incident', he reopened at the Curtis Hixon Hall, somewhere in florida (don't ask me to be geographically precise here - I'm from Scotland)as a stripped down soul revue. The Diamond Dogs tour was over and the 'Philly Dogs tour began.
When Young Americans hit the shelves then, nobody should have been surprised. They were however (myself included, all that knowing cynisism is just hindsight. I was ten!) and the 'chamelion of rock' had just managed another total reinvention.
The hype around this was magnified in the UK when the BBC broadcast 'Cracked Actor', a documentry that managed to portray a skeletal anorexic coke head as the most intelligent and (still) glamorous entity in the universe - in the eyes of a ten year old anyhow. Still, He backed up the smoke and mirrors with a batch of music that will stand the most vigorous testing for a long time to come. As the album kicks off with the awesome title track, you know that you are in for something special. He manages to paint a picture if cosmopolotan urban streetlife and varnishes if with a veneer of contemporary political bite. There is even some prototype rapping at the end. 'Win' is a late night candlelit dinner in a Manhattan penthouse that is given a dark underbelly by Bowies' deep swimming vocals and decadent phrasing. Where did Ziggy get that voice?? 'Fascination' is a taster for his later multi layer production techniques with Eno. Here, they are used to convey an urgent and sexy groove and a certain Mr Luther Vandross is used superbly on backing vocals. 'Right' continues the theme in a slightly choppier manner and gives way to 'Somebody up there likes me' which, as well as being astoundingly good, conjured up images of 'The Candidate' and, er, 'Rhoda' (it's MY image and I'm going to use it).
Across the Universe should be awfull. I believe that it is generaly accepted as awfull (I may be wrong) but I love it. Compare Lennons' original wispy vocals with Bowies swirling vocal gymnastics and It's plain to see that the whole ethos of the song is being bulldozed. Still, I love it. 'Can you hear me' was the song that I used to play in my teens when trying to be sophiticated with a girl of my fancy. The fact that I didn't score once does not detract from the sheer shaggability factor of this song. Snogtastic. Then there's 'Fame'. One night with Lennon on a James Brown trip and you have the King of dancefloor Strutters. It is so cool it's positively artic. The man was truly godlike in his snide venomous put down of the trappings of his holy grail. The more knowing of us ten year olds could empathise with the man. It really was tough being so creative, enigmatic and famous.
The extra tracks on this reissue demonstrate what a hot streak Bowie was on. Somebody else said this and it is true. Bowie was diching tracks that other artists would have built careers on. That they can hold their own in such company should be recommendation enough.
This album kicked off the most creative period of Bowies' career. That it did so employing the likes of Dennis Davis, Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar is no coincidence. Check out the credits on the subsequent 'Stationtostation', 'Low', 'Heroes', 'Lodger', and 'Scary mosters' discs.
Young Americans is my favourite Bowie album, though not for any inellectual or aesthetic reasons. Scotland had a very rare real summer in 1975 and this music was perfect for bright summer days and hot steamy nights. Even when you were ten. We had even had a drought in '76 but that's another album.
This album gets five stars because that's all I'm allowed to award. Go buy it.
on June 27, 2007
I honestly think the Dolby mix listening experience depends on the type of fidelity system one has. I do agree with the previous poster that certain instruments really are much too loud on several of the songs, but I found the backup singers coming out of the rear channels to be really something else. The songs featuring string arrangements are especially compelling with Bowies' vocals centered, background singers in the rear and the orchestration lushly swirling around seemingly from everywhere. I don't know if Dolby DTS makes this sound better, but that's the scheme that I use to listen to just about everything, including this (I just prefer DTS over 5.1). Aside from the occasionally loud bass drum or percussion instrument, I just haven't found any deal breaking faults like the prior reviewer has. No disrespect to his opinions, but I guess people just hear things differently.
The five star rating is for the total package of this latest re-issue. The CD version of the mixes is outstanding, the Dolby disc while not drop dead essential, is nice enough to have. The Dick Cavett interview and the musical performances are both really very interesting archival things. Yeah they've been floating around forever as bootlegs, but now's your chance to get it legitimately. The liner notes are also excellent, tracing the path of the album itself and the Bowie timeline of events that surrounded this recording (like found on the Ziggy, Aladin and Diamond Dogs reissues).
So in short, no don't buy this if you're happy with whatever version of YA you have. But if you do have the cash to burn then by all means indulge yourself.
Young Americans was and still is, a great great album.
After "Diamond Dogs", the world was thrown off balance again with Bowie's rumors of hanging out in a Philadelphia studio with fans sleeping at the stage door. It was the same city he recorded the "Diamond Dogs" tour - the `City of Brotherly Love'. Black/White Soul Love music from Bowie? No way. Yes way. Although it was a strong departure, "Young Americans" has become one of those Bowie albums that are so unique and distinct in its character that you either love it or hate it. It's all true soul funk with the magical backup of the late Luther Vandross's voice. "Young Americans" made it as a modest single, but it was the collaborative effort of "Fame" with John Lennon that is the song of choice here. There is nothing like it anywhere in the world. Bowie's rendering of "Across The Universe" is an uninspired tribute to Lennon and "Can You Hear Me" is bland. However, "Somebody Up There Like Me" is a true funky bass driven number that completely satisfies. At the very least, this album is consistent and Bowie proves he truly has some serious soul.
"Young Americans" still surprises me to this day with it's amazing R&B. The sound was more clearly mixed than "Diamond Dogs" and it was a real departure for Bowie. The regular remastered CD with, "John, I'm Only Dancing", "Who Can I Be Now?" and "It's Gonna Be Me" sounds even better than the original CD. The extra three tracks are on par with the other songs and its bewildering that in an era when 12 songs per album were standard, Bowie released an eight song album. "John, I'm Only Dancing" is a much more improved R&B version than the rock version.
The 5.1 mix surprised me. It is not perfect and I like it that way. Luther Vandross's back-up vocals come mostly from the rear speakers and you can hear him much more clearly. The congas on "Young Americans" are a little loud for the mix, but it makes the whole experience seem more like a live studio recording instead of a carefully remastered remix. In fact, Bowie mentioned in the liner notes that he liked recording this album with all the instruments playing at once while he sang. There are other surprises. On this DVD you can hear John Lennon speak briefly after one song and the finale of "Fame" has each word of 'fame' descending going around the room from speaker to speaker, but the loud shout of 'fame!' before, 'what's your name, what's your name, what's your name...' is missing. It catches you!
The Dick Cavett interview is a treat, with Bowie sniffing and wiping his nose while fidgeting with his cane. So he did a lot of coke during this period. Who cares? The album is a perfect choice for surround sound. And that sound will vary from system to system.
on March 16, 2014
Young Americans has some great songs on it. The songs are soulful and heartfelt. When Young Americans was first released, it was dismissed as being "plastic soul". But I can't honestly imagine Bowie's vast and varied discography without Young Americans.
I do want to make a point about the 1999 reissue. It is the best version around. The sound on all of the 1999 reissues are crisp, clean and clear. Very happy with the remaster.
Also, I personally do not like bonus or extra tracks on re-releases. I personally prefer a re-release of albums to be released as they are. If any bonus or extra tracks are necessary, those should be released on separate albums. The previous CD version (the 1991 Ryko CD's) of Bowie's discography contained bonus tracks, which I didn't like. With the 1999 reissue, the albums are presented as they were when originally released.
THIS IS A CLASSIC ALBUM AND ONE YOU OUGHT TO HEAR AGAIN AND AGAIN. Smooth, polished, perfect -- if David Bowie had emerged from the primordial goo of 60s/70s music to deliver only this single album (as opposed to his Picasso-like eternal rock brilliance) he would still be considered a genius.
For someone to term this album "plastic" is an abomination. This is brilliant work, satisfying on several levels at once, not the least of which is the joy of hearing the stellar production and playing throughout the album. The arrangements will have you out of your seat with joy, shouting out the open front door to the neighbors to get over here and listen to this, no, wait, I'll just turn it up. It's *exciting* how good this music is.
There's one point in "Win" where the background singers, Bowie, and the bass line are all happening and it's a kind of vortex or singularity that delivers all that music has to offer, I mean they really grab the gold ring and bring it home to show Grandma. This album is so good that I've never objected to the horn charts, which always irritate me otherwise. It's a beautifully crafted album, truly a work of art.
Yes, "Across The Universe" blows monkey chunks. Listen, not every oyster you slice open is going to contain a pearl, you know what I mean..? And I heard "Young Americans" often enough in high school to really never want to hear the song again, though 25 years on it's not half as bad as I recall.
The combination of Win > Fascination > Right > Somebody Up There stands as the vital, beating heart of the album. Excellent for slow f*cking. This album is like the Seventh Cavalry riding over the mountain to save the day, this album is like Charlemagne or King Arthur's Camelot riding up to your house on horseback with nothing but good news. Boundless riches.
Can he sing the blues? Don't stray. This is an excellent album, well worth the price. You will never regret having purchased it. There are more visceral and more forgettable Bowie albums, but this is the most elegant and refined rock album that God has so far seen fit to release to the general public (you and me).
Note from 2004: DB is apparently mortal after all, having had a stent installed in a heart procedure this year. Difficult to believe. Anyone that's reached the stratospheric heights like David Bowie has hit musically ought to be immune from death... what a genius. This album is irrefutable proof of his staggering talent. David Bowie defines what a rock star is. You have GOT to hear this album!
on April 8, 2007
I can now reflct upon the unfolding of Young Americans in 5.1.
I must say it's not the same experience as the hearing the 5.1 mixes of Talking Heads material, since Young Americans wasn't recorded as expensively - and doesn't have as many overdubs as much of the Heads works. In other words, don't expect a total revelation here.
On the other hand, there are new things to be found, especially when you get to side two and such tracks as Across the Universe and Somebody Up There Likes me. Putting the backing vocalists into the rear is a master stroke. Sitting the center of my setup is like sitting in the room while the album was recorded, surrounded by Bowie in front, and the singers behind.
Some of the new seperation does allow you to fully realize the depth to some of the songs - the use of handdrums on Young Americans is a stand out, and you can really enjoy them now like never before.
The DVD also includes a show Bowie did at the time with Dick Cavert. Dick was a bit, erm, straight for Bowie, but it's interesting none-the-less. You get to hear Bowie do two tracks (annoyingly the note say he did three, but they didn't inlcude the third). He starts with 1984, and ends with Young Americans. 1984 is simply superb, and it's fascinating to hear such a song played in a mainstream show. Young Americans wasn't fully gelled yet, so it has slightly different lyrics, which is always fun.
Bowie was at the height of White Soul image, and he's clearly thin and well on his way to next persona - the Thin White Duke. Sadly, it's also clear he'd been snorting some chemicals before the show was aired. All the usual signs - fidgetting, jerky movements, lack of concentration, and a perpetual sniff, are evident. Despite that the longish (20 minutes or so) interview is interesting in that Cavert keeps trying to paint Bowie as an elite artist with fantastical ideas, while Bowie keeps his feet well on the ground and is quite dismissive of airs and graces. It's a good watch.
Now for the negatives. As with the Talking Heads 5.1 mixes, in all honesty they can be a bit hit and miss. Sometimes a certain song just... well falls apart. It loses its balance, its drive, and sounds like something deflated, and/or, completely different. With Young Americans it's Fascination that just, well, goes to pieces. Perhaps I wil come to terms with the new mix, but first time around it sounded fractured and messy, as though the4 band are no longer playing together. The familiar melody has been lost as the indivudal sounds of the band playing go in seemingly different directions. It's the only true mistep here, and I'm not sure what to make of it. The rest sound great.
The worse thing though, the heinous thing, is EMI's assinine decision to make the default playback on the DVD a PCM Stereo mix! Wtf?!?!?
Let me explain - the disc ships with two discs - one a CD including the new stereo mix, the other a DVD with the 5.1 mix. You get three mixes on the DVD, PCM Stereo, 5.1 Dolby, and 5.1 DTS. With the Talking Heads discs (packaged the same way), you could put the DVD in the player, and simply press PLAY. What you get is the 5.1 mix. This makes perfect sense, because if you wanted the damn stereo mix, you'd put in the CD, surely?!?
With Young Americans you get the stereo mix from the DVD by default. To switch to the DTS track, you have to circumvent the menus. Which is crap, because the player I use for DTS is hooked up to my projector, and I'm not going to start that up just so I can listen to Young Americans!
And no - the damn AUDIO button does not change tracks on the fly. What a poor decision! Yes, you have to simply learn the remote sequence to get what you want: UP - SELECT - UP- UP - SELECT - PLAY. But really, it's completely stupid and I don't know what they were thinking.
All in all, this is a very good release of the classic album, and is definately worth picking up. It has a couple of annoyances, but I can live with those. They've slowly been given the ultra-deluxe treatments to classic Bowie (ziggy, Aladin Sane, Diamond Dogs, and now this), so I suppose Station to Station is next. I hope so.
If you're a fan of Bowie and this album, this is a no brainer.
on July 21, 2014
Right after become part of the soul music scene when he embraced The Philly
Soul Sound when he was in Philadelphia promoting his Diamond Dogs world tour
in 1974, David Bowie would present his “Plastic Soul” persona to the music world
that had produce this highly acclaimed masterpiece the following year. Released
in 1975 to critical and commercial acclaim, Young Americans came as a shock to
some upon it’s release when he showcased his blue-eyed soul which combines a
striking mixture of R&B and disco he performed with a high-rocking tone to whom
he did extremely well, but he even remain detached from the R&B interpretations.
Beginning with the show-stopping title track, the innovative track set proceed with
full force on other songs like Win, Fascination, Somebody Up There Likes Me, his
version of The Beatles’ Across The Universe, the funky Top Ten hit classic Fame,
his hypnotic disco version of John, I’m Only Dancing and the final track It’s Gonna
Be Me. Highlighted with an electrifying sound and a special guest appearance by
rising young alto saxophonist David Sanborn (who made his solo recording debut
in 1975), this direct change of pace nevertheless owed to Young Americans gave
this stroke of genius it’s distinctive flavour, as the robotic Plastic Soul later helped
inform generations of British Synthetic Soul (Fame, co-written by Bowie and John
Lennon, has such a funky beat that James Brown borrowed it from him). Despite
the lack of some strong songwriting, it would become a flawless achievement that
will always remain as fresh and timeless as ever for countless of ages.
on February 10, 2000
Recorded in Philadelphia during the difficult "Diamond Dogs" tour, "Young Americans" is a record borne out of Bowie's fascination with American soul music at the time. Having shed himself of the Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane personas, a new clean-cut, more normalised Bowie was preparing to say bye-bye to the Glam Rock he had helped so much to fashion.
Many of the fans he had amassed from the Ziggy Stardust days were dismayed by their hero's new direction and fled. Nevertheless, "Young Americans" proved to be an influential album. Later coined "plastic soul", this type of white, blue-eyed soul opened the door for many other acts.
The title track is one of Bowie's best songs. Accompanied by a seductive sax, Bowie sings in an urgent, almost breathless manner. This is essentially American life as seen through an Englishman's eyes, and so the lyrics with their almost cliched Americana never seem totally comfortable. On "Win", one of the album's stronger tracks, Bowie sings: "If there's nothing to hide me/Then you've never seen me hanging naked and wired" suggesting that we may finally be getting a glimpse at the man beneath the make up, the real Bowie. "Fascination", another of the albums better tracks was co-written by a young Luther Vandross who was drafted in to assist on backing vocals. The Beatles' "Across The Universe" is also given the disco treatment but remains a rather lacklustre affair. "Fame", a song added onto the album as an afterthought, was a result of a jam session in New York with friend John Lennon. This wry commentary on the rock `n' roll lifestyle went straight to number one in the US charts when it was released.
The production is suitably slick throughout, but it all remains rather extravagant and self-indulgent. There may be soul here, but unfortunately there is not much body. But this record does at least demonstrate Bowie's chameleon like ability to adopt and quickly learn different styles of music and make them his own. Fortunately Bowie got this soul "fascination" out of his system and moved on from here to perhaps his best period (see "Station To Station" and the Eno trilogy).