support from Cancer Treatment Centers Of America
On Tuesday, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art will open “David Bowie is,” the career-spanning exhibition originally created by London’s Victoria & Albert Museum. The show’s open-ended title captures the singer’s chameleonic gallery of personae, represented in the exhibition by an array of costumes, concept drawings, and videos. These artifacts show the larger conceptual imagination that has always surrounded Bowie’s music, which itself is highlighted by items from throughout the process, from handwritten lyrics to cover sketches to final recordings.
Happy 67th Birthday, David Bowie.
Philly has always had a special place in its rock and roll heart for The Thin White Duke. His first (and best) live album, David Live, was recorded at the Tower Theater in July 1974 during his Diamond Dogs tour. That same summer, during breaks from the tour, he set off on a recording course that would become one of his best albums, Young Americans.
Partially recorded in Philly at Sigma Sound Studios, Bowie gathered a band that included Carlos Alomar on guitar, the rhythm section of bassist Willie Weeks and drummer Andy Newmark, David Sanborn on saxophone, backup singers including Luther Vandross, engineer Tony Visconti and others in August 1974. From an October 1974 article in Rolling Stone, Philly Stopover: Fans and Funk by Matt Damsker writes:
La Bowie and his entourage made elegant camp here for two weeks before the start of the West Coast swing of his current tour.
Pitching tents amid the staid and somewhat geriatric prestige of Rittenhouse Square’s Hotel Barclay, the Bowie mob had come from its New York headquarters after booking some 120 hours of recording time at Sigma Sound Studios, home of the Gamble-Huff-Bell R&B empire and one of the busiest hitmaking studios in the country.
Bowie’s intention had been to record with the rhythm section from MFSB, Sigma’s resident body whose TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia) had recently pinned Philly Funk to the top of the charts for an extended reign. However, some confusion over commitments left Bowie with only MFSB conga player Larry Washington.
In addition to the Rolling Stone article about the sessions, there’s an absolutely great account of the recording sessions along with outtakes and songs and additional photos here. Below, via The Young American SoundCloud are some outtakes from the sessions and a radio promotional spot for the album. Be sure to check out the alternative version of “Fame” with flute.
Ok, so we didn’t see this coming. First, David Bowie emerged from a near ten year hiatus to offer us a gift (on his birthday) in the form of a brand new song “Where Are We Now.” It was followed with the announcement of a completed full new album, The Next Day on Columbia Records. And now that that new album is finally a reality to our ears, all most can say is … “wow.” The Next Day does more than serve as fulfillment for a long absence, it finds this musical icon in a state of creative bliss and incredible ambition.
Truth be told “Where Are We Now,” while a gorgeous song, doesn’t really speak to the energy that The Next Day offers. The album storms out of the gate with the title-track. It’s thrilling to hear the cutting guitars on tracks like this, the next single “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” and “Valentine’s Day.” There’s brilliance in the frantic, almost chaotic “If You Can See Me.” And there’s delicious grooves on songs like the funky “Dirty Boys” which sees longtime Bowie collaborator Steve Elson on saxophone. He adds almost a Morphine like vibe to “Dirty Boys” dominating the tune.
And speaking of collaborators, Bowie fans won’t be surprised but should be excited by the presence of producer and musician Tony Visconti who helped craft The Next Day with Bowie. The two pulled off what most would consider ‘the impossible’ these days: record an album and make sure no one finds out. The record is artsy, edgy, ambitious and rocking.
Purchase the album here.