This is a fake 2-LP Bowie album from 1974, made up of 19 officially released songs. It is intended to be the soul-funk-disco Bowie edifice that the year’s albums implied but never quite pulled off, IMO.
I’m talking about “Young Americans,” “The Gouster,” “David Live,” and to a limited extent “Diamond Dogs.” (There’s also an outtake here, from the “Sound & Vision” collection.) Soul-funk-disco Bowie got put in a lot of different places.
I would argue that the year’s output was great, but that it was not a trail-blazing moment for Bowie. Instead, it was mostly a shaggy homage to varied Black American music, some of it old, some of it contemporary. He was definitely intuitive about where popular music was going in the mid-to-late 1970s, but he didn’t make it thoroughly his own the way he did glam beforehand and Krautrock/”new wave” afterwards.
So, I don’t think you get to the strongest case for 1974 soul-funk-disco Bowie by trying to find the 10 best songs; you aim to cover as many angles as possible, with as many songs as possible. I got to 19 before I thought I was pushing the premise too far.
This particular Bowie pose feels natural and complete to me, blown out into a double-LP. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts, as it arguably is with many of the Seventies’ double albums. Quantity, variety, and pacing make it seem like a bigger deal.
Maybe that’s why Bowie and Visconti struggled with the track list for a single LP that year – first proposing the 7-song “The Gouster” configuration, then releasing the 8-song “Young Americans,” each including tracks the other doesn’t. Neither strikes me as a balanced album; you need (almost) all of the combined tracks, plus some more.
Most of those additional, necessary tracks come from “David Live,” which documented a blurry transitional tour, in which Bowie began to sort out his soul-funk-disco moves, ahead of “The Gouster”/”Young Americans” sessions. It’s a good album – a good band and tour – but it delivered a mix of songs played straight (rock and roll) and songs played through the 1974, “American year” aesthetic. I pulled those latter tracks into this mix.
Between Ziggy and The Thin White Duke, there was this guy.
- Young Americans (5)
- The Gouster (5)
- David Live (7)
- Diamond Dogs (1)
- Sound & Vision (1)
- Side 1: 23:01
- Side 2: 24:48
- Side 3: 22:52
- Side 4: 23:52