Let's Dance

David Bowie

EMI Records, 1983


REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


In the past, it really seems that I've been hard on poor David Bowie. For one of rock's biggest names and most influential artists, I really haven't shown that much courtesy to him, handing out one so-so review and one scathing review.

So, using the time-honored tradition of "random pull" in the hallowed Pierce Archives, his 1983 effort Let's Dance was retrieved. (Pity - I was hoping to do Pinups, having just bought it a week ago.) And, sure enough, the third time is indeed the charm; on this album, Bowie quite posibly is the most commercial-friendly he ever had been in his career.

Let's Dance is remembered for two of Bowie's biggest hits, the title track and "Modern Love". The problem these days is that these tracks are played to death on classic rock radio, making them almost unbearable to hear repeatedly. But like many other songs that have suffered the same fate, these tracks sound much more at home on the albums they came from - in their own environment, if you will. Both tracks - especially "Let's Dance" - show Bowie getting funky for the first time in his career, and seeming like he was loving every minute of it. (I will admit, though, I didn't like the original version of "Let's Dance" - the radio-edit we're all used to has some of the fat stripped away.)my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

A third song from this album, "China Girl," received attention both through some radio airplay and through a newer invention at the time called MTV. (For that matter, MTV probably is one reason why Let's Dance did so well - not just because the material was so strong.) And even though the video is a bit whacked, the song itself is rather enjoyable.

Of the remaining songs on Let's Dance, none of them are standouts, though none of them are horrid. (The only song that got on my nerves a bit was "Shake It" - and even there, it wasn't too bad.) Bowie's pension for film music can be seen on one track, "Cat People (Putting Out Fire)," which possibly had hit potential had the movie not been a flop. (Hey, anything beats "This Is Not America", okay?) Even some of these tracks, like "Without You," could have been a little longer for my tastes - that's how easy it was to get into some of this stuff.

Let's Dance marked the birth of a legend as well - Stevie Ray Vaughan lent his guitar talents to this album, even though he doesn't seem to have the freedom he was used to with the blues, something you can hear in the playing. Still, it's nice to hear his Stratocaster cut through the sonic sculptures to add a fresh voice to the music.

I don't think this was part of the original release - at least my battered "25-cents-at-a-garage-sale" copy doesn't have it - but "Under Pressure," a duet Bowie did with Queen on their Hot Space album, is now included on Let's Dance. In all honesty, I don't know why they bothered - I would tend to think that those who like the musical quirks of Bowie would already have been Queen fans.

This could have been Bowie's high water mark - however, I'll stop short of declaring Let's Dance his best, simply because I'm not as familiar with Bowie's back catalog as I should be. (Relax - I'll eventually buy them and review them. I still have Pin Ups and Station To Station in the Pierce Archives to get through.) However, I think it's safe to say that Let's Dance is the album people looking to discover Bowie should pick up first.


Rating: B

User Rating: B+


Bowie's entrance into the 1980's got him massive radio exposure, hits on MTV (including the racy China Girl), but shows his 1970's genius had run out of ideas. It's an okay CD, but besides the hits there is very little to return to.

And though Bowie's name is on the cover, this is really a three-way collaboration of Bowie, producer Nile Rodgers of Chic, and a then-unsigned Stevie Ray Vaughn. From that perspective, you see three artists at vastly different points in their career trajectories.
I have a couple of Bowie's album but never really got into his music beyond the singles. But one observation of your review is that you said this was Bowie's first venture into funk. Actually Bowie had a couple of funk classic hits "FAME and Golden Years" a decade earlier. I always wished that Prince would remake FAME, it would be perfect

© 1998 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI Records, and is used for informational purposes only.