David Bowie

Virgin, 1984

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


This is an interesting one. It’s not essential listening, but still interesting. As David Bowie’s fifteenth release, Tonight seems to have a little something for everyone. Re-teaming with fellow songwriter-in-crime Iggy Pop (who is virtually unrecognizable here), Bowie starts the album off on a lush note with the big, grand production of “Loving The Alien.” This song could be considered an autobiographical cousin to his classic “Space Oddity” and can only be described as Thompson Twins (the marimba) meets Spandau Ballet (the stings).

After such an impressive opening, the next three songs are something of a letdown. The misguided cover of “God Only Knows” is the biggest clunker, as my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Bowie dons his lounge lizard crooner persona and opts to sing in a shaky lower register. The ruined Beach Boys classic is sandwiched between two Caribbean-flavored tracks in the form of “Don’t Look Down” and “Tonight,” with the latter featuring a pale backing vocal by Tina Turner. All I could think was that David Bowie was stretching himself much too far for his own good.

Thankfully, the final five tracks on the album make up for that tepid trio of tunes. As the two best cuts, “Neighborhood Threat” and “Blue Jean” are everything we come to expect from an amazing artist like Bowie. On “Neighborhood Threat,” we are treated to a heavier, more industrial sound that is featured later on in his career, via Tin Machine. The best line has got to be “Everybody wants to kiss your trash” – what a great statement about the celebrity life! Also helping to put this album back on solid footing is the slam-dunk single, “Blue Jean,” which blends a scorching horn section with a dash of marimba that has to be heard to be believed. And you thought “Let’s Dance” was fun.

Ending the colorful package of Tonight in an upbeat, solid way are three more tracks that deserve to be heard one more time. With “Tumble And Twirl” we hear a light and fun side of David Bowie we rarely have seen over the years. The remake of “I Keep Forgettin” picks up the pace even more, paving the way for the loose thunder jam of “Dancing With The Big Boys,” an experimental barrage of sound that is almost guaranteed to divide audiences. Maybe that’s why it was made a b-side to the “Blue Jean” single.

My physical appearance has always been described as being a cross between David Bowie and Iggy Pop, so I guess it’s no wonder that I would be compelled to buy Tonight, an album that merged the styles of these two compelling individuals so successfully. My only wish might have been for both of them to stay as far away from the reggae as possible.

Rating: B-

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith 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 Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.