David Bowie - Young Americans


David Bowie - Young Americans

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David Bowie - Young Americans
Young americans.jpg
Studio album by David Bowie
Released 7 March 1975
Recorded
  • August 1974
  • November 1974 – January 1975
Studio
Genre
  • Blue-eyed soul
  • R&B
Length 40:13
Label RCA
Producer
  • Tony Visconti
  • Harry Maslin
  • David Bowie
David Bowie chronology
David Live
(1974)
Young Americans
(1975)
Station to Station
(1976)
 
Singles from Young Americans
  1. "Young Americans"
    Released: 21 February 1975
  2. "Fame"
    Released: 25 July 1975

 

  "Young Americans" is the ninth studio album by the English musician David Bowie, released on 7 March 1975 on the label RCA, and his tenth album including the immediately preceding live release "David Live" (1974). The album marked a departure from the glam rock style of Bowie's previous albums, instead showcasing his mid-1970s interest in African American soul and R&B music.

Initial recording sessions for "Young Americans" took place in Philadelphia with producer Tony Visconti and a variety of musicians, including guitarist Carlos Alomar, to become one of Bowie's most frequent collaborators, and singer Luther Vandross. Bowie drew influence from the sound of "local dance halls", which were blaring with "lush strings, sliding hi-hat whispers, and swanky R&B rhythms of Philadelphia soul." Later sessions took place in New York City, and included contributions from John Lennon. Bowie would call the album's sound "plastic soul", describing it as "the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey".

Although Bowie was among the first English pop musicians of the era to overtly engage with black musical styles, the album was very successful in the US; the album itself reached the Top 10 in that country, with the song "Fame" hitting the number-one spot the same year the album was released. It was generally well-received by critics, and has received praise in contemporary criticism. NME ranked the album at No. 175 in its list of The 500 greatest albums of all time.

 

Background and recording

Begun on 11 August 1974, during breaks in David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour, "Young Americans" was recorded by Tony Visconti primarily at Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia. It was agreed early on to record as much of the album as possible live, with the full band playing together, including Bowie's vocals, as a single continuous take for each song. According to Visconti, the album contains "about 85% 'live' David Bowie".

In order to create a more authentically soulful sound, Bowie brought in musicians from the funk and soul community, including an early-career Luther Vandross and Anmdy Newmark, drummer of Sly and the Family Stone. It was also Bowie's first time working with Carlos Alomar, leading to a working relationship spanning more than 30 years. Alomar, who had not heard of Bowie before being called in to help with the album, recalled that Bowie was "the whitest man I've ever seen – translucent white" when they met. Alomar said of how the album was put together:

David always does the music first. He'll listen for a while then if he gets a little idea the session stops and he writes something down and we continue. But later on, when the music is established, he'll go home and the next day the lyrics are written. I'd finish the sessions and be sent home and I never heard words and overdubs until the record was released.

The song "Young Americans", which Bowie said was about "the predicament of two newlyweds", took two days to record.

The sessions at Sigma Sound lasted through November 1974. The recording had attracted the attention of local fans who began to wait outside the studio over the span of the sessions. Bowie built up a rapport with these fans, whom he came to refer to as the "Sigma Kids". On the final day of tracking the Sigma Kids were invited into the studio to listen to rough versions of the new songs.

"Fascination" and "Win" were recorded at Record Plant in New York City in December 1974.

"Across the Universe" and "Fame" were recorded at Electric Lady Studios in New York City with John Lennon in January 1975. They replaced previously recorded tracks "Who Can I Be Now" and "It's Gonna Be Me" on the record, though these songs were later released as bonus tracks on reissues of the album. The guitar riff for "Fame", created by Alomar, was based on the song "Foot Stompin'" by the doo-wop band the Flairs.

Packaging

For the album cover artwork, Bowie initially wanted to commission Norman Rockwell to create a painting, but retracted the offer when he heard that Rockwell would need at least six months to do the job. The album's cover photo was eventually taken in Los Angeles on August 30, 1974, by Eric Stephen Jacobs. Bowie's apparent inspiration for the cover photograph came from a copy of After Dark magazine which featured another of Jacobs' photographs of Bowie’s then choreographer Toni Basil. The cover itself, as well as the cover type was designed in New York at RCA by Craig DeCamps.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 3.5/5 stars
Blender 3/5 stars
Chicago Tribune 3.5/4 stars
Christgau's Record Guide B−
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 4/5 stars
Pitchfork 8.7/10
Q 4/5 stars
Rolling Stone 4/5 stars
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 3/5 stars
Uncut 4/5 stars

In a contemporary review for the Village Voice, Robert Christgau deemed the record "an almost total failure" and said "although the amalgam of rock and Philly soul is so thin it's interesting, it overwhelms David's voice, which is even thinner." He nonetheless appreciated Bowie's renewed "generosity of spirit to risk failure" following the disappointing "Diamond Dogs" and "David Live" albums. Rolling Stone's Jon Landau praised the title-track and thought that "the rest of the album works best when Bowie combines his renewed interest in soul with his knowledge of English pop, rather than opting entirely for one or the other."

In a retrospective review, AllMusic senior critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote that Young Americans is "more enjoyable as a stylistic adventure than as a substantive record." Douglas Wolk of Pitchfork regarded it as "distinctly a transitional record," stating: "It doesn't have the mad theatrical scope of Diamond Dogs or the formal audacity of Station to Station; at times, it comes off as an artist trying very hard to demonstrate how unpredictable he is." Nevertheless, Wolk also praised the fact that "while there had already been a handful of disco hits on the pop charts, no other established rock musician had yet tried to do anything similar." Writing for The Mail on Sunday, Dylan Jones called it "a slab of heartbreaking sophisti-soul that might just be the best seduction record ever made."

In 2013, NME ranked the album at No. 175 in its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The album was also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.

Track listing

All tracks written by David Bowie, except where noted.

Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Young Americans"   5:11
2. "Win"   4:44
3. "Fascination"
  • Bowie
  • Luther Vandross
5:45
4. "Right"   4:15
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
5. "Somebody Up There Likes Me"   6:30
6. "Across the Universe"
  • John Lennon
  • Paul McCartney
4:29
7. "Can You Hear Me"   5:03
8. "Fame"
  • Bowie
  • Carlos Alomar
  • Lennon
4:16
Total length: 40:13

 

 
     
     
     
     
   
 
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

 

Personnel

Adapted from the Young Americans liner notes.

  • David Bowie – vocals; guitar; keyboards
  • Carlos Alomar – guitar
  • Mike Garson – piano
  • David Sanborn – saxophone
  • Willie Weeks – bass guitar (except on "Across the Universe" and "Fame")
  • Andy Newmark – drums (except on "Across the Universe" and "Fame")

Additional musicians

  • Larry Washington – conga
  • Pablo Rosario – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ava Cherry – backing vocals
  • Robin Clark – backing vocals
  • Luther Vandross – backing vocals
  • John Lennon – vocals; guitar; backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Earl Slick – guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Emir Ksasan – bass guitar on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Dennis Davis – drums on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Ralph MacDonald – percussion on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Fineberg – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Jean Millington – backing vocals on "Across the Universe" and "Fame"
  • Luther Vandross – vocal arrangements

Chart performance

Certifications

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Canada (Music Canada) Gold 50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI) Gold 100,000^
United States (RIAA) Gold 500,000^

^shipments figures based on certification alone

 

 

 

David Bowie - Young Americans

U.K. RCA Victor RS 1006 stereo (1975)

Album produced by Tony Visconti and Harry Maslin.

The vinyl record has remained in excellent condition.

Audio quality is clear and strong throughout.

Both record centre labels are clean and unmarked.

The album cover is in excellent condition, displaying only minor signs of wear.

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