REVIEW

DAVID BOWIE
Trident Reference Series: The Astronettes [no label 1CD Torrent: 70084]
The Astronettes 1973 sessions at Olympic Studios in London. Produced by David Bowie. "This is the original studio reference tape of the unmixed album that features lots of Bowie that was eventually mixed out." Ex SBD stereo.

In all fairness, one would require unstinting familiarity with the released version of the Astronettes’ Bowie-produced People From Bad Homes album to find this set of more than passing interest. And even among his greatest acolytes, there’s previous few people who could claim that distinction; and fewer still who could actually say the handful of "differences" here really make a difference. The sound is a little choppier, the fades and edits a shade less abrupt, and there’s some studio chatter and noises between tracks. But that really is about it.

The basic story of how, in 1973, a bored Bowie gathered together his three regular backing vocalists and took them off to make a soul album has been retold often enough, and when this set finally appeared in the mid-1990s, it was astonishing just how perfectly it blueprinted 1975’s Young Americans, a change in direction that had otherwise appeared out of blue. Digging into the "unmixed" tapes, however, does not dramatically alter things - it is still a surprisingly soulful record, thanks to Ava Cherry’s heartfelt vocal, and it remains riddled with working versions of notions that Bowie would himself return to later in his career: "People From Bad Homes," "I Am A Laser" and the Beach Boys’ "God Only Knows" would all pop up in his early-mid 1980s canon.

But this version of the album loses one song (Springsteen’s "Spirits In The Night" - although it’s "Having A Good Time" that is omitted from the track listing), while the appearance of the Bowie-led "I Am Divine" will shock only those listeners who weren’t able to access it on the earlier disc (it was indexed as track 0, requiring listeners to hit "play" on the CD, and then rewind furiously). So, all round, The Astronettes is a curio more than a compulsory acquisition… but, if you don’t have the original disc, it’s still a wonderful album. - Dave Thompson




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