This is a 30-year-anniversary, digitally enhanced version of what remains, for many, Bowie’s finest hour. It will remind you how, on tracks such as “Drive-In Saturday” and “Cracked Actor”, the boy from Beckenham achieved the impossible and matched, even bettered, those period benchmarks Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust for sheer screaming camp glam.
Bowie’s fifth album proper, now with bonus tracks, easily maintained its two predecessors’ garishly fractured psychedelia long after that genre was considered dead. It also preserved Bowie’s status as supremely literate auteur, not to mention pop’s premier opportunistic slap-stained vaudevillian woofter.
Of course, “Let’s Spend The Night Together” and “Jean Genie” are slight additions to the Bowie canon, but “Time” blazes forth as ringing atonement for both. CD refinement can lend little to such elemental rock; this is harsh, postmodern guitar-led eccentricity which fed into punk, disco, post-punk and grunge. Yet Aladdin Sane is so much of its time that to ‘digitally enhance’ it is to diminish it.
A piano-led “Life On Mars”, “John I’m Only Dancing” and a fantastically affecting, schizoid “Changes” appear in rarely released versions on the second CD; fine examples of cross-genre playfulness.
The miracle of ’70s Bowie is how his dislocated, kitsch futurism became so enormously influential. Listening to this record in 2003 is to remember that the Tomorrow’s World of hovercars and spacesuits never happened. And yet Aladdin’s shadow is still that of a titan.