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Aug 16 2017

David Bowie – Cracked Actor

David Bowie - Live 1974 - Billboard (imgur.com)

David Bowie – Live 1974 – Billboard

Albumdata

Artist David Bowie
Album Cracked Actor
Year of release 2017

Rating

Review

Cracked Actor are the recordings of a Philly Dogs Tour concert, which was held on September 5th, 1974, at Los Angeles’ Universal Amphitheater. Some clips of the September 1974 shows were edited into the revealing 1975 BBC documentary Cracked Actor.

Tour

The concert is part of The Diamond Dogs Tour which ran across the US in 1974. The shows were divided into three runs:

  • June 14th to July 20th
  • September 2nd to September 16th
    Introducing Carlos Alomar (who would play with Bowie until the early 2000’s), Greg Errico (former drummer for Sly & The Family Stone), Ava Cherry and (the great) Luther Vandross into the band
  • October 5th to December 1st
    Introducing Dennis Dave into the band, who remained Bowie’s drummer up to and including the so-called Berlin trilogy

The last part of the tour was called The Soul/Philly Dogs Tour (on davidbowie.com this release is credited as part of the Philly Dogs Tour). This part contained songs of the, at the time, yet to be released Young Americans, of which recordings commenced in August.

David Bowie - Live 1974 - Skull (bobgruen.com)

David Bowie – Live 1974 – Skull

David Bowie - Live 1974 - Space Oddity (artsy.net)

David Bowie – Live 1974 – Space Oddity

The tour required quite a bit of preparation, in particular because of the elaborate stage and many props (Bowie decided to tour without all that starting October 10th). The set was designed by Mark Ravitz, who would later also design Bowie’s 1987 Glass Spider Tour. The set was meant to be a city (called “Hunger City”), weighed over 6 tons and was made up of more than 20,000 moving parts, including a number of stage props (like lanterns, chairs, skulls, etc.). Such sets and parts were completely new at the time. A number of errors occurred. At some shows parts of the stage collapsed. During Space Oddity Bowie sat in a chair, which hovered over the audience’ heads. He got stuck in the chair numerous times, because of failing hydraulics.

David Bowie - Los Angeles Programme story (archive.org)

David Bowie – Los Angeles Programme story

Programme

A special programme was developed for the Los Angeles concerts. An original copy of the programme is priceless nowadays. The text above is from the programme.

Cracked Actor – BBC documentary

In 1975 the BBC broadcast the documentary Cracked Actor. Bowie was followed during the 1974 tour. The image that arises from the documentary is shocking. His weight was already alarmingly low and his drug use enormous. He clearly seemed to be not connected to earth. The documentary is oftentimes painful to watch.

David Bowie - David Live (wikipedia.org)

David Bowie – David Live

David Live

And still… the tour was great. Bowie did something completely different from the glamrock, which had made him famous. Soul (and even funk) was the new direction for Bowie. The tour was documented on Bowie’s first live album David Live. It was recorded during the first run of the tour, and the tapes needed a lot of rework. A bad album, on which Bowie himself agreed.

Cracked Actor – The album

David Bowie - Cracked Actor (discogs.com)

David Bowie – Cracked Actor

Celebrating Record Store Day on April 22nd, 2017, Cracked Actor was released on vinyl as a limited edition. On June 16th, 2017, it was released on compact disc and was made available more widely.

Is this release better than David Live? Very much so! Essential listening. A beautiful reflection of what Bowie was up to at the time. Musically different, many songs had new arrangements, and, above all, great sound. It sounds like it was recorded yesterday. Regular Bowie producer Tony Visconti did a wonderful job.

Highlights abound: 1984, Changes, Knock On Wood, Space Oddity and John, I’m Only Dancing (Again). But, truth be told, I really do the other songs a disservice.

It truly is an impressive document. Given Bowie´s state at the time it is amazing he could stand, let alone give this kind of great shows.

Songs

  • Introduction
  • 1984
  • Rebel Rebel
  • Moonage Daydream
  • Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)
  • Changes
  • Suffragette City
  • Aladdin Sane
  • All The Young Dudes
  • Cracked Actor
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll With Me
  • Knock On Wood
  • It’s Gonna Be Me
  • Space Oddity
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Big Brother
  • Time
  • The Jean Genie
  • Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide
  • John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)

In closing

What do you think of this album? Also impressive? Let me know!

 

Compliments/remarks? I´d love to hear them!