Picks and Pans Review: Tonight

updated 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/03/1984 AT 01:00 AM EST

David Bowie

Twelve years ago Bowie's bizarre stage personae (Ziggy Stardust et al.) and ambiguous sexual orientation were considered scandalous. He was flouncing around the fringes of pop music. But he has worked his way so far back into the mainstream that his last album, Let's Dance, sold more than two million copies, proving that every diamond dog has his day. Tonight, while not as strong as Let's Dance, does flex some sinew in unexpected directions. Iggy Pop, who co-wrote Bowie's hit China Girl, collaborates on five of the songs on Tonight, including two successful experiments with reggae: the title cut, with some uncharacteristically sedate harmonies by Tina Turner, and Don't Look Down. The latter has a stunningly authentic Caribbean sound, due to Bowie's clever phrasing—remarkably like Bob Marley's—and the bass playing of Bowie newcomer Derek Bramble, who co-produced the album with Bowie and Hugh Padgham. David and Iggy aren't the only composers represented. On I Keep Forgetting, a 1962 Leiber-Stoller tune, Bowie explores nuances of Chicago blues, and for Brian Wilson and Tony Asher's God Only Knows, he trots out his most yearning basso voice for a torchy rendition. When a musician who is as unique and personal as Bowie covers so much material by other writers, it frequently is a sign of a backhanded effort. But if that's the case with this LP, Bowie's backhand is considerably more devastating than most rockers' serves. (EMI America)

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