David Bowie’s lost 70s album The Gouster is like the holy grail of pop – review

From Neil McCormick at The Telegraph


A lost album from David Bowie might seem like the holy grail of pop music. Yet here is the peculiarly named The Gouster, raised from the archives as the centre piece of a handsome new 12-CD box set, Who Can I Be Now? (1974-76).

The 27-year-old Bowie stares from the sleeve, draped in a newspaper and the American flag, looking unusually anxious, as if wondering what posterity might make of a collection of recordings he himself deemed unfit for release. He needn’t have worried. The Gouster turns out to be a minor joy from a major artist, a soulful stepping stone on the way to inventing a whole new genre of music.

Between 1969 and 1980, Bowie released 13 astonishing studio albums. In the two-year, 1974-76 period alone, he put out three albums: Diamond Dogs, Young Americans and Station to Station – all included in the new box set in various mixes. And now, it turns out there’s more?

David Bowie

Well, sort of. Recorded in that same ‘American’ period, during a break from touring over two incredibly productive weeks in Sigma Sound Studios, Philadelphia (home to the Gamble & Huff soul empire), The Gouster has been restored from original mixes by producer Tony Visconti. It was Bowie’s first stab at meshing his grandstanding melodies and arty hauteur with funk and soul, and includes versions of four songs that would make their way on to Young Americans (including that album’s title track).

“Gouster” was antiquated slang for a black American streetwise, jive-talking, sharp-dressing dude, the new pose Bowie himself was affecting. The album displays a more raw, live quality than Young Americans, with several tracks extending into long jams. Bowie’s raspy but flowing vocals have a powerful presence, breathlessly tender on towering ballad It’s Gonna Be Me, rapturously intense on the monumental Who Can I Be Now?.

What do you think?

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