Once We Were Lovers (Golden Eggs EGG 175)
(71:43) Having A Good Time, Only Me, I Am A Laser, Things To Do, People From Bad Homes, I Am Devine, Sweet Thing, Everything That Touches Me Touches You, Young Americans-Take 1 From Reel B117-16-2, Young Americans-Take 2 From Reel B117-16-2, Young Americans-Take 3 From Reel B117-16-2, Shilling The Rubes From Reel B117-16-2, Lazer Young From Reel B117-16-2, After Today From Reel B117-16-2, Young Americans-Take 4 From Reel B117-16-4, Young Americans-Take 5 From Reel B117-16-4, Dancing From Reel B117-16-4, Can You Hear Me From Reel B117-16-4, Right (Vocal Rehearsal), David Talking About Foot Stomping, Foot Stomping / I Wish I Could Shimmy Like Me Sister Kate
After dismantling The Spiders From Mars, David Bowie’s next project would be the elaborate Diamond Dogs project with hints of soul and funk influences coupled with his interpretation of George Orwell’s 1984. Working with Carlos Alomar had exposed Bowie to American Black music, to which he absorbed and became immersed in sparking a wave of creativity which would culminate on his next LP, Young Americans. This release from the Golden Eggs label collects studio outtakes from this era, it is credited to Bowie and Ava Cherry, the soul singer he met and like Carlos Alomar, guided him into the world of Black Soul music that would influence this “Plastic Soul” phase of his career. This recently surfaced material has seen a prior releases, Sigma Sound Session (No Label 2022) and The Gouster (Sigma Sound Records-SSR45 001/002/003).
After meeting vocalist Ava Cherry in 1973, Bowie not only began a romantic relationship with her, but began working with her on music, the first of which was part of his Soul influenced vocal group The Astronettes which also featured Warren Peace and Jason Guess. The first six tracks are taken from The Astronettes sessions recorded between December 3, 1973 to January 15, 1974. These recordings are taken from an unedited master tape which differs from the ones on the official Ava Cherry and the Atronettes People From Bad Homes release in the mid 90’s. The sound is excellent, the mix is perfect and the bass is huge, the music is rather average Soul and while well performed by both musicians and vocalists, never really shines. The tracks sung by Ava are certainly the stand out tracks, I Am A Laser and People From Bad Homes. While this material may seem average, it does give a fascinating glimpse into what Bowie’s taste in music was during this time and how deeply he was into soul and that lush Philly sound and how his own early musical influences would blend into this sound.
The next two tracks, Sweet Thing and Everything That Touches Me Touches You are from an RCA/ Mainman acetate recorded on July 9, 1974 featuring Ava Cherry on vocals, the musicians are credited to Bowie’s touring band so one can assume Herbie Flowers on bass, Tony Newman on drums, Earl Slick on guitar, and Mike Kamen on keys with Bowie adding saxophone. The sound quality is perfect, beautifully recorded with a wonderful mix with nice deep but not overpowering bass. This is an excellent showcase for Ava’s vocals, warm and inviting. It also is an excellent way to hear Bowie’s sax skills, so often overlooked, his playing almost acts as a quiet response to the main vocals.
The next 10 tracks come from sessions recorded during the Sigma Sound Sessions on August 13 and 14, 1974. Unlike the Ava Cherry acetate, these tracks have musicians credits, Mike Garson on keys, David Sanborn on sax, Carlos Alomar on guitar, Willie Weeks on bass, and Andy Newmark on drums. Backing vocals feature Ava, Alomar’s wife Robin Clark, and future Soul Legend Luther Vandross. The versions of Young Americans from Reel B117-16-4 feature the unmistakable piano of Mike Garson, Bowie’s vocals on take 3 are really interesting, no backing vocals David does the high falsetto himself, his vocal delivery in parts have him almost getting into an embryonic Rap/ Hip Hop style years before it would be mainstream. Some tracks are full tracks while others are just snippets, the sound quality is superb throughout. There’s lots of chatting between songs, perhaps one of the most interesting tracks is the Right vocal rehearsal with David working with Ava and Robin, short but very intimate.
David Talking About Foot Stomping comes from the syndicated radio show In The Studio with Red Beard from 2002, he also speaks about John Lennon’s involvement with Fame and how it was based upon Foot Stomping / I Wish I Could Shimmy Like Me Sister Kate which leads us into the last track of that song which was recorded for the Dick Cavett show November 2, 1974 and broadcast December 4, 1974. The quality of the interview is excellent, the Dick Cavett performance is excellent but certainly not to the quality of the rest of this disc, however it is an essential part of this release.
The packaging is very nice, the weathered American Flag on the front and rear covers is accented by minimalist colors. The interior has excellent liner notes and a lot of nice pics of Bowie and Ava from this period which ties the whole package together. Excellent release, the sound quality is excellent, the notes are spot on providing a presentation deserving of this material. This must be considered essential material for Bowie fans as studio quality material like this does not come along often.