David Bowie "Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74)" (2017 Record Store Day release)

David Bowie's Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74) was a 3-LP set issued on Record Store Day 2017, limited to 17,000 vinyl copies worldwide. It was the first official release of a much-bootlegged live concert recording from September 5, 1974 at the Los Angeles Amphitheatre. The 20 live cuts are spread out across the first five LP sides; the sixth side has an etching of the same Diamond Dogs-era "BOWIE" logo that appears on the front cover. This album was mixed by Tony Visconti in the fall of 2016. The album is going to be released as a 2-CD set on June 16th, first in a limited-edition digipack, then in a standard jewelcase package.

Footage from this concert had appeared in the 1975 BBC TV documentary titled Cracked Actor. Bowie’s supporting players for this show consisted of some of the same musicians who worked on his 1975 album Young Americans, which was a work in progress at that time. These players included guitarists Earl Slick and Carlos Alomar, flute and sax player David Sanborn, percussionist Pablo Rosario, and future r&b star Luther Vandross on backing vocals. Although the set list was mostly made up of songs from Bowie’s early-‘70’s glam rock period, the performances often reveal the then-unexpected transition he was making to the blue-eyed soul of Young Americans.

The album doesn’t get off to a great start, because the cuts on the first two sides could have used more verve. Songs like “Rebel Rebel”, “Suffragette City” and “Cracked Actor” somehow lose some of their usual edge here. On the bright side, “Changes” and “Aladdin Sane” both have a charming cabaret sound that differentiates them from their studio versions; Bowie even sings a snippet of “On Broadway” at the end of the latter song. Bowie performs his composition “All The Young Dudes” – which he generously gave to Mott The Hoople – with a similar cabaret sound; it noticeably uses less guitar than the Mott version, but it’s similarly anthemic and uplifting. The horns used in "Moonage Daydream" and the “Sweet Thing” suite show signs of the Young Americans-era soul sound beginning to form.

The second disc fortunately finds the show kicking into higher gear, starting with the rousing “Rock N Roll With Me”, followed by two great soul numbers: a cover of Eddie Floyd’s 1966 Memphis soul song “Knock On Wood”, and the impassioned Philly soul of “It’s Gonna Be Me” (which ended up becoming an outtake from the Young Americans sessions). “Diamond Dogs” and “Big Brother” have a more futuristic feel, with a tape recording of “Future Legends” preceding the former; Bowie achieves a similar effect for his early hit “Space Oddity” by adding a tinny effect to his voice.

“Time” and “Rock N Roll Suicide” are both piano-based, but retain more of their rock and roll edge than many of the cuts on the first disc; “The Jean Genie” has an unexpected r&b groove applied to its early stanzas before Bowie and company proceed to energetically rock out. The closing track, “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”, was another eventual outtake from Young Americans; it’s a soulful variation on the Ziggy Stardust-era song “John I’m Only Dancing”, played by the assembled musicians with an impressive display of vivacity that brings to the album to a bright finish.

Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles ’74) provides a revealing glimpse of Bowie midway through one of the key metamorphoses in his chameleonic career. Fanatics will definitely want to search it out. Casual fans who only want to own one live Bowie album recorded in 1974 will probably prefer the in-print David Live, which was recorded two months earlier and has a similar song selection.

David Bowie - Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74)

David Bowie "Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74)" (Parlophone 0190295869373/DBRSD 7476) 2017

Track Listing:

Side 1

1. Introduction
2. 1984
3. Rebel Rebel
4. Moonage Daydream
5. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (reprise)

Side 2

6. Changes
7. Suffragette City
8. Aladdin Sane
9. All The Young Dudes
10. Cracked Actor

Side 3

11. Rock N Roll With Me
12. Knock On Wood
13. It's Gonna Be Me
14. Space Oddity

Side 4

15. Diamond Dogs
16. Big Brother
17. Time

Side 5

18. The Jean Genie
19. Rock N Roll Suicide
20. John I'm Only Dancing (Again)

Side 6 consists of an etching of the Diamond Dogs-era "BOWIE" logo which is on the front cover.