Tuesday, August 12, 2008
"Black Tie White Noise (Here Come Da Jazz)"
This was a remix of the title song from David Bowie’s 1993 album. The song was released as a single, the remix on a 12”, and both singles and album were mostly ignored when they were released. The company Bowie had released them on went bankrupt immediately, and Black Tie White Noise all but disappeared from Bowie’s catalog until recently. I’ve been working my way backwards through Bowie and just reached this; the remix is available on the second disc of a 2-disc+DVD reissue of the album that came out in 2003 and is starting to become scarce.
The album/single version of the song is good. Solid hip-hop beat circa ’93, a nice bed for the hard-hitting lyrics, which deal with the L.A. riots of the previous year and sometimes feel like an updated version of “Ebony And Ivory” but which get less sappy the closer you listen. That’s Al B. Sure! trading vocals with Bowie, either a nice touch or a mawkish one, can’t really tell. Good melody line, decent groove; coy vocal references to older songs. The best part of the song is the jazz touches, trumpet by Lester Bowie (who played on about half the album) and sax by David himself. In 1993 acid jazz was going strong, and while it would be going too far to say this was Bowie’s “acid jazz album,” it definitely toys with the style, and jazz elements (mostly Mike Garson’s piano) would crop up on Bowie’s albums for the next decade.
The “Here Come Da Jazz” remix (credited to album co-producer Nile Rodgers) is better. As the (somewhat embarrassing) title says, it brings the jazz, but what it really does is change the groove. It removes all percussion, and in fact most of the instruments. What we’re left with is a slinky bass line, augmented by several interlocking vocal lines, some very cool keyboard, and the jazz instrumental touches—ironically, the solos are chopped up, but they’re even more effective here. The sparseness of the arrangement was probably originally intended to put the spotlight on the lyrics, which are much more audible here than in the original mix, but the new groove is so good that it has the opposite effect—I listened to this four or five times before I even realized there were lyrics. It’s a very sensual groove, with some seductive chord changes and a lot of reverb on everything. Sometimes the bass drops out, and the vocal lines alone don't provide a constant rhythm. The groove never quits, but sometimes it feels like it’s moving forward on air alone.