Alan Yentob's 1974 documentary Cracked Actor depicts Bowie adrift in America in the back of a limousine, cocaine trickling down his nostrils while he coos along to Aretha Franklin. This persona informs 1975's Young Americans, although Bowie's dramatic shift into black music is a more emotional record than his gleeful description of it as "plastic soul" implies. The classic title track finds him powerfully trying to reconnect with his humanity - "Ain't there one damn song that can make me break down and cry?" Elsewhere, Fame (co-written with John Lennon) ponders stardom's ups and downs, while funk beats and Luther Vandross cries help breathlessly document the times as New York shifted from Watergate-era politics into disco partying. Hugely influential, the original album benefits from bonus tracks like a disco version of John I'm Only Dancing (Again), while period DVD footage includes Bowie live and, in the case of a Dick Cavett TV interview, barely alive.
CD: David Bowie, Young Americans
Dave Simpson is a Guardian music critic and author