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 David Bowie

British rock artist

Studio Albums

David Bowie - 1967

Space Oddity - 1969

Man Who Sold the World - 1970

Hunky Dory - 1971

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust - 1972

Aladdin Sane - 1973

Pin Ups - 1973

Diamond Dogs - 1974

Young Americans - 1975

Station to Station - 1976

Low - 1977

Heroes - 1977

Lodger - 1979

Scary Monsters - 1980

Let's Dance - 1983

Tonight - 1984

Never Let Me Down - 1987

Black Tie White Noise - 1993

Outside - 1995

Earthling - 1997

Hours - 1999

Heathen - 2002

Reality - 2003

The Next Day - 2013

 

Live Albums

 

David Live - 1974

Stage - 1978

Ziggy Stardust Motion Picture - 1983

Santa Monica 72 - 1994

Live Santa Monica 72 - 2008

Glass Spider Live - 2008

VH1 Storytellers - 2009

A Reality Tour - 2010

 

Selected Compilations

 

Related Albums

 

Tin Machine - 1989

Tin Machine II - 1991

Tin Machine Live - 1992

 

 

 

 

 DAVID BOWIE

Space Oddity - 7.5

Bowie cast off the mantel of Anthony Newley sound alike to produce what became his first genuine album after the novelty style songs that first brought him to the public's attention. I remember championing the man whilst at High School. Others were into the heavy stuff like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Jethro Tull (the so called underground). I preferred the more whimsical stuff like Bowie. And they laughed at me. But when this came out people began to listen and by the time Man Who Sold the World followed, there were a number of converts. Bowie was voted by artists in the New Musical Express as the most influential artist of all time. I tend to agree with that assessment simply because he has lasted longer than the Beatles and re-invented himself so many times. This is an important album in Bowie's evolution and it also stands as a decent effort in anybody's language. Space Oddity the single became enormously popular, but here Bowie shows that he is not afraid to set off into unchartered territory with Cygnet Committee building and building into a 10 minute epic. I remember insisting that a friend listen to Cygnet Committee. I think at the end of it he was pretty unmoved, but I just said wow. This was where I wanted pop/rock music to go. Elsewhere the album is full of little gems that show Bowie was a man of the people. God Knows I'm Good is the sad story of a hungry pensioner forced to shoplift, Memory of a Free Festival is a stripped down song that does exactly what it says on the tin. The space theme is also extended by Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud. There are imperfections in this album but it was one of the reasons that I really got into music. A new Bowie album became an event and he was to go on to make three of the most perfect albums in the history of pop.

 

The Man Who Sold The World 8.5

I view this as a stepping stone album towards the greatness that was to follow. Bowie was defining his style. He was almost there, almost achieving his aim of taking on the rock world. Some of the songs are mini epics in their own right. The album gives the feel that Bowie was evolving his songwriting style. It is a stark album that would eventually lead to collaborations with Eno and his German experimentation period. The album starts with another epic in the form of the Width of the Circle which showcases Mick Ronson's extraordinary guitar work and also makes us realise that the 1970s are upon us and threatening to bring something frighteningly good in the world of music. The cosiness is being wrenched out. There is madness within this track and the album as a whole. To see an illustration of this just listen to the wierdness of All the Madmen. It is on this album that we first get an idea of the depth of Bowie's vocals, sometimes sung and sometimes snarled. And of course the cover changed. My early LP version has a young looking Bowie doing a high kick whilst playing his guitar. This was changed to the famous cover of Bowie in a dress. It was almost as if Bowie was battling with his demons, his sexuality and what ultimately would be his musical genius. After the early Anthony Newley style songs this came as a bit of a shock. There was plenty of rock songs - indeed this was probably Bowie's heavy rock opus. It is a thumpingly good album. When I returned to it after a number of years to write this review I was absolutely gobsmacked by its power and sense of direction and its sheer power. The title track remains one of Bowie's best songs - and was even recorded by Lulu!

 

Hunky Dory - 10

And so to the first of the great trio of albums. I can't think of a mainstream artist who has produced three such perfect examples of their art in succession. Ziggy Stardust is generally accepted as the best of the three, but I disagree. For me Hunky Dory was the pinnacle of Bowie's songwriting ability. It is a quieter more sophisticated album than Man Who Sold The World. I first saw Bowie live in Harlow, Essex, somewhere between Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust. I have memories of Bowie playing the first half of the set at the piano featuring much of the material from Hunky Dory before unveiling the Spiders for an electric Ziggy set for the second half. This album attacks the senses like virtually no other. It has a feel of greatness about it. Great albums have no weaknesses. This is a great album. For sometime I never got past the first side of the album - it was that good. I continually played Changes, Oh You Pretty Things, Life on Mars, Kooks and then went back to play them again. It was only later on that I realised that there were gems on side two as well. Songs of passion - the art school feel of Andy Warhol and Song for Bob Dylan and The Bewley Brothers was just one of those songs that confused but amazed. Above all the thing that makes Hunky Dory a great album is the atmosphere it emits. Bowie has hauled himself back from the edge of insanity as suggested by the Man Who Sold The World and turned into the consummate songwriter - more outward going and less introverted and ready to move into the next phase of his life - a strange spaceman ready to change the rock map for ever. I almost look upon Hunky Dory as Bowie's folk album.

 

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars - 10

Every song a gem. Every song important in the history of rock music. Every song dripping with class. This was where Bowie had been heading for - the weird androgynous character, the space artist insisting that we lose our sensibilities and enter his world with 11 songs about space, time and a new world. All you need to do to realise the greatness of this album is to transport yourself back to the early 1970s - a time of political unrest, three day weeks. A time of rebellion where the fanciness and experimentation of the 60s had given way to the harsh realities of a rather aggressive decade. This album is released and you play the opening track "Five Years" and the lyrics "News had just come over, we had five years left to cry in, News guy wept when he told us, earth was really dying." One of the most apocalyptic songs to be written and all this with a melody more akin to a love song - pure magic. The great music just continues throughout the album. Soul Love, Starman, Lady Stardust, Star, Ziggy Stardust and the sheer brilliance of Rock N Roll Suicide. These are the songs that are quite extraordinary in their power. Alongside them are the great rock efforts like Suffragette City, Moonage Daydream and Hang On To Yourself. This album has a brilliant balance. Bowie said it all in Ziggy Stardust with the immortal line "Ziggy played guitar" and how. So with two all time classic albums under his belt, where would Bowie go. Surely he couldn't produce a third classic or could he?

 

Aladdin Sane - 9.5

And the answer was an unqualified yes. This was the third of Bowie's classic albums that seemed to roll so effortlessly through the early 70s. After Aladdin Sane I felt that Bowie's prowess as a songwriter of quirky and catchy rock/pop songs dropped off. Over the years he has had other high spots but never reached the excellence of Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Well over 25 years on this one still excites with the jazz piano of Mike Garson on Lady Grinning Soul maybe suggesting some of the experimentation that Bowie would be undertaking in the future. Drive In Saturday, Time, The Prettiest Star are all seminal Bowie. This album showed a man at his creative peak and reminds us that Bowie was a great artist. Listen to these songs and you can see exactly where bands such as Suede come from. Ziggy had gone, Bowie had moved on but everything was still okay with the world. Every track here is another absolute gem - as good as anything Bowie wrote. Ironically the one track I'm not fond of is Let's Spend the Night Together - a song borrowed from the Rolling Stones. This album is about the human condition with songs such as Panic in Detroit, Cracked Actor and Time. Again there are so many highlights. The Prettiest Star is one of my favourite Bowie songs. Many many years later when Bowie's input had sunk through experimentation. I looked back on the trio of albums as Bowie at his peak and thought "why can't he write songs like those any more?" But time passes and Bowie's journey had many miles to run as we shall see.

 

Pin Ups - 6

In retrospect it seemed a strange career move for Bowie to bring out an album of covers after three of the greatest rock albums in the history of the genre. But the question is has it stood the test of time and the answer is a qualified yes. In 1973 when the album was released most of the songs would have been instantly recognisable but Bowie does manage to give them the Ziggy twist and that makes the album worthwhile if only for the novelty value and as a collector's item. Some pieces work better than others. There is some awful attempts to really rock but the alum is rescued by covers of Syd Barrett's "See Emily Play," "Sorrow" and The Easybeat's "Friday on My Mind."

 

Diamond Dogs - 5.5

So what do you do when you've released three classic rock albums in a row? In Bowie's case you don't stick with the tried and tested but move off in another direction. The apocalyptic feel is still there but these songs are more uneasy, more edgy and there's a thudding beat running through the album. There's nothing easy about Diamond Dogs. Songs Like Big Brother and 1984 speak for themselves, purely through their titles. Bowie seems to be searching for some kind of identity after a number of years of pulling himself through the ringer. The result is modern white soul/rock that at times is less than perfect. It is almost as if Bowie is searching for a rougher more soulful feel. He does achieve it, but I can't say this is one of my favourite Bowie albums, particularly in the light of what has gone before. At times Bowie stretches his voice to its absolute limits and that doesn't make for easy listening. Rock n Roll With Me has a showbiz feel about it with its jangling guitar work over the top of jazzy vocals. Overall my main gripe with Diamond Dogs is it is lacking in charm and just too harsh for comfort and there are a few tracks that are just embarrassingly bad.

 

Young Americans - 5.5

You could be forgiven by this time for wondering just what Bowie was going to come up with next. The answer was a more soulful Americanesque album of wailing sax and girlie backing choruses. Much more sophisticated than Diamond Dogs and a lot less frightening, but still considerably far short of the mark by his earlier standards. Bowie's chameleon like stance towards his music seemed at odds with the artist who had taken the rock world by storm with a variety of incarnations, each more extravagant than the last. Young Americans does take some listening to. It had a rather impersonal feel about it, but did spawn two Bowie favourites in Fame and John I'm Only Dancing which were completely in keeping with the remainder of the album. The title track also stands along with some of his best material and his version of Across the Universe reminded us that he could still be the London boy, but overall this one has always left me cold. I longed for Bowie to go off on another track and of course he wouldn't disappoint us in that respect for very long.

 

Station to Station 7

Then along came Station to Station and some kind or resurrection in my eyes. Just six tracks. The opening title track grinds into our sensibilities with a pounding railway beat that gives way to those silky and creamy vocals that are more akin to The Man Who Sold the World than the previous two less than perfect albums. This track over 10 minutes long restores some faith that Bowie is once again writing art-rock songs and his soul period is behind him. It twists and turns before giving way to Golden Years and the beautiful Word on a Wing which remains soulful without becoming a pastiche and reminds us just how great Bowie's vocals can be. TVC 15 is in the same vein as Golden Years, Stay remains funky without ever being too obtrusive and Wild is the Wind remains one of my favourite Bowie songs despite the fact that it was written by Dimitri Tiompkin and Ned Washington. It suits Bowie's voice superbly. It is well known that Station to Station was recorded whilst Bowie was seriously hooked on cocaine. It doesn't show greatly as this is no throwaway album, but Bowie growing into his music and showing the first leanings towards the electronic direction that he would shortly be moving into. In other words another transition album.

 

Low - 7.5

Speed of Life/ Breaking Glass/ What in the World/ Sound and Vision/ Always Crashing in the Same Car/ Be My Wife/ A New Career in a New Town/ Warszawa/ Art Decade/ Weeping Wall/ Subterraneans

There is a strange kind of threatening charm about Low and if that sounds like a contradiction in terms, that is really exactly what this album is. Bowie was going through some dark times but somehow he managed to flesh out an almost rejuvenated sound. The last four tracks have a minimalistic sparseness about them - almost understated, almost leading us to some messages within the man's brain. They are, however, atmospheric and of a time and place in Bowie's catalogue. Other tracks sparkle and clang into life with Sound and Vision showcasing Bowie's voice as well as anything he did before or after. I can see that Low is an acquired but somehow it manages to bridge the pop influences with the more avant garde eclectic feel of Brian Eno. A whole album of subterranean ambient sound would have been tough to take but Low has managed to find a balance without become pretentious and that's what makes it one of his more intriguing albums.

Heroes - 5

Beauty and the Beast/ Joe the Lion/ Heroes/ Sons of the Silent Age/Blackout/ V-2 Schneider/Sense of Doubt/Moss Garden/ Neukoln/ The Secret Life of Arabia.

The second of what was to become known as the Berlin Trilogy. This was an album of contrasts, but to me a poor relation of Low. The first side of the original album (we are talking vinyl here) had  vocals that were almost shouted. There are a few interesting tracks - Heroes has been adopted as an anthem of the good and great and Sons of the Silent Age has a feel to it of Bowie struggling between the past and the present and falling somewhere in between. Then we come to the electronica. Controlled experimentation is how I would describe tracks like Sense of Doubt. The album always leaves me with a feeling of being half full (or should that be half empty).

Lodger
Scary Monsters and Super Creeps
Let's Dance

Tonight - 3

To me this is one of the most nondescript of David Bowie's albums when he was apparently going nowhere. Nondescript songs and a nondescript performance where Bowie tries out Reggae. This has none of the man's great hallmarks and scarcely a decent track. One of my least favourable Bowie albums.

Never Let Me Down
Black Tie White Noise
1. Outside

Earthling  - 6.5

This is an album that has to be listened to closely. As background music, it seems to be just noise. But careful scrutiny shows that there are melodies and at times Bowie succeeds in joining the grunge set with feedback and distortion straight out of the Neil Young repertoire. Earthling doesn’t succeed on every level and at times gets bogged down in its own seriousness. There are, however, good moments with Little Wonder and the single Dead Ma Man Dancing extremely catchy. I still long for a Bowie album of pop songs in the style of the brilliant Hunky Dory. Having said that Bowie is still a trend-setter who has continually shifted his musical output to stay with the times. His voice here at times out Blurs Blur. This is well worth a listen or 10.

Hours
Heathern
Reality
The Next Day - David Bowie - 5

The Next Day/Dirty Boys/The Stars (Are Out Tonight)/Love is Lost/Where are We Now?/Valentine's Day/If You Can See Me/I'd Rather Be High/Boss of Me/Dancing out in Space/How Does the Grass Grow?/You Feel So Lonely You Could Die/Heat

There's a kind of definite sadness when you find an album not living up to its hype. Bowie came out of retirement at the age of 66 and gathered almost universal praise in the music and national press for this album. I was so anticipating it and looking forward in expectation of a collection of poignant vignettes summing up the past, looking at the present and possibly anticipating the future. The first single Where Are They Now was a return to form and promised much. Harking back to his Berlin days, there was a sad poignancy about the lyrics and a wistful tune that got into your brain. Sadly as it turns out it is by far and away the best track on the album. I use the word charm a lot in writing music reviews and again it's in short supply on The Next Day - thus making the fact that Bowie has returned to recording the main story rather than the music itself. There are too many upbeat rockers here that follow on from what's gone before but add little to it. The pieces seem to almost melt into one another with no breaks for subtlety apart from on "Where Are They Now" and the final track "Heat." The sad thing is that ultimately this adds very little to the Bowie canon which is a huge disappointment. Bowie could have nodded to the past and set the ground rules for any future releases. To find out how great an artist this man has been I would suggest returning to Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane. Now those were great days.