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David Bowie - Station to Station CD (album) cover

STATION TO STATION

David Bowie

 

Prog Related

3.89 | 163 ratings

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LinusW
Special Collaborator
Italian Prog Specialist
4 stars Transitional albums. Ah, some of the worst as well as some of the best music is found on these somewhat confused artistic endeavours. The charmingly schizophrenic David Bowie feels right at home in a transitional period though, making Station To Station one of my favourites in his long and varied career.

Pulling together funk and soul rhythms in a tight rock setting with nods to his mainly singer-songwriter years this makes for an interesting and eclectic ride. What's more important though, is the first signs of a new-found or increased interest in the electronic, ambient, alien and drug-drenched Krautrock scene that will influence his albums immensely over the next four years or so. In short, there really is a prog edge to the album, if that is what you need to hear to get interested in Station To Station. Moreover, there's a frantic desperation and almost maniacal, fruitless focus that permeate and fuel the atmospheres and lyrics of the album, likely a result of Bowie's raging cocaine addiction at the time. It's a cold, somewhat cynical singer that tells the stories on Station and Station, adding to the already larger-than-life image of Bowie.

Station To Station kicks of the album in a ten-minute, shivers-down-the-spine epically-arousing bang. Amazing track, which goes through a series of distinct movements that are great individually, but even better as a whole. It starts with some ominous electronic noise, leading into an alarm-like piano, repeated for much of this segment. Strange, muted and plucked guitar with various screeching from a distorted form of the same instrument. Subtle riffing and a recurring, slightly buried organ. Wonderful, rich layering moving forward with a rock-hard, steady beat. Really powerful stuff, and surprisingly, also catchy as hell. Menacing, but still with a lot of punch, it's only interrupted by the sudden mellowness in the breaks of "the return of the thin white duke"; more of that delicious, subtly acrobatic organ and muted guitar-plucking along with Bowie's slightly distant vocals. Suddenly it erupts (to great effect) in the near five minute finale part, with higher tempo in its distinct and repeated parts. A triumph through sound - with catchy keys and steadily forward-and-upward-moving melodies and riffs. Just listen to the organ in the background - delicious! A worthy, generous conclusion inflated with loads of energy and an odd, almost desperate sense of joy. The shift in style over to Golden Years is impossible to miss. This one boasts a cool, danceable beat with funky overtones riddling the guitar and bass. For some reason Talking Heads always comes to mind, due to the song's strong rhythmic base and Bowie's somewhat stressful vocals and the background vocals that drops in and out of the picture. A smooth, detached art-pop song, which is richer than what's hinted initially.

Next up is the albums emotional high-point. Sincere, naked vocals together with matching piano and sweeping string (-Mellotron) arrangements and church organ. A guitar crying from a distance. Really lovely and lively piano work. That deserves to be mentioned a second time. This song has its roots in an earlier, brighter period of Bowie's career. Another reviewer mentioned Hunky Dory, which isn't far off. Called Words On A Wing, the near hymnal qualities of this one are almost guaranteed to touch your soul.

TVC15 is once again dabbling in funk-infused, attitude-filled rock territory. More pronounced guitar work and again great layering, making the background busy all the time. Classic rock feeling and great drive, with the piano and guitar lending influences and sounds from many of the genres Western music has to offer. It builds up into a rich, almost orchestrated conclusion positively buzzing with excellence. Another great track.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, but Stay is also quite funky, with intense guitar work and solid percussion (feels slightly Latin). Seemingly quite straight-forward, but suspended on Mellotron in the background and with detached, clinical vocals (leaves me a bit cold, to be honest). Has an air of anticipation to it, but that doesn't help, as it still feels like the weakest track on the album.

Wild Is The Wind is a cover of a song originally made in 1957, but Bowie really makes it his own here. A perfect fit on one of his early albums, it's a gloomy, slightly oppressive ballad where acoustic guitar is playing a dominating role for the first time on the album. Nothing extraordinary instrumentally (typical 60s vibe with 70s production), but a truly great vocal performance. Exposed, honest and fatalistic, it's a mesmerizing and beautiful ending to an odd, but rewarding album.

Might take some time getting used to, and perhaps not the best starting point if you want to explore and understand Bowie's massive career. But I discovered him with this album, so it might just work the other way around.

4 stars.

//LinusW

LinusW | 4/5 |

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