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David Bowie Reality album cover
3.38 | 149 ratings | 7 reviews | 12% 5 stars

Good, but non-essential

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Studio Album, released in 2003

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. New Killer Star (4:40)
2. Pablo Picasso (Jonathan Richman) (4:06)
3. Never Get Old (4:25)
4. The Loneliest Guy (4:11)
5. Looking For Water (3:28)
6. She'll Drive The Big Car (4:35)
7. Days (3:19)
8. Fall Dog Bombs The Moon (4:04)
9. Try Some, Buy Some (George Harrison) (4:24)
10. Reality (4:23)
11. Bring Me The Disco King (7:45)

Total time 49:20

Bonus disc from 2003 Limited edition:
1. Fly (4:10)
2. Queen of All the Tarts (Overture) (2:53)
3. Rebel Rebel (2002 re-recording) (3:10)

Total Time 10:13

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / lead & backing vocals, guitar, keyboards, percussion, baritone sax, stylophone, synthesizer, co-producer

- Tony Visconti / guitar, keyboards, bass, backing vocals, co-producer
- Mark Plati / guitar, bass
- David Torn / guitar
- Gerry Leonard / guitar
- Earl Slick / guitar
- Carlos Alomar / guitar (2.1)
- Mike Garson / piano
- Bill Jenkins / piano (4)
- Sterling Campbell / drums
- Matt Chamberlain / drums (11, 2.1)
- Mario J. McNulty / percussion & drums (8)
- Gail Ann Dorsey / backing vocals
- Catherine Russell / backing vocals

Releases information

Artwork: Rex Ray with Jonathan Barnbrook (design)

CD Columbia ‎- COL 512555 2 (2003, Europe)
2xCD Columbia ‎- COL 512555 9 (2003, Europe) Bonus CD with 3 tracks, previously unreleased

Thanks to Slartibartfast for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DAVID BOWIE Reality ratings distribution

(149 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(12%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(35%)
Good, but non-essential (44%)
Collectors/fans only (7%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DAVID BOWIE Reality reviews

Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy
3 stars What can we expect from David after such a long and diverse career ? Probably not too much risky business like the music available in his two last studio albums, I guess. Time is more keen for safe projects, I gsuppose.

Still, this album is very pleasant. Especially in its initial phase. Catchy music, easy to remember. David even playing some sort of "Dorian Gray" character in "Never Get Old". This song was used in a famous and rather funny clip for "Vittel". It showed David at different moments of his life (actually, the old characters are played by a double).

The song is very energetic but so are the first three numbers, which are all excellent actually. The cover of "Pablo Picasso" form the "Modern Lovers" (an old 72 song) sounds almost punkish and the opening number ("New Killer Star") is quite upbeat as well.

The first (too) tranquil song available is the weak "The Loneliest Guy". A truly melancholic piece which lyrics aren't so sad as the title could have lead to. The rest of the album holds some more fine and crafted songs, but no real highlights.

They are just in the mold of what could have been expected from David ("Looking for Water"). One of my fave is "Days", probably because it reminds me some good old numbers. Enjoyable melody and sustained rhythm are extremely pleasant.

The bombastic (but overwhelmed with orchestration) "Try Some, Buy Some", still shines because it breaks somewhat the general mood of this album, which is definitely back with the ultra-beat of "Reality".

The weakest track IMHHO, is the jazzy "Bring Me The Disco King". The piano play from the old friend Mike Garson is of course great, but the whole lacks in texture.

The cash machine was marching alright with the release of this album as well. Lots of different versions, with bonus tracks, 5.1 versions, live tracks etc. Just to confuse the fans, I guess.

My version (a birthday present) is probably the more complete and I can only recommend it to you. As bonus track, one gets an excellent version of "Waterloo Sunset" ("The Kings") as well as a very good live DVD recorded at the Riverside Studios, in London. The whole album is played track by track and one can see David in a very good shape (like he appeared in the "Reality Tour").

In all, this is good album. But so were "Heathen" as well as "hours". No surprise here: three stars (but the packaging I have probably deserves seven out of ten).

Review by snobb
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Newest Bowie album ( and long pause after...what next?). Last album of "final trilogy", no big surprises. In fact, music is similar to both albums came before. Very classyc rock with some pop and art touches. Tony Visconty is just additional musician, Bowie made this album by himself.

Strong melodies, similar nostalgy in atmosphere, mature music. May be just to repetative, you can feel echos from two previous works. But level is as high that you are not disappointed because of that.

Very warm and pleasant listening, no tricks, now shocking, no experiments. Just good strong music. OK, may be all these characteristics aren't very positive for prog. But what do you expect from veteran Bowie? Now he are using all his experience for just producing of good music.

Review by Rune2000
3 stars After literally playing my copy of Heathen to death, I was surprised to hear that another David Bowie album was scheduled for a release only a year and a half after his excellent comeback album. Reality was released in September 2003 to some very positive reviews from both the critics and fans. Of course I didn't need the reviews to convince me of purchasing this album, but after doing so and experiencing it all first hand... I was a bit disappointed.

At first I thought that these songs just need some time to grow on me but after numerous attempts of getting through this record I finally came to the conclusion that it just wasn't on par with Heathen. In fact, it wasn't even as interesting as 'hours...'! There are two main issues the I have with Reality. First off, the approach that Bowie was going for here is very safe and I lack the creative sparks of genius that were so vivid on his two previous records. The second problem is that the songs themselves are just not as memorable.

Things start off nicely with New Killer Star and Pablo Picasso, even if the direction these songs are going for is clearly very commercial. Never Get Old and The Loneliest Guy return me to that familiar state of mind that I experienced on Heathen but everything goes downhill from here on! Most of the tracks that follow are completely forgettable and might just as well not have been released at all. As for the overall atmosphere, there's really none to even talk about.

Clearly, I didn't like Reality as much as Heathen, but I reject the notion of my high expectations getting the best of me. This album is clearly a weaker effort from the Bowie/Visconti factory, still it's not a completely terrible record, just not one of their best.

***** star songs: Pablo Picasso (4:05)

**** star songs: New Killer Star (4:41) Never Get Old (4:25) The Loneliest Guy (4:12) Days (3:19) Try Some, Buy Some (4:25) Reality (4:21)

*** star songs: Looking For Water (3:28) She'll Drive The Big Car (4:35) Fall Dog Bombs The Moon (4:02) Bring Me The Disco King (7:45)

Review by tarkus1980
3 stars Almost ****, but it doesn't quite make it there. The most immediately striking thing about this album is how soon it came out after Heathen. Like seemingly most artists in the 90's onward, Bowie had settled into a pattern of releasing an album every two or three years, but apparently the warm reception of Heathen convinced Bowie and Visconti that they needed to "seize the moment" and put out something sooner than usual. And besides, Bowie was 56 by this point; they had to know that they wouldn't have that many more opportunities to make an album together.

This is definitely a very good album, but it almost never rises above that level into greatness. I had a similar feeling about Low, but at least Low sounds so freaking novel and interesting in aggregate that I can mostly forgive the eerie lack of peaks. Like Heathen, this largely feels like it belongs among Bowie's "classic" work, but where Heathen felt like it comfortably belonged in the Hunky Dory/Aladdin Sane/Low/Scary Monsters tier, this one clearly feels a tier below. This one almost strikes me as a "modern," more consistent version of Lodger, but without anything as genuinely rousing as "DJ" or "Look Back in Anger." This isn't anything to be ashamed of, but people shouldn't get carried away with this album, either.

Two of the more rocking tracks ("New Killer Star," "Reality"), for instance, are nice enough and have a couple of good hooks a piece, but they also strike me as tracks designed to come across as more impressive live than in studio (and they do, as shown on A Reality Tour). They're tracks that key off of performance energy, and there's a slight sluggishness that holds them back here. The mid-tempo "She'll Drive the Big Car" doesn't even have a strong hook, aside perhaps from the "Sad sad soul" line that weirdly calls back to the plastic soul days. The best "pure" rocker here is a cover of "Pablo Picasso" by The Modern Lovers, which here has the addition of an electric spanish guitar (!!) part in the beginning and in various breaks, and which has a marvelous guitar line going on in the background. As of writing, I admittedly haven't listened to the original version, but it's enough to make me intrigued.

There are also a couple of poppier rockers that I find myself enjoying quite a bit. "Never Get Old" can't be anything but tongue-in-cheek, but it's full of bouncy and fun guitar parts (and a goofy synth line that pops up from time to time), and I find it getting stuck in my head all the time. My favorite of everything here, then, is "Fall Dog Bombs the Moon," which (aside from the strange lyrics) sounds more and more to me like a Neil Young tribute all the time. Am I really the only person who thinks this arrangement of guitar lines sounds like absolutely prime Young? I could never prove it, but I feel like, after Heathen contained a Neil Young cover, it only seemed like a logical next step to write something in that vein, and Bowie nails it.

The other five tracks leave me with mixed feelings. "The Loneliest Guy" sounds every bit like a Radiohead ballad as "Fall Dog" sounds like Neil Young, and perhaps it's because "Loneliest Guy" puts on airs of emotional sincerity while "Fall Dog" is silly and absurd that I don't find myself loving this track. I mean, it's not bad, but I've heard better Bowie ballads. "Looking for Water" is a fun little groove (especially in the extended repeated "Looking for water, looking looking" coda), but it's hardly a highlight. "Days" is a nice lightweight ballad with a good bassline/synthline driving it forward, and it's a nice inclusion. "Try Some Buy Some" is a REALLY obscure choice for a George Harrison cover, and while it's hardly one of Harrison's better songs, he's done worse covers, and putting heavy emphasis on that rising synth line was probably a good idea. And finally, the closing "Bring Me the Disco King," all 7:45 of it, is just a weird, WEIRD way to end the album. The track itself, a jazzy shuffle originally written in the Black Tie White Noise sessions (with nothing to do with disco), isn't especially striking; it has a pleasant enough atmosphere, and some nice piano parts, but it's easy to get lost in the directionlessness of it (and it doesn't even have strong atmosphere to rely on, like the last track on Heathen). Nah, my main reaction to it is that Bowie's willingness to end an album on such an non- obvious note, at THIS late a date in his career, shows he really still had some of what had made him so interesting in the first place, and this is a pleasant thought.

Unfortunately, as much limited optimism as this and other positives from the album could provide for the future, this ended up as Bowie's last studio album. It's not a great album by any means, and it's definitely not a great career closer, but it's still (aside from Tin Machine 2) the second best album he made after 1980, so that has to mean something.

Review by Conor Fynes
3 stars 'Reality' - David Bowie (6/10)

Is this the last album from David Bowie? Releasing some of the most inspired and memorable pop and art rock from over the past few decades, the man has been a shaker of modern music; a man whom it would be safe to say to label as a genius. In any case, as far as swan song records for a career like his go, there would have certainly been worse ways to go. 'Reality' is a mature, albeit somewhat tame record from this man, and although 'Reality' does not see Bowie breaking any new barriers of music, it is clear that the artistic fire has not left this man and his work.

For the work of a man who had already gone through decades of work before, Bowie's 'Reality' is surprisingly diverse, coming from a number of different styles, moods, and sounds. 'New Killer Star' is an upbeat track that shows some interesting use of electronics, and 'Pablo Picasso' shows some quirky sampling and studio knitting of acoustic guitars. Clearly, Bowie never meant to stick to one style, and even as late as 2003, he still keeps moderately experimenting with new things. Although the album may not be so great in its execution, I can easily applaud Bowie for that much.

The songwriting here is a little less consistent and successful than I may have liked, although there are more than enough different styles to keep a listener interested throughout, and even a few songs here that I would consider excellent. The first two tracks show 'Reality' opening with a flair for electronics, and the way these songs are arranged are intriguing, although the songwriting itself isn't the best as far as powerful chord progressions or inspiring melodies go. 'The Loneliest Guy' gets some real emotion across however, and although being fairly minimalistic save for the melancholic vocals of Bowie, there is a lot of sincere feeling there. 'Never Get Old' or 'She'll Drive The Big Car' are rather bland tracks by my ears, but the song that really caught my ear was the laid-back closer 'Bring Me The Disco King'. Although Bowie is known best for glam rock and art pop, the final song shows him going into a bout of vocal jazz, crooning as if he were Frank Sinatra over some tasteful piano. Perhaps its just that Bowie felt like he wanted to invest more soul into a style he had not done much with before, but it works brilliantly, and Bowie's distinctive voice works perfectly for the jazzy feel of the track.

'Reality's strength is in the way these songs were put together, and Bowie's voice is incredible here. While the songwriting does show signs of weakness and being bland (especially towards the middle of the album), there is enough good stuff here for a fan of the man's work to check this out and feel satisfied.

Latest members reviews

3 stars The last of the three adult contemporary albums comes already one year after Heathen to also start a long period of silence. I would say that Bowie feels a bit tired on this record and there is a declined level of music creativity. This is compensated with greater rawess of music, it is edgier b ... (read more)

Report this review (#2311966) | Posted by sgtpepper | Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Bowie's latest studio album is surprisingly good. This chilled art rock album is packed with good songs and little if no filler. 'New Killer Star' kicks things off. This is not one of the best tracks on here but it is alright. It's very energetic, and quite a good way to open an album. 'Pablo P ... (read more)

Report this review (#181141) | Posted by burtonrulez | Saturday, August 30, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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