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David Bowie biography
David BOWIE is born David Robert Jones on January 8 1947.
He started making music in the late fifties (saxophone) and eventually played in a number of blues/rock bands, releasing his first single Liza Jane with The King Bees in 1964, he also changed his stage name to David BOWIE to avoid confusion with Davy Jones from THE MONKEES. BOWIE demonstrates several traits that single him out as a song-writer of interest to followers of Progressive music: narrative story-telling & characterisation, non-standard song structures, musical eclecticism and a variety of singing styles that have a wide vocal range and mixture of different tones & timbres to suit individual songs and stage personas.

Formative years. The Deram Years and Beckenham Art Labs

From 1966 until 1968 David BOWIE was under contract with Decca's Deram label. In 1967 he released his first album, a psychedelic pop album with music hall/cabaret overtones that show manager Ken Pitt's desire to form BOWIE into an 'all-round entertainer' like Tommy Steele and Anthony Newley when BOWIE's own aims were more Jacques Brel, Bertolt Brecht and Bob Dylan. The album and singles weren't much of a success, but reveal BOWIE's ability to craft simplistic sounding songs that were anything but the whimsical pop they first appear to be, rarely following pop or rock conventions many of these songs are mini-concepts or narratives with dark, subversive, dystopian and 'taboo' themes that he would develop in his later career. Marred by the uninspired addition of superfluous string arrangements the music of this early period has been captured by the Deram Anthology released in 1997 which also contains a number of previously unreleased tracks.

At the start of 1969 David was at a low point in his career. Together with some friends he decided to organise a Folk Club at the Three Tuns. It was an immediate success and soon developed into an Arts Laboratory - attracting talent from all over London and the south east. Musicians who played at the Arts Lab included Peter Frampton, Steve Harley, Dave Cousins and the Strawbs, Rick Wakeman, Tony Visconti and Mick Ronson. There was a lot more than music at the Beckenham Arts Lab. Visual artists created original works, poets gave readings, there were light shows, street theatre, dance - and Brian Moore's unforgettable puppets. Between 1969 and 1973 The Beckenham Arts Lab was a crucible for artistic talent and the launch pad for David Bowie's rise to stardom. Yet suc...
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Explicit Lyrics · Import
Columbia 2016
Audio CD$7.91
$9.38 (used)
Legacy (2CD)Legacy (2CD)
Sony Legacy 2016
Audio CD$10.98
$11.49 (used)
Best of BowieBest of Bowie
Virgin / EMI 2006
Audio CD$6.97
$3.27 (used)
The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (180 Gram Vinyl)The Rise and Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (180 Gram Vinyl)
Rhino/Parlophone 2016
$130.00 (used)
Hunky Dory (180 Gram Vinyl)Hunky Dory (180 Gram Vinyl)
Rhino/Parlophone 2016
$18.49 (used)
David Bowie: Blackstar (180g) Vinyl LPDavid Bowie: Blackstar (180g) Vinyl LP
ISO Records _
$710.00 (used)
Hunky DoryHunky Dory
Rhino/Parlophone 2015
Audio CD$4.74
$7.99 (used)
Sound And Vision (40th Anniversary Edition)(Limited Edition Picture Disc Vinyl Single)Sound And Vision (40th Anniversary Edition)(Limited Edition Picture Disc Vinyl Single)
Rhino Records 2017
David Bowie - A Reality TourDavid Bowie - A Reality Tour
Multiple Formats
Sony Legacy 2004
$7.89 (used)
Aladdin Sane (180 Gram Vinyl)Aladdin Sane (180 Gram Vinyl)
Rhino/Parlophone 2016
$49.99 (used)
Right Now on Ebay (logo)
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DAVID BOWIE Time Will Crawl UK magazine ADVERT / Poster 8x6 inches USD $7.37 Buy It Now
DAVID BOWIE is Lady Stardust | Crystal Japan / 7" Picture Disk Record Limited USD $151.51 [6 bids]
David Bowie - Station To Station Cassette Tape 1976 RCA Australian Release USD $3.77 [1 bids]
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David Bowie High Tech Soul Sampler Rykodisc Promo 1990 RCD PRO 9016 (SEALED) USD $6.50 [6 bids]
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Five Years 1969-1973 [Box] * by David Bowie. USD $194.00 Buy It Now
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David Bowie Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture OST 1983 RCA German press PL84862 USD $43.34 Buy It Now
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DAVID BOWIE discography

Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help to complete the discography and add albums

DAVID BOWIE top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.45 | 115 ratings
David Bowie
3.37 | 232 ratings
Space Oddity [Aka: David Bowie, Man Of Words/Man Of Music]
4.03 | 303 ratings
The Man Who Sold The World
4.15 | 410 ratings
Hunky Dory
4.21 | 549 ratings
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
3.87 | 291 ratings
Aladdin Sane
3.07 | 154 ratings
Pin Ups
3.62 | 215 ratings
Diamond Dogs
2.76 | 155 ratings
Young Americans
3.96 | 254 ratings
Station to Station
4.06 | 328 ratings
4.04 | 305 ratings
3.43 | 174 ratings
4.17 | 269 ratings
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
3.05 | 192 ratings
Let's Dance
2.20 | 105 ratings
2.15 | 59 ratings
David Bowie & Trevor Jones: Labyrinth (OST)
2.22 | 91 ratings
Never Let Me Down
3.11 | 87 ratings
Black Tie White Noise
3.36 | 57 ratings
The Buddha Of Suburbia (OST)
3.61 | 131 ratings
1. Outside
2.84 | 125 ratings
3.47 | 110 ratings
3.76 | 144 ratings
3.37 | 107 ratings
3.91 | 157 ratings
The Next Day
4.51 | 228 ratings

DAVID BOWIE Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.79 | 48 ratings
David Live
3.88 | 67 ratings
3.89 | 19 ratings
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars-The Motion Picture Soundtrack
4.11 | 15 ratings
Santa Monica '72
2.00 | 2 ratings
Rock'n'Roll Suicide
3.91 | 22 ratings
Bowie at the Beeb
3.42 | 17 ratings
Live in Santa Monica'72
4.09 | 32 ratings
A Reality Tour

DAVID BOWIE Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

3.64 | 18 ratings
The Best of Bowie
4.40 | 5 ratings
Serious Moonlight, Live In Vancouver

DAVID BOWIE Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 1 ratings
The World Of David Bowie
3.56 | 21 ratings
3.91 | 16 ratings
Soundtrack Christiane F. - Wir Kinder Vom Bahnhof Zoo
3.75 | 4 ratings
2.05 | 2 ratings
Fame and Fashion (David Bowie's All Time Greatest Hits)
3.24 | 10 ratings
Sounds + Visions
4.57 | 7 ratings
3.50 | 21 ratings
The Singles Collection
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Singles 1969 to 1993
2.72 | 9 ratings
The Deram Anthology 1966-1968
3.67 | 3 ratings
London Boy
5.00 | 1 ratings
The Best of David Bowie 1969/1974
5.00 | 2 ratings
The Best of David Bowie 1974/1979
4.50 | 2 ratings
All Saints (Collected Instrumentals 1977 - 1999)
3.34 | 27 ratings
Best of Bowie
3.50 | 4 ratings
The Collection
0.00 | 0 ratings
The Platinum Collection
3.96 | 8 ratings
The Best Of David Bowie 1980/1987 (CD + DVD)
4.00 | 2 ratings
4.67 | 3 ratings
Nothing Has Changed

DAVID BOWIE Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

4.81 | 2 ratings
Space Oddity / Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud
2.67 | 6 ratings
Memory Of A Free Festival
0.00 | 0 ratings
Starman / John, I'm Only Dancing
3.86 | 2 ratings
Changes / Andy Warhol
0.00 | 0 ratings
Young Americans / Suffragette City
0.00 | 0 ratings
Sound and Vision / A New Career in a New Town
0.00 | 0 ratings
Ashes To Ashes
3.86 | 7 ratings
David Bowie In Bertolt Brecht's Baal
2.00 | 1 ratings
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
2.00 | 1 ratings
Blue Jean
3.64 | 5 ratings
1966 (Aka 'I Dig Everything: The 1966 Pye Singles)
3.08 | 6 ratings
Jump They Say
4.00 | 5 ratings
Where Are We Now?
4.00 | 6 ratings
The Stars (Are Out Tonight)
4.00 | 4 ratings
No Plan


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Blackstar by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.51 | 228 ratings

David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Mingo

4 stars It has been such a bad year having lost so many of these visionaries. Bowie was one for me. This album is clearly a milestone again. The content is great, not the best he has done of course but I doubt there are many who could have pulled this off in the health he was in while making it. It does sound real and that is something in these days of the predictable sound we hear in rock now. Will anybody ever take the place of Bowie? There is no sign of it yet. This album reminds me of a final album that sounds not even slightly like this one. Queen. Both sound like there is no attempt to be commercial radio stations but also not trying to be too clever. Excellent and I am glad I bought this.
 Hunky Dory by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1971
4.15 | 410 ratings

Hunky Dory
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

3 stars This early work by Bowie has irresistible charm and depth, sticking to that sort of energetic mid-tempo pop-rock that appeals to pretty much everyone. Not yet the "glam rocker," Bowie here has crafted some handsomely arranged rock n' roll that wraps up a variety of styles and tones - from the boogie-woogie, to folk, to western, to classical, and back to rock n' roll again. It's a great listen, often lush and always emotive.

A handful of standouts, like the immensely likable "Changes," intricately composed "Life on Mars?", and experimental "Andy Warhol," grab one's attention. The other songs, while offering many points of interest for the careful listener, do drift somewhat into the background of acoustic and string textures. For me, the impression is that Hunky Dory would make excellent dinner-party music; inoffensive in its mild tone but also fun for its genuine charm. There's a timelessness here and in Bowie's performance. Bowie's voice and lyrics are of course excellent, as is the songwriting in general. Instrumental work is fine; not much to laud but effective overall.

Recommended but not essential. Hunky Dory is great if you're interested in Bowie the musician, or for thoughtful pop-rock that proves that the '70's really are the time to go for creative and genuine music.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

 Blue Jean by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1984
2.00 | 1 ratings

Blue Jean
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

— First review of this album —
2 stars Tonight (1984) is generally seen as one of the weakest Bowie albums, and I have to agree. Let's Dance (1983) had been a gorgeous comeback into the charts; the superb hits 'China Girl' and 'Let's Dance' still sound very good and can truly be considered as pop classics. The follow-up album continues in the same direction but fails artistically -- commercially it did quite well, though. The album contains just two highlights, or, to put it more plainly, two good songs in the first place. One is the exciting opener 'Loving the Alien' and the other is 'Blue Jean'. Both were released as singles and are among his best known songs of the 80's.

'Blue Jean' has a bold attitude, an effective sharpness. The music video by Julien Temple is quite enjoyable too, featuring Bowie in a double role: as a fancy-dressed performer and as a clumsy ordinary man on his miserable date with a beautiful woman. Of course the composition itself is pretty repetitive, but the execution is very succesful. The marimba (or is it xylophone?), the delicious drum fills ("She's got turned-up nose" ...) and a terrific vocal job. 3 stars for 'Blue Jean', not quite deserving a classic status.

The B side also comes from the album Tonight, sadly. 'Dancing With the Big Boys' is... frankly, disgusting to my ears. It is noisy and all over the place, but with very thin substance -- musically or lyrically. The composition itself could serve as a harmless album filler, but the angry, hard arrangement finished with painfully sharp brass sounds and shouty vocals, shared with the co- writer Iggy Pop, makes it intolerable to me, thus dropping my rating to just two stars.

 Changes / Andy Warhol by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Singles/EPs/Fan Club/Promo, 1972
3.86 | 2 ratings

Changes / Andy Warhol
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Matti
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Just added six singles to David Bowie's page, and there would be plenty more out there ( is a good source). This one is an outtake from his excellent breakthrough album Hunky Dory (1971), featuring a well-known hit and a less known album track.

'Changes' is among the handful of Bowie songs I've loved since my early teens. Actually the compilation titled ChangesOneBowie pretty much epitomizes my early relationship with his music: the 70's hits (plus the then-newer 80's hits, obviously), not yet diving deeper into his album catalogue. This song is simply charming and amicable in its laid-back melodicism. The arrangement, featuring piano and saxophone, is elegantly bordering between rock and entertainment music. And together with The Who's 'My Generation', 'Changes' is of course the most famous pop song with stuttering: "ch-ch-ch-ch-changes".

'Andy Warhol' is an acoustic rock song with slightly bittersweet lyrics on the modern art world. Not bad, but musically it wears itself out much sooner than many other songs of Hunky Dory. For the loveliness of 'Changes', a four-star rating seems justified.

 David Live by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Live, 1974
2.79 | 48 ratings

David Live
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

3 stars Bowie missed a trick here by not calling this one Live Oddity, because this is a truly strange live album. To many, it was a massive disappointment on its original release, because it offers little of the glam rock style which, as of Diamond Dogs, David was still most closely associated with.

With the Spiders having broken up (just as Ziggy promised they would be!), Bowie had cobbled together a new band led by Michael Kamen and performed his repertoire in a curious art rock style which worked in a bunch of influences, including a mild dose of the Philly soul which would in later legs of the tour come to dominate it sound and be the fulcrum of Young Americans.

At the same time, the space given to the band to jam away at times makes it feel a bit looser and more classic rock- oriented than that stylistically very disciplined album, whilst at points the presentation feels like it is trying to crawl towards something like Bowie's late-1970s art rock sound as on Station to Station without being entirely sure how to get there, Young Americans having been perhaps a necessary detour along the way to help Bowie get his sound in order before pushing on.

In terms of sound quality, it is alright in general, though it can be a little heavy on the audience noise and Bowie sometimes seems to be the worse for wear. This was the tour documented on the classic Cracked Actor documentary, of course, so we're coming into that bit of the 1970s where Bowie and cocaine where pretty much one and the same.

Ultimately, it's a mess, but it's an interesting enough mess that Bowie fans interested in this strange transitional time may find it worthwhile. It's at its best when it's doing the torch song type compositions, like Time from Aladdin Sane or the Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) triptych from Diamond Dogs.

 Santa Monica '72 by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Live, 1994
4.11 | 15 ratings

Santa Monica '72
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Warthur
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Widely bootlegged before it finally got an official release in 2008, this album captures Bowie plus Spiders on the Ziggy Stardust tour of the US. Slipping in a preview of the next album in the form of Jean Genie, for the most part it's a fast- paced and energetic runthrough of the best of the preceding four albums from Bowie's 1969 self-titled release to Ziggy Stardust itself.

The band are in a rough and ready mood, giving the material a big injection of garage rock that really teases out the proto-punk attitude of the louder numbers and makes the renditions here contrast interestingly with the studio works. Perhaps the biggest deviation comes in the performance of Space Oddity, where wild vocal improvisations take the part of some of the instrumental sections (like the "liftoff" sound) that would have otherwise been tricky to reproduce on stage at the time.

The mix isn't always the best and the band do get sloppy here and there, but there's an undeniable energy to the performances which will win over all but the cloth-eared - and as Bowie notes on the back cover, Mick Ronson was absolutely on fire during this gig.

 Blackstar by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.51 | 228 ratings

David Bowie Prog Related

Review by RainingStigmata

4 stars Boy what a ride! The first time I listened through this album the time past in the blink of an eye, which is surprising as usually in prog there requires a lot of thought put into the music by the listener before the genius is seen. It's tough to put into words exactly how I feel about this album and David Bowie as I have never really sat down and listened to this sort of music as such, being more a lover of Metal. Below are my thoughts in my listen to this beautiful piece by David Bowie.

Blackstar - A haunting introduction with such an infectious beat and yet caught me out in places not knowing where I was - brilliant beginning. Having not listened to much Bowie, really only his "hits" - I wasn't sure if this was his actual singing voice now. Well that was answered about 5 minutes in when the pieces moves into a more clean feel with higher hopes than the daunting intro. A few minutes later, back to haunting and the unknown. What an opener! The supporting instrumentation here adds beautiful accompaniment to the melancholy of the drums and vocals. Reminded me in parts of the haunting passages performed by The Beach Boys when they went artsy.

'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore - Nice rock beats to start off followed by some wandering saxophone to begin. The vocals kick in and it's still - not sure. Pessimistic sounding but optimistic feel? Again after not listening to much Bowie this is a real ride so far. Some nice introduces of the sax and piano providing a nice jazz contrast against the more rockier sounding drums.

Lazarus - Nice, slow and melancholic beginning, with some great sounding sax thrown in. This reminds me of some other fairly recent "ballads" that other bands in the prog genre go through, with a drum loop, sad accompaniment and a beautiful voice on top providing the perfect level of thought-provocation in the listener. The piece does build however and the message behind it feels extremely foreshadowing of what was to come for Bowie. This extra meaning and the subsequent event of his death really hit a nerve with me while listening, that i've had to listen to it back. Beautiful. One of my favourites on the album.

Sue (Or In a Season of Crime) - There seems to be an emerging trend on this album for amazing drumming with the haunting vocals of Bowie playing off against the supporting instrumentation with well calibrated ease. The guitars really drive this song with a repeating motif throughout contrasting this to TaPSWaW, making this a heavier sounding track with so much more going on in it. How about that climax! What beautiful drumming and effects to end the song.

Girl Loves Me - Another haunting piece with drums keeping the beat in a loop and supporting instruments feeling a lot more in sync, slightly orchestral as opposed to the first half of the album where it felt a lot more driven by jazz. This may take a couple of listens to truly understand and get a hold of but once you do it will be hard to turn it off, especially if you miss Mondays.

Dollar Days - Beautiful start of saxophone and piano already reminds me of 90's television show introductions. That probably sounds worse than what I mean. Once the vocals kick in this quickly leaves us however. David's voice feels lot brighter in this song. Less haunting, more conventional. The saxophone solo provides some nice reprisals of the introduction as the song builds to a crescendo, and there's the guitar! Feels like absolutely perfect timing. The drums become more busy as the music ends.... in a dance? Wow. The other of my favourites on this album.

I Can't Give Everything Away - The final song of the album, and it feels like the music has passed in no time. The drums fall into a familiar groove in line with most of the album but again Bowie's vocals feel like they've evolved over the course of the album from dark, daunting, dreary to a more hopeful and optimistic sound, and this even includes the music behind him. Donny McCaslin again is having a great time on this album, and then a beautiful guitar solo to transition from the orchestral background to a more rock driven feel to end the album.

In sum, a haunting album to begin with turns more bright and hopeful towards the end of the piece with intense sincerity played on behalf of all the players on the album.

 Blackstar by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.51 | 228 ratings

David Bowie Prog Related

Review by tarkus1980
Prog Reviewer

5 stars I never thought that David Bowie's death would affect me as much as it did. The timeline of the release of this album (January 8, 2016) relative to his death (January 10, 2016) would have impacted me under any circumstances, but I had an additional circumstance at the time that added significant leverage to my emotional state; my second son was due on January 10 and would be born in the early morning of January 12. I went to bed early on January 10 and slept deeply, not knowing how the following day would go, and as I came to early in the morning of the 11th my (very pregnant and uncomfortable) wife let me know that David Bowie had died. Over the course of the day, as I made attempts to work from home as best as I could, I took part in the communal mourning that swept through social media, and I felt some fascination at all of the different reasons that people had for feeling sad about his passing. For every music nerd like me who felt the need to mourn the loss of somebody who had made such a tremendous impact on the history of rock and pop music, there were people who had grown up loving him specifically because of the Ziggy era, or people who had fallen in love with him for "Space Oddity," or people who loved him because of the 80s MTV era, or people who loved him because they had known him first as Jareth the Goblin King. The day drew on and on, and by the end of it I was emotionally drained, which was a problem given that I knew that my son's birth was imminent, and I would have to be mentally and emotionally ready for my wife and son.

In the midst of all of this emotional upheaval, the one thing that I refused to do on the 11th was give my first listen to what was then David Bowie's brand new album (I had also refused to listen to any of the pre-album releases of various songs or watch the music videos slowly coming out); I just couldn't spare that much of my emotional reserves for what I suspected could be a grueling experience. Early the next morning, my son was born, and by early afternoon I had come home to take care of my older son and to get a little rest. That evening, after getting my older son fed and put to bed, I decided that now was the time to indulge myself and that, as my final music listen on my stereo for a little while, I would put on Blackstar for my initial listen. In retrospect, this was somewhat of a mistake; I was far too drained and tired to put on an album that was clearly tapping into a combination of creative and emotional intensity that had not been typical of Bowie in the past, and the album made little lasting impression on me from that first listen. The only thing that I retained between that listen and the next one (which was not for some time) was that the repeated angry guitar lick in the coda of "Lazarus" seemed like the emotional equivalent of getting hit in the face by a 2x4 over and over again; beyond that I couldn't sort through the album at all.

Eventually, once enough time had passed from my son's birth and my initial listen so that I could have some chance to approach this album apart from the tangled mess of emotions that accompanied the time around its release, I took the opportunity to dive back into this album, and by listen three overall I was totally sold on it. Due to the circumstances of how Bowie (and a small number of others, though not including his backing band) knew he was dying during the sessions and would likely be dead sometime around when the album came out (though I really doubt he had planned for the gap between the two to be so small), the easy comparison for this album in terms of narrative would be Closer (by Joy Division), but I don't think that's quite right. The issue I've always had with the narrative of Closer as the band's big symbolic swan-song is that Ian Curtis, as important as he might have been as the band's front-man, was only one of the people helping to write music for Joy Division, and none of the others had any inkling that this would be their last Joy Division album. A better comparison might be Brainwashed, the album that George Harrison worked on near the end of his life as he died of lung cancer. Then again, though, that comparison suffers somewhat as well, given that the album had been left unfinished when he died, and one can reasonably debate how much the final product resembled what Harrison had envisioned (thanks to Jeff Lynne doing Jeff Lynne things for better or for worse). Among albums released by major performers in the world of rock music, this album is unique (there might be some minor performer that disproves this but I genuinely can't think of one); it's the only case I can think of where a major rock star had the chance to exercise complete creative control over his own requiem.

Given the knowledge that he would likely never again get to make music, it's interesting to observe Bowie's preferences regarding the approach taken on this album. Whereas The Next Day showed Bowie embracing hard rock to a greater degree than at any other point in his career, this album shows an almost complete rejection of rock and pop music in favor of a bizarre blend of art rock, jazz, electronic music, hip hop, and who knows what else (including elements of Gregorian chant music). In addition to showcasing the genre-smooshing version of Bowie (my favorite version of Bowie) throughout, though, this album also demonstrates a level of emotional intensity that he had sometimes flashed but had never sustained at this level for such long stretches (I guess if dying wasn't going to make him open up a bit then nothing would). The skill shown by Bowie on this album in integrating his experimental side with this new-found emotional openness is somewhat terrifying, and the only album in his career that I can think of to come close to this one in regards to this integration is "Heroes" (that doesn't mean it's my first or second favorite Bowie album, but it does help explain why it's so high in my rankings).

The first half, consisting of three tracks, is definitely one of the very best halves of any Bowie album. The middle track, "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore" (whose name is inspired by a 17th century John Ford play called "'Tis a Pity She's a Whore") is an energetic blast of "Aladdin Sane" (in the sparse "song" parts) turned happy, filtered through mid-70s Roxy Music and updated to 40 years later, featuring a rousingly discordant sax part (there's a lot in the way of great sax work on this album) over a great drum beat and jazzy piano, and the overall effect is fantastic. It's also an absolutely necessary respite from the sheer emotional terror that surrounds it. The inevitable comparison for the opening title track, in terms of scope (it's 10 minutes!!!), is "Station to Station," but where that one was full of guitar- heavy futuristic sci-fi honky-tonk cool, this one is full of mournful sax and chant-like melodies and tense, jittery drumming. A brief stretch of a softer, lovelier tune emerges for a little while, but this gets replaced with a tense strut (which contains one of the best Bowie lyrics ever, "You're a flash in the pan / I'm the great I Am") that carries things before the chant aspects return in full force. Everything about the song is deeply unsettling and funereal, and by the time the song dissolves into a synth drone at the very end, it's clear that something is terribly wrong in Bowie's life.

The keystone to the album, of course, is the side-closing "Lazarus," which starts with Bowie intoning "Look up here, I'm in heaven" over a bassline and an unsettling drum part that together immediately conjure up a sense of desolation and fear. This is Bowie's artistic commentary on his own death, alternately built around descending sax and guitar lines (with a creepy ascending synth here and there), eventually building into passionate yearning for a time when he can be free of his pain and fear. The build in intensity through the song is terrifying, climaxing with an orgasmic release of emotional sax wailing that suddenly disappears and gives into the sheer agony of those two growling guitar notes over and over and over again over that bass and those drums. The last two minutes of the song inevitably make me think of the amazing passages in War in Peace where Tolstoy describes the slow process of Prince Andre's death, in particular the portion where he's not quite dead but no longer in the land of the living either, and that's close to the highest compliment I can give a song. I can't think of any way to keep this song out of a list of Bowie's ten best songs.

The second half doesn't quite live up to the first half, but neither does it try to; there's still plenty of emotional intensity, but it's presented in a manner that allows for a lot more light than the darkness that started and ended it. "Sue (Or In A Season of Crime)" is a throwback to Outside, but with saxophone to bounce off of the industrial aspects of the sound (in the drums and guitars used for texture), and the lyrics, telling the story of a guy who had a relationship with a woman that ended when she left because he was kind of a jerk, provide a fascinating amount of detail while still remaining little more than a sketch. I should note that this song (as well as "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore") had originally been written and recorded prior to this album, though "Sue" was re-recorded in the sessions for this album; it's somewhat for this reason that these two songs feel different from much of the rest of the album, but then again they provide some emotional diversity, so I won't complain too much. "Girl Loves Me," then, is probably my least favorite track on the album, but hell, something had to be my least favorite track, and it's still quite interesting; it's a fascinating bit of artsy post-punkish swagger, with Bowie making use of British slang that would be gibberish to somebody unfamiliar with it (like I was at first). The fact that Bowie died on a Sunday, when the track repeatedly contains the phrase "Where the [%*!#] did Monday go," adds it an additional level of poignancy as well.

While the especially emotionally intense tracks of the first side focused on the more despairing aspects of human existence (and the end thereof), the especially emotionally intense tracks that finish the second side are far more uplifting. "Dollar Days" completely eluded me the first couple of listens, but part of what made the album click so well for me was just how much I came to love this one. The lyrics are a little opaque, but the vibe and the position on the album make it fairly clear to me that this track is about Bowie trying to emotionally reconcile himself to all of the things he'll have to say goodbye to as he passes on. The lines "If I never see the English evergreens I'm running to/It's nothing to me/It's nothing to see" and "Don't believe for just one second I'm forgetting you/I'm trying to/I'm dying to" seem oh so much like the lines of somebody trying to convince themselves of their truth (but not really meaning it), and the pleasant tranquility of the music (before building into an incredibly uplifting instrumental finish) speaks to me of somebody who has chosen, in considering these things he'll miss, to focus on gratitude rather than resentment. In this track, I hear an incredible level of complex emotional transparency and vulnerability, and for a moment it feels like I can see right into the very center of Bowie's soul ...

... and then, it's as if Bowie knows that he's opened up just a bit too much, and with a smile and a wink the final track, "I Can't Give Everything Away," comes to take us home. The heart of the song is the following verse: "Seeing more and feeling less / Saying no but meaning yes / This is all I ever meant / That's the message that I sent / I can't give everything / I can't give everything away." Yes, he's on the verge of death, and he's opened up himself a good deal at the very end, but dagnabbit, he's still David Bowie, and that means he has an obligation to hold something back of himself, and to misdirect, and to obfuscate, because that's just what he does. It's such a happy and snappy song, and such a seemingly incongruous way to end an album that serves as his own requiem, but even in the superficial happiness, there are still layers to be unfolded. Case in point: the repeated sample of the harmonica from "A New Career in a New Town" seems at first like just a fun self-referential nod that fits in well with the uplifting vibe, but if you think about it, the phrase "A New Career in a New Town" is a perfect metaphor to describe settling into an existence beyond the bounds of this life, whatever it might be. Between that sample, and the way the guitar parts eventually seem ready to break into "Teenage Wildlife" at any given moment, I have to see this song as a metaphor for the whole process of Bowie bothering to make an album with this much care as he was dying, and it's impossible for me not to hear the final chords as the dying moment when he was bathed in white light.

For all of the emotional power I feel from this album, both in relation to external circumstances (both generally felt and personal to me), I'm still not inclined to mark this as Bowie's best nor as an absolutely top-level album in my collection. Bowie's career was already set just fine before he made this album, and the overall impact of albums like Ziggy, Station to Station and "Heroes" on my overall listening experience is greater than that of Blackstar, not least because they stand largely on their own merits without reliance on something as emotionally manipulative as Bowie's own death. Plus, in another context, I could potentially see myself getting kinda annoyed with "Girl Loves Me" (if it had been on The Next Day, for instance, I probably would have just ignored it or somewhat disliked it), so that hurts a little. Regardless, while there are parts of me that recognize that it's a little cheap for an album to be tied so closely with somebody's death, this is largely offset by my amazement that Bowie could actually leverage his own death for creative inspiration. This is a late-period triumph from somebody for whom I'd given up the idea of late-period triumphs (the closest he had come was Heathen but this one is significantly better than Heathen), and a must own for all Bowie fans. Hell, on a gut level, I'd probably rate it #3, behind "Heroes" and Station to Station but just ahead of Ziggy, and if that's blasphemous then so be it.

 Blackstar by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 2016
4.51 | 228 ratings

David Bowie Prog Related

Review by friso
Prog Reviewer

5 stars David Bowie ? Blackstar (2016)

I was impressed by the dark video clip of Blackstar at first glance and like many others I though of it as artistic, rather then foreboding. Before buying the vinyl myself the news came out of his death and the Blackstar record, which had already caused a buzz, really started to reveal its definitive significance. This is a record made by man who knew he was going to die.

Strangely enough, this might just be Bowie's most experimental record in his long career. Opening with one of his darkest songs, going through modern rhythms played acoustically by the brilliant drummer Mark Guiliana, the album goes through frenzies of emotions. Both the raw fact of death and the process of looking back on an interesting life are present. Eventually the album ends with two lighter tracks, thus ending the road towards death in a rather peaceful, consolidating mood. The lyrics reveal a lot about Bowie's inner life, yet I also sense he seized the hour to create a unique artistic vibe that surpasses his own troubles. A bit like a once in a lifetime opportunity to relate to this subject in a way that was not possible before.

During this album, which is about as intense a ride as Robert Wyatt's Rock Bottom, almost all tracks are really good in their own unique way. The title track is a great progressive milestone in his career, with a dark & brooming beginning and end. The middle section shows Bowie's endless talent for pop sensibilities that sound modern (and will probably remain so). 't Is a Pitty she was a Whore is a psychedelic track with a modern drumbeat, some eighties pop sounds and fusion like chord buildups. On all tacks we here jazzy wind instruments that often touch the light side of avant-garde jazz. Lazarus is a ballad and perhaps the lyrical crux of this record. Beautiful, sad and deep. On side two, Sue (Or in Season of Crime) is another rhythmical tracks with a dark funky rhythm and nightmarish vocals and lyrics. Girl Loves Me has more pop sensibilities, but drags on a bit. My least favorite song. Dollar Days is a surprisingly light follow up ballad, that reminds us of how Bowie could write these artistic songs suited for radio. Some symphonic touches on this one. On the last track, I can't Give Everything Away, Bowie makes his final statement. An epitaph. A light symphonic and soulful track with a Thieleman's type harmonica in the background and some great wind leads. The title alone would have made it an interesting track.

Conclusion. This album will end up being one of the rare records all music geeks will agree upon; a classic. Among the most memorable of 2016. An artistic milestone in its own right, deepened by the circumstances of his death and the retrospection on the many fruits of his career. Having said that, the record does require at least five plays to really unfold itself. For a classic it is surprisingly complex and moody in a sophisticated way. I can give this the full score. Also recommended to listeners who never cared that much for Bowie before, like me.

 Aladdin Sane by BOWIE, DAVID album cover Studio Album, 1973
3.87 | 291 ratings

Aladdin Sane
David Bowie Prog Related

Review by Prog Leviathan
Prog Reviewer

4 stars David Bowie rocks with an immediately enjoyable, early '70's sound with this stylish, nuanced, and sometimes raucous album. Aladdin Sane is a crowd-pleasing experience which may not measure very high in the "prog" scale, but offers up classic rock gems that artfully show us why the early seventies are probably the best years in music. It will appeal to most listeners at a variety of levels: as energetic background music with a bottom-heavy feel, a cynical yet melodious indictment of pop-culture, or as darkly playful art rock. I fall in the third category.

While there are enjoyable musical moments throughout, the standouts for me include the hot and heavy "Watch That Man," which has layers and layers of sound with a pleasing bass guitar groove. The title song features wonderfully disjointed rhythms and soloing, courtesy pianist Mike Garson. This song sort if sets the tongue-in-cheek tone that I picked up on in many of the other songs. The combination of sax and piano, as well as numerous backing vocals, help make this more than just a straight-ahead rock album. Mike Ronson's guitar shines in his use of feedback, and especially in the solo on "Panic in Detroit." "Time" may be the most interesting track on the album; it's ambitious, lyrically creative, and uses a smart sense of pacing to build to a layered conclusion. This, and the textured ballad "Lady Grinning Soul," which concludes the album, make for a varied and highly enjoyable listening experience.

As for Bowie himself: he's actually quite incomparable. As someone who's never listened to his works, it's easy to hear why his career is discussed with such respect. He's a wonderful singer, with passionate phrasing, inflection, and use of tonal changes to create emotion. His lyrics in this record are thoughtful without pretense, and even when at their bawdiest, they retain a sharpness and wit.

A great combination of musical sounds that will appeal to rock fans of many stripes. Definitely not prog, but definitely not "normal" rock, either. A worthy addition to any classic rockers library, and perfect diversion from the prog-minded listener.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Thanks to micky for the artist addition. and to Dean for the last updates

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