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David Bowie - Stage  CD (album) cover


David Bowie


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3.89 | 79 ratings

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4 stars Review Nš 59

"Stage" is the second live album of David Bowie and was released in 1978. It was recorded on the "Isolar II ? The 1978 World Tour", more commonly known as "The Low/Heroes World Tour" or "The Stage Tour". The tour opened on 29 March 1978 at the San Diego Sports Arena, continuing through North America, Europe and Australia, before reaching a conclusion at the Nippon Budokan in Japan on 12 December 1978. The recordings were taken from concerts in Philadelphia, Providence and Boston, in USA. It primarily included material from the Bowie's three most recent studio works to that date, "Station To Station", released in 1976, "Low" and "Heroes", both released in 1977. However, in a true surprise show of nostalgia, it also featured five songs from his fifth studio album "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars", released in 1972.

The line up on the album beyond David Bowie (vocals and keyboards) and his usual core team Carlos Alomar (backing vocals and rhythm guitar), George Murray (backing vocals and bass) and Dennis Davis (drums and percussion), it's also formed by the then ex-Frank Zappa sideman Adrian Belew (backing vocals and lead guitar), Simon House (violin) from Hawkwind, Roger Powell (backing vocals, synthesizer and keyboards), best known for his work with Todd Rundgren in Utopia and Sean Mayes (backing vocals, piano and string ensemble).

Bowie's second official live album is an improvement on the first one, "David Live" released in 1974, even though most involved with it consider it a disappointment. Having not attended any of the supposedly excellent shows that this allegedly fails to properly capture, I don't have any such reservations about this album, and as such I can readily enjoy it. While "David Live" captured the Bowie's music in a traditional phase, from glam rock to soul, "Stage" was released in his Berlin phase, with the presence of Brian Eno, and so, it reflects more that musical phase. Anyway, it has also some songs from "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" and from "Station to Station".

The original version of "Stage" has 17 songs. The songs appear in the chronological order of the original release of his studio albums, with 5 songs of "Ziggy Stardust", 3 songs of "Station To Station", 5 songs of "Low" and 4 songs of "Heroes". Despite I have both, the vinyl and the CD versions, the version of "Stage" that I'm reviewing here on Progarchives, is the 2005 CD reissue version, which is the best because it sequences the songs in the order that they were actually performed and it includes also three bonus tracks, "Alabama Song", "Be My Wife" and a version of "Stay", that may well be the best song on the whole album, despite all the songs on the album are great.

About the performance, the band pulls off the coldly majestic "Warszawa", an unusual choice for an album opener, extremely well, and there are plenty of other potential highlights here, plus the House's prominent violin adds an interesting new element that differentiates some of these songs from their studio counterparts. Disc one is comprised primarily of "Low" and "Heroes" tracks aside from "Fame", with "Heroes" the song unsurprisingly serving as the centrepiece and the high point of the set. Like most songs here it may not be as good as the original, but this version is still epic and wonderful in its own right. Disc two goes back in time for five straight "Ziggy Stardust" songs. "Art Decade" doesn't really fit here very well, and I prefer The Doors' version of "Alabama Song", but despite it, the album ends strongly with three "Station To Station" tracks, where Belew in particular shines, especially on the aforementioned extended version of "Stay". On the whole, this album doesn't really provide anything new other than to show that Bowie and company could pull these songs off in a live setting. Still, there's nothing wrong with that, and I for one enjoy listening to this album, and it represents undoubtedly an improvement to his debut live album.

Conclusion: "Stage" is, in my humble opinion and without any doubt, an excellent live album. I know it since it was released and I always loved it very much. It has an incredible set of songs, superiorly live performed, and that almost belong to some of the Bowie's best studio albums, and which are some of my favourite albums too. The repertoire chosen from those four studio albums is practically irreproachable. In relation to "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars", I've nothing to say because all the songs on the album are great and we are in presence of a conceptual album. Relatively to "Station To Station", "Low" and "Heroes", the selection is simply excellent. The only negative point, for me, is the non inclusion of "Subterraneans" of "Low". So, "Stage" is an excellent live document and a perfect illustration of the Bowie's musical period of that era, and is highly recommended for everyone. Anyway, Bowie is a highly visual artist so that aspect of his artistry can't be properly captured by only an audio CD.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

VianaProghead | 4/5 |


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