David Robert Jones (8 January 1947 – 10 January 2016), known professionally as David Bowie (/ˈboʊi/), was an English singer, songwriter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, regarded by critics and musicians as an innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. His career was marked by reinvention and visual presentation, his music and stagecraft significantly influencing popular music. During his lifetime, his record sales, estimated at 140 million worldwide, made him one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In the UK, he was awarded nine platinum album certifications, eleven gold and eight silver, releasing eleven number-one albums. In the US, he received five platinum and seven gold certifications. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Born and raised in South London, Bowie developed an interest in music as a child, eventually studying art, music and design before embarking on a professional career as a musician in 1963. “Space Oddity” became his first top-five entry on the UK Singles Chartafter its release in July 1969. After a period of experimentation, he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era with his flamboyant and androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The character was spearheaded by the success of his single “Starman” and album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which won him widespread popularity. In 1975, Bowie’s style shifted radically towards a sound he characterised as “plastic soul“, initially alienating many of his UK devotees but garnering him his first major US crossover success with the number-one single “Fame” and the album Young Americans. In 1976, Bowie starred in the cult film The Man Who Fell to Earth and released Station to Station. The following year, he further confounded musical expectations with the electronic-inflected album Low (1977), the first of three collaborations with Brian Eno that would come to be known as the “Berlin Trilogy“. “Heroes” (1977) and Lodger (1979) followed; each album reached the UK top five and received lasting critical praise.
After uneven commercial success in the late 1970s, Bowie had UK number ones with the 1980 single “Ashes to Ashes“, its parent album Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps), and “Under Pressure“, a 1981 collaboration with Queen. He then reached his commercial peak in 1983 with Let’s Dance, with its title track topping both UK and US charts. Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, Bowie continued to experiment with musical styles, including industrial and jungle. Bowie also continued acting; his roles included Major Celliers in Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983), the Goblin King Jareth in Labyrinth (1986), Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006), among other film and television appearances and cameos. He stopped concert touring after 2004 and his last live performance was at a charity event in 2006. In 2013, Bowie returned from a decade-long recording hiatus with the release of The Next Day. He remained musically active until he died of liver cancer two days after the release of his final album, Blackstar (2016).
The album’s contents are mostly identical to the two-disc edition of Bowie’s previous greatest hits album Nothing Has Changed(2014), with a few differences between both releases. “Love Is Lost” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)“, which were present on Nothing Has Changed, are replaced by three new selections: “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away“, both from Bowie’s final studio album Blackstar (2016), and the radio edit of the Heathen song “Slow Burn” (which also appears on the three-disc version of Nothing Has Changed). Additionally, a previously-unreleased mix of “Life on Mars?” is present instead of the original version from Hunky Dory (1971).
Space Oddity—-Of course, we as music fans are very familiar with this track, as well as many on this release. What surprises me more than anything is how well this song still plays today….never giving hint at the age or the inexperience of Bowie or the track. The mystical elements live very well…the double tracking on the vocal give it a big feel despite the technology. Truly a genius.
The Man Who Sold The World—-I have been a lifelong fan of Bowie…owning around 80 Bowie releases. I do have my favorites as well as songs I tend to pass over. This is one of those songs I usually overlook on a casual listening day…..hearing it today, I ask myself why? The remastering of the track brings out some of the classic background effects that bounce from speaker to speaker….the overdubs fill out the regular mono sound of the original. Fantastic.
Changes—-Overplayed on classic rock radio, this sounds as dated as it is to me. Although it was a track I cut my Bowie teeth on, I guess I’m a little burnt out on it. The ebbs and flows in the track are remarkable…giving it a somewhat joyous feel…and the chorus still sounds as huge as it always has. A great song….but just overplayed a bit.
Oh You Pretty Things—-I love the wonderful almost vaudevillian sound of the piano at the onset of the track. Bowie delivers an almost sideshow sounding vocal that is jaunty and sounds slightly amused. I love this track, the way the chorus opens up with a slight funk brings a smile to my face…..tracks like this make me fall in love with the man all over again.
Life On Mars? [2016 Mix]—-This always brings to mind the Warhol days of Bowie and the Studio 54 days when he was so public in NYC. I love the ever present piano and the way that the chorus builds and builds and lands with an exhilarating feel on your brain. This was in my opinion Bowie at his finest…..a brilliant track. Although the ‘2016 Mix’ does not sound any different to me. The remastering is incredible though.
Starman [Single Mix]—-There are certain songs in the Bowie catalog that immediately fill me with an inner happiness I can’t quite explain. Life On Mars is one…..Starman is another. There is just a good feeling to the vocal and to the music. I love the funkier feel to this mix….still sounding classic yet a bit fresh. This is brilliant Bowie…..a true master. When that chorus hits me, I can’t help but grin.
Ziggy Stardust—-Bowie is his best persona and best Rock n’ Roll mode, Ziggy still plays very well today although a bit far-fetched these days. I love the introduction of the more ‘cool’ laid back vocal and the brilliant upfront guitar. This is noisy, glamorous and driving.
Moonage Daydream—-This another one of those Bowie tracks I tend to skip over on a regular basis while listening casually. The vocal is brilliant, although moved back from the music a bit. The piano is as present as the guitars and the drums really bolster the backbone of the track. Everything comes together really well. The center ‘break’ in the song is fantastic.
The Jean Genie [Single Mix]—-Really noisy and with a funky bass line playing underneath the track, this is full of attitude from the very onset. The harmonica and slight blues feel gets on my nerves a bit….but it is classic Bowie. This version has a slight echo that plays through it……getting on my nerves a bit.
All The Young Dudes—-I have never been a fan of Bolan or of this track. I guess it is pivotal in the Bowie catalog…but for me it was never Bowie at his finest. I like the way Bowie almost talks his way through the track, but anything that is too blues based tends to rub me the wrong way…none the less…this remastered version sounds so clear and full.
Drive-In Saturday—-It is odd to me how this song starts the milli-second you press play. Like many Bowie classics, this song is laid back and then tends to open up wide when the chorus hits. I like the laid back feel and the added horns to the song…giving it an almost doo-wop feel at times. This is great to hear again….never gets old.
Sorrow—-Beginning with gorgeous strings and that classic Bowie croon, this has many good memories for me. Taking leave from the more heavily guitar based tracks, this is more acoustic and breezy for me….and the horns that play during the ‘breaks’ add a touch that are irreplaceable. The double track vocal makes the song very large. Brilliant!
Rebel Rebel—-Returning to the more guitar driven based Bowie catalog, Bowie again almost talks his way through this track. Although this song has been heard probably a million times by my ears, it still sounds fresh and new to me. I love the fuzzy feel to the production….this is fantastic.
Young Americans—-Ushering in the ‘funky’ Bowie era, the horns are magnificent and the horns add to the flavor. With background vocals by a then unheard of Luther Vandross, this has a funky stab at disco and funk. The drums are wonderful and chorus is another of those tracks that just makes me feel happy.
Fame—-Famously written with John Lennon in 15 minutes in a Soho apartment, this track never gets old. The music is so full….funky and with an undeniable flavor of the mid 70’s. This is classic Bowie…when his oddity was the attraction. The vocal effects live in infamy…this is a brilliant track……just a slight distortion adding to the fullness of the sound.
Golden Years—-I know this is a huge track in the Bowie discography….but to me, this was never one of his best compositions. I think maybe it has just been overplayed….and of course, it helped to make him an even more household name…but I pass on this almost regularly.
Sound And Vision—-For me, this is one of the best Bowie tracks ever recorded. I have countless pumped up remixes of this song…but this original version…with its almost archaic drum machine sound still plays the best. Bowie is in such good voice…and when he hits that baritone stride of his it is incredible. The female backdrop vocals give it an almost fun feel. This is crooning Bowie at his best.
Heroes—-Perhaps one of the most intense Bowie tracks in his entire catalog, this moved away from the funky music stage and carried that German sound that belied his change in address. This is airy but heavy….mystical but poignant…..sad yet joyous. Classic yet fresh!
Boys Keep Swinging—-Sounding European influenced and flirting with all aspects of sexual identification, this still sounds wonderful today. The huge bevy of voices that join David on this track help to make the sound large…the organ that plays in the background adds to the slight old feeling of the song.
Fashion—-Scary Monsters….& Super Creeps remains to this day my favorite Bowie release…..sounding different than anything that he had been doing during the Berlin Trilogy. This has a emerging 80’s feel that is filled with more synth sounds and handclaps….but the guitar is always there as well. Bowie delivers an almost dis-embodied robot vocal…..just fantastic.
Ashes To Ashes [Single Version]—-Going back to my earlier comments about Bowie songs that make me feel elated and giddy….I cite this track as well. This video is hilarious with the archaic firming Technics…but the song has a joyous and fun feel to it…..even though it is not happy. Answering the request for Space Oddity Pt. II…this answered the call quite well….Bowie is such good voice…actually singing again.
Under Pressure [with Queen]—-An absolutely brilliant idea to combine the voices of Bowie and Mercury, this track never gets old…despite Vanilla Ice…lol. I love the unique sound…the Queen music but the familiar strains of Bowie filling out the song…this was a triumph of imaginable proportions…..
Let’s Dance [Single Version]—-The single and video that brought Bowie to worldwide dominance, I still love this song. It had every 80’s definition in it while still allowing Bowie to be himself as well. Although this album and 3 singles were panned by many die-hard fans, I consider it Bowie at his most creative spurt in years.
China Girl [Single Version]—-The 80’s defined right here in this moment…..this is brilliant. Allowing Bowie to sound different yet the same…..carrying on some material from Scary Monsters, China Girl is another step from that release and his fascination with the Orient at the time. This is magnificent…and the Stevie Ray Vaughn feel is heard loud and clear….just brilliant.
Modern Love [Single Version]—-Bowie…despite his age at the time of this recording, sounds fresh…young and invigorated. Heavy on synth and a prominent drum, Bowie delivers a classic 80’s track that will live in infamy The horns are fantastic and the mood is joyous….the chorus and backdrop vocals sound incredible.
Blue Jean—-As quickly as Bowie rose to prominence, he seem to crash and burn with this release…although personally I consider this one of Bowie’s finest moments. There is an urgency and anger to this track that makes it driving and impactful…and the classic Bowie croon sounds so wonderfully brilliant. To me….this track should have been huge…without the 20 minute video.
This Is Not America [With Pat Methany Group]—-.Laid back and mellow, Bowie sounds fantastic when delivering his lines…although the proper chorus vocal seems pushed to the back of the mix. This is poignant and Bowie hits notes not heard in years…this is a fantastic single that many people forget…I love this.
Dancing In The Streets [With Mick Jagger]—-Ummmm……no!!!! Just dreadful in my opinion. Despite their history, this should have never have happened.
Absolute Beginners—-I like this…..but the singles released at this point seemed to find Bowie dis-enfranchised and upset with the demands that were being put upon him. This has an ‘old’ feel to it…..reaching back to the mellower days of Bowie and finding him rather introspective. This is so nice.
Jump They Say [Radio Edit]—-For me, this song was all over the place….the music is erratic and jerky….the only constant being the more mellow croon that Bowie began to use after the Let’s Dance era. The horns are great on this track…but the music seems disjointed and schizophrenic to me…almost drowning out the wonderful vocal.
Hallo Spaceboy [with The Pet Shop Boys] [PSB Remix]—-A shining moment for me in my own personal music journey….combining two of my favorite acts together under one roof….the idea was so incredible I though i might have a coronary…the result was even better. The combination of these two creative forces resulted in a single of a lifetime….I never, ever tire of this nor will I ever.
Little Wonder [Edit]—-Entering into his dubstep phase, I never liked the erratic music behind the almost gentle vocal. I wonder how Bowie reconciled his vocal over this erratic and maddening beat that drives the song. This is noisy and perhaps more brilliant than I give it credit for…..I love the chorus……but it is just everywhere musically.
I’m Afraid Of Americans [V1]—-Bowie working with Reznor was yest another re-invention of the Bowie persona and worked incredibly well for me. The music is noisy and a bit disjointed…but the vocal matches the urgency that Trent brought to the production. This was a fantastic creative stretch in Bowie’s career….much like Gary Numan these days.
Thursday’s Child [Radio Edit]—-Brilliantly orchestrated and moody, Bowie returns with that older age croon that defined much of his later work. This is remarkably melodic and dark…yet beautiful and joyful…a look back and a look forward…this plays so well with the backdrop vocals. I love the feel of the song….again making me smile.
Slow Burn [Edit]—-This track has a definite throwback feel to it….allowing Bowie to continue his new singing style but remaining true to his sound. The strength of his vocal is remarkable…his occasional falsetto making the entire song rather spectacular. I love this….
Everyone Says “Hi” [Edit]—-On this track, Bowie at the onset sounds almost unrecognizable…delivering word after word that sounds almost child-like and playful. The music is uplifting and joyful…easing any woes that might be in your brain…this is fantastic as well….I love the bouncy feel to the gentle acoustic guitar.
New Killer Star—-A slight bluesy lazy vocal seems to drive this song as much as the punchy jaunty guitar. The chorus is a sing songy type deliver that drives the speed of the song, while the chorus calms things with the croon…this is just wonderful. This is a return back to the old days.
Where Are We Now?—-The unintentional [or intentional?] swan song begins with Bowie still sounding remarkably young and poised….with a strong voice and an introspective message. The music is stripped bare and the voice is the star of the show…the moodiness is sad and sorrowful….but the swells of the music makes you happy you ever discovered this genius.
Lazarus—-With the music sounding remarkably modern and fresh….horns are slight in the backdrop and you notice the darkness of the song now. The tense delivery is what keeps you on the edge of your seat….but you notice how Bowie sounds….incredibly fresh and healthy….driven and poignant…..incredible.
I Can’t Give Everything Away [Edit]—-Happy in delivery, the music is fresh and jubilant. The vocal sounds incredibly fresh for a man who knew that he was dying and kept it all a secret…perhaps this was a message for all of us. I think this may not be the last we hear of The King….but if it is….I will die a happy man as well.
***** out of 5