David Bowie: A Mad Dash Through His Albums

Written by | June 28, 2018 13:51 pm | No Comments


Far from being the last word, take this as the first or second word. A first coupla words, maybe a favorite track, and onto the next album in order of release. I passed on both Tin Machine albums (they sucked) and the myriad of compilations though I’ll always have a soft spot for ChangesoneBowie. No post-humous releases either. See you on the other side!

David Bowie (1967) – In retrospect, the oddest thing about this debut album was Bowie was a Brit explosion band leader, his first makeover was before we even knew who he was: from rocker to fairy folkie twee summer of lover – C-

David Bowie (1969) – A bit of folk, a touch of hard rock, and two killer tracks… Tony Visconti shows up – B

The Man Who Sold the World (1970) – Still feeling his way through what he was, this album rocks hard and points to where he was going… and anyway, show me an album with a song as good as the title track and I’ll show you Nirvana Unplugged… welcome Mick Ronson – B

Hunky Dory – (1971) – Glam folk masterpiece, it did well in the UK and the US couldn’t give a shit. Rock poetry as gender fluid futurism – A+

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972) – Invents glam rock, codifies rock opera, and brings gender confused teens into the 1970s – A

Aladdin Sane (1973) – Invents hair metal and reinvents the rock and roll wheel as a trip through the USA stopping in Detroit. So how do you spell PANIC? – A

Pin Ups (1973) – Less than ten years after these Merseybeat pop songs changed the face of the world, David takes a breather and reinvents them as high drama – A

Diamond Dogs (1974) – written as the barebones to a Broadway musical, the album was the first disappointment, not saved by “Rebel Rebel” though “When You Rock And Roll With Me” was good enough to be the Stones – B+

David Live (1974) – Bowie’s first live album (a double) was considered a cracked actor with a monkey on its back, mostly because side one is such a bummer and indeed anytime Diamond Dogs shows up it derails. But hey, this is side two: Changes, Suffragette City, Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?), All The Young Dudes, Cracked Actor. And that cover of “Knock On Wood” is first rate – B+

Young Americans (1975) – Puts the knife into glam, makes disco a serious alternative, makes sense of rubber soul, and adds a Beatle to the mix… twice – A

Station to Station (1976) – With a serious cocaine addiction and a life unravelling at the speed of sound, the thin white duke finds Demis Roussos in the midst of art rock. His best album – A+

Low (1977) – I am trying to think of a better album following another album than these two, Stevie Wonder managed it with Talking Book followed by Innervisions, the Beatles with Rubber Soul followed by Revolver, Kanye West with 808s & Heartbreak followed by My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, This wasn’t a “follow up” to Station To Station, it was the drug free booze riddled blue blue electric blue Bowie in Berlin – A+

“Heroes” (1977) – I enjoyed the title track a lot more before I knew Bowie wrote it for middle aged Tony Visconti having an affair with a young girl. I mean, yuck, right? That and “Beauty And The Beast,” and on your bike – B

Stage (1978) – The first time I saw Bowie live was around about this album’s release, anyway there is nothing from the first four albums, the first side is Ziggy, the second is Station, the third is Low and the fourth is Heroes, and the second side is the best live stuff he ever recorded – A-

Lodger (1979) – So far I have not gone back and listened to a single album while writing this, but I couldn’t really remember Lodger. 1979 was one of the best years ever for albums and for the first time, Bowie left me cold. “Boys Keep Swinging” was a great piece of gender bending but as an album I still find it disappointing – B-

Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) (1980) – The definition of post punk, it added a sheen of heroin on the veneer of the New Romantics and Futurism while keeping an eye on the charts. “She had a horror of rooms, she was tired: you can’t hide beat” is the best first line he ever wrote – A

Let’s Dance (1983) – At the time it felt like a  sell out with one great song and two big hits, one written by Iggy Pop as a hidden wink at his drug addiction, today it feels like a pop music gem like masterstroke that made Bowie the rock and roll superstar he always wanted to be – A

Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture (1983)- From the movie of Bowie’s final Ziggy performance recorded at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on 3 July 1973. Sometimes historians have less fun – B-

Tonight (1984) – An attempt to replicate Let’s Dance, falls flat, though years later the Chuck Jackson cover ain’t bad and Steve Strange should’ve covered “Blue Jean” – C+

Labyrinth (1986) – I wouldn’t go as far as to say that “Underground” is good… but it ain’t bad. The rest of it is less interesting though a bit of a rebound. David wore THE BEST wig in the movie – B

Never Let Me Down (1987) – This is as sallow a period as Bowie ever went through, the best song was the single “Day In Day Out” and it sounded like Bowie without the magic. The rest of this rock move doesn’t sound like rock moves but like a cross pollination with some form of MOR-AOR hybrid – C

Black Tie White Noise (1993) – Six years later (remember, we skipped out on Tin Machine).  This is David’s wedding album for Iman, and the opening track is like calling the faithful home to Church and by the time you reach the third song, “I Feel Free,” all you can do is look on at his immense joy of life and appreciate him sharing it with us on this guitar art rocking masterpiece – A

The Buddha of Suburbia (1993) – Unlike Labyrinth, didn’t appear in the UK TV serial, so what we have is just a Bowie soundtrack, plus a pretty ace title track excellent title track – B

Outside (1995) – A concept album about a dystopian 21st century where mutilation and murder have become an underground art form. co-produced by Brian Eno, it is a draggy pretentious mess – C

Earthling (1997) – The tour behind it was excellent, the album uses some of that Bristol trip hop bass and drums sound to very good effect, “Little Wonder” was his best song in years, “I’m Afraid Of Americans” is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and while the album fails as both pop and art it doesn’t fail by much – B

Hours (1999) – the soundtrack for the Omikron: The Nomad Soul video game, “The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell” is a loud crash of a song, better than anything he did with guitarist Reeves Gabrels in their band Tin Machine, the rest of it is hard rock mood music without the songs to back it up – C+

Heathen (2002) – Bowie’s response to 9/11 though all of the songs were written before then, “Everyone Says Hi” is a goodie and while it is considered the best of his pre-retirement 1990s to mid 00s albums, it is too portentous and shaky for its own good – B

Reality (2003) – This is a terrific little art rock album and a great New York album, with the Jonathan Richman cover “Pablo Picasso” and a great and very dramatic cover of George Harrison’s  (who had died two years earlier) “Try Some, Buy Some” and though the rest of the album has the ease of art without surrender it doesn’t have that other one song you would hope for. Still, a damn good album – A-

Live Santa Monica ’72 (2008) – The title says it all, or nearly all. Great to hear a live “The Width Of A Circle” and equally great to hear a cover of “Waiting For The Man”. Mick Ronson runs away with it – B+

VH1 Storytellers (2009) – I wish there was more telling stories, I loved the one about Marc Bolan that works a prelude to “Rebel Rebel” – B

A Reality Tour (2010)- 35 songs from the terrific 2009 tour that would end up being his last – B+

The Next Day (2013) – I underestimated it a little at the time (I gave it a B+), but it is a solid ending to his Berlin trilogy, though I wish Bowie had written songs as catchy as he did in the 1970s. Also, that video for “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” is excellent – A-

★ (2016) – I underestimated this one as well. Its eerie jazz inflicted post-goth mood music hid a world where death wasn’t the subtext, it was the text itself. David Bowie dealt with his imminent immortality and found a true horror in the face of nothingness and also a wink and a smirk as he suckers us all for one last change – A


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