David Bowie Song Reviews
Early On (1964-1966) (1991)
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Liza Jane A-
The one nice thing about David Bowie is he has a very distinctive voice, so any of his huge fans would undoubtedly find it novel to hear a teenage Ziggy Stardust trying his mightiest to sing this old rockabilly cover. His voice is a bit shaky at times, but, really, he ain't so bad! I promise! This was recorded in 1964 back when everyone from England was recording old rockabilly covers, so it's no surprise that even David Bowie got his start doing that. It's hardly a revolutionary cover or anything... but it's not bad, and it was remastered very nicely.
Louie, Louie Go Home B
A much shakier cover than the last one... Very occasionally throughout his career (in live performances especially), you'll hear Bowie's voice adopts a very quacky tone. He does that whenever he tries too hard to sound African-American. I also want to complain about those back-up singers, which aren't so much backing up Bowie, but cluttering everything up. Other than that, this is pretty good. The rhythms are cool.
I Pity the Fool A-
Look... I know that I am a huge Bowie fan, and so I'm automatically more apt to being sympathetic toward pretty much anything he does. So, you can take everything I say about him with a grain of salt if you must, but I swear, this cover is pretty dang cool. That huuuuuge, layered saxophone sound that Bowie layered on the chorus is really kind of awesome. And what a cool electric guitar solo, too. I don't know who's playing that, but it's COOL. I know it's not the most creative thing on the planet earth, but I'll take this as a very early indication at how well Bowie was able to take already existent styles and make them more interesting.
Take My Tip B
Well, here it is! The very first original song that David Bowie recorded! (Or, if it isn't, then there was something that I don't know about.) ................Uh, he'll get better. It's not bad, but it's very forgettable. Even though it's “original,” it just sounds like a worse-written version of the covers he was performing earlier. There are a few weird things going on in here... namely a funny chord progression in one of the bridges. And that saxophone backing up Bowie's vocals is very strange. ...Very weird. The song's main fault is, unfortunately, the melody doesn't do much for me.
That's Where My Heart Is C
OK, huge Bowie fan or not, this folk song is pretty awful. I'm saying this even though I've listened extensively to Joan Baez records, so you know I mean serious business when I say that this song is pretty awful! Not only is the melody dull and unmemorable, but Bowie's vocal performance couldn't possibly sound more stilted. He's always had a hard time singing as though he really meant it, and that's very obvious here. (This explains why he really wouldn't write too many emotionally resonant songs in his later career.) The audio quality isn't even that good... Of course, this was a previously unreleased demo, which explains the sound quality. And, of course, I should just be grateful that I have access to a David Bowie song that the man himself probably wishes would've stayed hidden.
I Want My Baby Back C+
Nope, this isn't the Chili's theme song. If you bought this album in case this was Bowie singing the Chili's theme song, then you're going to be very sorely disappointed. Like the previous song, this one sounds like a demo. There's a lot of hisses and clicks there, and I'm sure the sound engineers did all they could to eliminate a lot of that. But it was sort of pointless, anyway, since the instrumentation is very bare and dull. ...As a whole, though, this might have been made into a decent song if Bowie was permitted to flesh it out a little more. The melody has something likable about it, and those Beach Boys harmonies that want to permeate from the background could've been turned into something quite arresting. But that's just my imagination there. This isn't very fun to hear by itself.
Bars of the County Jail C-
This is another folkish song, and it's another good example of why Bowie should stay as far away from that genre as humanly possible. You have to really have a presence in your voice to pull off these songs, but Bowie gives a very ham-fisted performance... Blah. The melody sucks, too. And so does the recording quality. Blah. Rest assured, whatever exec didn't let Bowie flesh this out didn't lose his job.
You've Got a Habit of Leaving B
Back to the non-demos! Cool! This was released in 1965 when Bowie was in the band called Davy Jones and the Lower Third and they were trying to be a mod band like The Who. Unfortunately, it doesn't come off too well. Bowie's vocals don't seem to suit the material too well, and that bit in the middle where the band supposedly goes crazy just seems tacked on and didn't seem to naturally fit the song. The overall melody is OK. One of the better melodies on this disc, I'd say.
Baby Loves That Way C+
Yeah, even my insane Bowie fandom can't conjure too many reasons to enjoy this boring mod number. I mean, it's not *bad*, but it's so forgettable that I can't come up with anything to say about it even while it's playing. There's nothing distinctive about this to set it apart from anything else from the era... It's missing that indescribable touch that Bowie has been known for in his later career.
I'll Follow You B+
This sounds like a demo, but it sounds like he had full use of the band, and the sound engineers seemed to capture everyone reasonably well. This is really a pretty nice little song, and I suppose the only reason this wasn't released as a single was because “You've Got a Habit of Leaving” failed to chart. It's not such a distinctive song of the era, it has a nice melody and it flows well. Hardly anything you need to go out of your way to hear.
Glad I've Got Nobody C
I presume that this was to be the B-side of the non-existent single “I'll Follow You.” Yah, I don't like this one much at all. The recording quality isn't only pretty bad, but it's just a damn boring Beatles-esque pop tune. Once again, I guess just the fact that you can find these terribly obscure David Bowie songs on a readily available CD, we should be grateful, but it's as obvious as hell why these songs didn't make much of a splash at the time.
Can't Help Thinking About Me B+
There's a definite shift here... This sounds more like The Kinks than The Who, which is a good shift for Bowie since that seems more up his alley. The janglier and thicker instrumentation is a better fit for his particular voice. Also, the melody is a little more distinctive this time, taking a few interesting turns here and there. Again, I wouldn't particularly go out of my way to hear this, but you might be delighted to hear out utterly *nice* this is. Very nice. This is also the first song he released under the name David Bowie, which he changed thanks to that guy from The Monkees.
And I Say To Myself C+
This was the B-side of the previous song, and it's very boring. It sounds like one of his earlier covers, but it doesn't have the energy. The melody is dull and completely forgettable. ...Again, as a hardcore Bowie fan, it's cool as hell that I get to listen to all these early, early, early songs, but that doesn't mean that they're all automatically good!
Do Anything You Say B
Bowie had left The Lower Third by 1966 and was touring with a band called The Buzz. ...Yeah, The Lower Third seemed like a better band, but whatever... Bowie wanted to be a big star, and that just wasn't happening. Anyway, this isn't a bad song. The back-up vocals sound a lot like The Association, except not nearly as good. In fact, the back-up singers are so annoying and droning that they make Bowie's vocals seem great by comparison! I like that busy piano groove that pops up every once in awhile, though... That's kinda cool.
Good Morning Girl B+
This is the B-side of the previous song, but I like this one better. It has a nicer melody, and those dumb back-up singers are back to just doing their instruments. It's really fun hearing Bowie doing a little scat singing in here! Oh man, that guy was trying everything, wasn't he? Not bad, either!
I Dig Everything A-
And for the final main single of this compilation, this by far the most blatantly POPPY song of the whole album. I guess since Bowie was so unsuccessful at being a rock 'n' roll man, he thought that perhaps the kids from the '60s wanted a new pop star! ... Well, that didn't work, either, since nobody bought this song! Listening to it today, it's pretty easy to see why this song never caught fire; it's just waaaaaaay too derivative and insincere. But it's an honestly very nice song with a catchy melody and a cool rhythm to tap your foot to!
I'm Not Losing Sleep B+
This is the B-side of the previous song, and this is more evidence that Bowie was much more at home with straightforward pop music than futilely trying to one-up all the monster bands of the day like Rolling Stones and The Who. The melody ain't very memorable, but at least it flows nicely and it has its fair share of hooks in it. It's also interesting to note that the rhythm is very reminiscent of “The Man Who Sold The World.”
The Deram Anthology (1966-1968) (1997)
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Rubber Band (Single Version) A-
The first good news is that “Rubber Band” sounds miles better than any of the stuff I reviewed on his previous archive release, Early On. It sounds absolutely nothing like how you'd think David Bowie would sound, except for the fact that that's obviously his extremely distinctive voice there! Bowie was taking on the music hall stuff that The Kinks were making a big name for themselves back in the day, except Bowie wasn't quite as good at it. ...But heck, there's a crap-load of hooks on this song, and that's cool. Deram also was kind enough to let Bowie have a large enough budget to hire a few horns who toot around most agreeably through this whole thing! ... This is actually a different version of the song than the one that appeared on David Bowie (that version comes up later in this compilation), and that version is a lot better. Bowie's vocals here sound much more lethargic, and the horn section seem much looser than they should.
London Boys A
So, here is David Bowie's first great song, and this is exactly the reason you should try to purchase this compilation instead of David Bowie. The most interesting thing about it is that it's not the sort of song that you'd expect Bowie to sing. But he does it very well. It's a very gloomy song where Bowie delivers a surprisingly sincere performance. The melody is very engaging, and the sort of minimal instrumentation suits it quite well. (You can hear Bowie performing this live around 1999 or 2000 at this link, if you want: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sg4LUeSPsyU). He was apparently going to rerecord it an release it in a new album, but it never happened. For whatever reason.
The Laughing Gnome A-
Well, this song is just silly! It's basically a goofy children's song that features Bowie doing a duet with a “gnome,” (that is someone with a voice sped up like one of The Chipmunks). In between verses, Bowie gives us a bunch of puns so cheesy that you'll probably groan! Here are some examples. (“hey where do you come from? / (gnome-ans land, hehe!) / oh really?” and “now, what's that clicking noise? / (that's Fred, he's a metro-gnome, haha)”. So, yeah, this is just a silly little children's song. I like the melody alright, and the horn-led instrumentation was done well. Bowie sounds like he's stoned halfway out of his mind by the end of it. Indeed, this is a good time to be had by all.
The Gospel According to Tony Day B+
This is a very likable song... Again, it points to the sort of music-hall stuff that Bowie was fascinated with at the time. It has a pretty catchy hook at its core, and he makes very good use of that horn section he has under his command. The lyrics seem to want to be brief character sketches much like a Kinks lyrics, but all they really manage is repeating the line “The gospel according to... whatever name he happens to come up with.” Not a particularly memorable song, but it's good.
Uncle Arthur A
This is the beginning of the album known to us all as David Bowie! As far as the lyrics go, Bowie's greatly perfected the Kinksish character sketches he seemed to be attempting in the previous track. (“Round and round goes Arthur's head, hasn't eaten well for days / Little Sally may be lovely, but cooking leaves her in a maze Uncle Arthur packed his bags and fled / Back to mother, all's forgiven, serving in the family shop / He gets his pocket money, he's well fed.”) ...Not as good as The Kinks, but still pretty good. What I care about is this melody, which is very light and catchy. Cool sounding woodwinds, too.
Sell Me a Coat A-
This really is a pretty good song, and I like it that Bowie has at least figured out how to write consistent melodies! This is a very likable song all throughout its running length! This is a slower paced ballad where Bowie gives a decent vocal performance over it. It's nice, but it's just not quite as hopelessly infectious as I probably would have liked. The instrumentation is quite nice, but again nothing too amazing.
Rubber Band A
See, I told you that there would be another version of this song coming up! As I mentioned previously, I prefer this version over the other, because the horns sound much tighter, and Bowie's intentionally over dramatic vocals are much more enjoyable here. As far as his attempts at music-hall goes, this is about as good as it gets, me thinks. In fact, this is more early-20th-century sounding than I even remember any Kinks song being... Have The Kinks ever done something with such an oompah trumpet?
Love You Till Tuesday A
I really like this song... It's nothing more than a '60s pop song, and it has a mightily catchy melody! Unlike what I've been saying throughout my review of Early On (1964-1966), I can't really come up with a good reason why this wasn't a hit. I mean... It couldn't have been a big hit, and it doesn't help that it's very unoriginal. But I've heard plenty of worse things than this from 1967 that there isn't a great reason that teenagers couldn't have been enjoying this. I know I am! It's nothing like the mayhem he would create in the '70s, but it's a cool little song.
There is a Happy Land A-
Another cool song from the '60s. I really can't believe I used to hate this album, because there's really a lot of cool songs on this album. Again, the best thing about it is the melody, which has this very endearing and engaging quality about it. Geez, I have to continue to marvel at the fact that Bowie would sound nothing like this later on... Not even a single little bit. It's probably a good thing, since this song seems so dated and cheesy, but I like it.
We Are Hungry Men A-
If you were unfortunate enough to read my earliest review of this album, which bashed all these songs to pieces, you probably find it to be a little bit weird to read all these overwhelmingly positive assessments of these songs! ... But what can I say? I actually like these songs now! (It helped that I listened to a lot of '60s pop albums that stunk.) The lyrics are pretty cool, a sort of sci-fi horror story about the world becoming so overpopulated that people start eating each other. ...Ew!!!!
When I Live My Dream A-
This is another really good song. It's not quirky like the other songs... It's just a very engaging little ballad that's sweeter than jellybeans. I'd say this melody is a little bit more mature and developed than some of these other songs, but it's missing the goofiness.
Little Bombardier B
More of that Kinksian music hall stuff... It's a very simple waltz. Once again, this seems much more old-timey than the Kinks ever sounded. (I'm not saying that's a particularly good thing or anything.) The melody is very standard and somewhat uninteresting, although the middle-eight section gets a little better. Anyway, this isn't particularly memorable, but it's 100 percent likable.
Silly Boy Blue B
This is sort of a clever song where Bowie seems to try to get a sort of anthem-vibe going, but it doesn't quite seem to work for me. Anthems really need to generate a sort of very distinctive vibe and energy that this song just doesn't seem to generate. So, I have trouble getting into this one. I will say that I like that bagpipe he used in the chorus, and that loud drum thwack was pretty cool.
Come and Buy My Toys B+
I said something in my review of Early On that I probably shouldn't have said: I said Bowie shouldn't try writing folk music. .....Alright, I said that completely forgetting about entirely decent songs like this as well as the excellent number “God Knows I'm Good” he would bring up in Space Oddity. So, there you go. I still think that Bowie was not at his best when doing folk music simply because he doesn't have the world's most engaging and convincing voice for the stuff. By far his best stuff on Deram Anthology are the goofier things.
Join the Gang B-
This is basically a piano-pop song, and it has an alright melody I suppose. This song's development is really weird, though, at one point inexplicably turning into a sort of old Motown blues number. ...Well, it was a creative touch anyway! There's also a lot of silly sound effects in this one... strange crunching and buzzy noises. I don't really understand them, but whatever. They're weird.
She's Got Medals A-
Sound familiar? As Mark Prindle pointed out, this song is basically the same thing as “Hey Joe!” Oh boy, if Bowie was going to steal another song, why did he have to make it such a well-known one? Ah well... This is a pretty cool song anyway, so I don't care if it was ripped off. The best thing about this song is the bass-line, which was the best thing about the pre-Hendrix versions of “Hey Joe,” so there's a surprise! But I also like that trilly woodwind section at the beginning of this as well as it when it pops up in the chorus. (You know, David, you could have just done a cover!)
Maid of Bond Street B
This is a very pleasant song, altogether. A very brief tune that runs less than two minutes. The melody is decent, and the instrumentation featuring an accordion, strings and horns are very cute. It's not altogether very distinctive, though... I like it, but I wish there was something more to it.
Please Mr. Gravedigger C
Even though these songs have grown on me over the years, I still haven't gotten over the notion that this particular song is mostly an icky idea. It's Bowie singing a cappella over thunder sound effects, pretending that he has a cold. It's an unusual song, to be sure, but it sounds too much like some groan-inducing, pretentious thing some dorky kid came up with in art-school. Blah, blah, blah.
Love You Till Tuesday (Single Version) B+
Here is a redone version of that old classic that we've already heard earlier in this album! The strings and horn sections are heavier, and Bowie's vocal performance seems much more playful and whimsical. The melody continues to be really good, but I prefer Bowie's more sardonic approach on the original. Also, the added strings and horns just go and make it sound more dated and cheesy.......... and it was pretty dang dated and cheesy to begin with! I don't know what's with that soap opera stuff at the end, either. Seems like a bad idea.
Did You Ever Have a Dream B
Yeah! I had a really freaky dream the other night about my differential equations professor who asked the class for a student I.D. Number. Someone gave it to him, he typed it in his computer, and he made the student's eyeball grow on the overhead projector. (I'm not kidding... that was an actual dream I had recently. It was very trippy.) ...Now that I have answered that question, let's talk about this song! It's a skiffle! Kind of a catchy song, and I enjoy listening to it, but it's sorta dull and forgettable.
Karma Man B-
I read this song title, and I expect it to be psychedelic, but it isn't. It's another folky pop song that doesn't do much for me. And then I wonder why Bowie hadn't done anything in this period to be all trippy and psychedelic! ...You'd really think he would have been doing that in 1967. Anyway, The Deram Anthology is a great collection, but this probably isn't one of the songs that you'll particularly like off of it. Other than the fact that you'd probably never get to hear it otherwise. The melody is very flat and lifeless, and the string-ridden instrumentation is also boring. It's not terrible, but it's completely forgettable.
Let Me Sleep Beside You B-
The lyrical matter sounds like a rip-off of The Rolling Stones' “Let's Spend the Night Together,” and I even remember watching or reading an interview where Bowie says his mother didn't care much for this song. (Sort of funny, I guess.) I suppose if this song was a hit or something, it would have caused some shock-waves, but nobody really payed attention to it. Except Bowie's mother, apparently. The melody is awfully boring, and the pacing is pretty dull as well.
In the Heat of the Morning B-
I don't know what it is about these songs, but Bowie must have been going through a terribly uncreative period around this time. This sounds like whatever song The Association or The Turtles might have been putting out around the time. Completely like everything else in the world, and it's missing that distinctive edge that Bowie is usually able to put on his works. It's a perfectly decent listen, and I really like that raspy organ, but all in all it's not that good.
Rumor has it that the people who were originally going to put together The Deram Anthology found a few other songs that Bowie recorded around the time, but Bowie himself didn't want them to be released on this disc. God knows why he didn't axe this song! If you thought the single version of “Love You Till Tuesday” was cheesy, then you haven't heard this! To be fair, this isn't so terrible... It has a nice hook or two and the guitar riff is alright. But the ham-fisted female vocals don't do it any favors... Blah...
Sell Me a Coat (Remixed Version) B-
This is such a bad remix that it very nearly ruins it. The melody is still there, and it's quite good, but he has about three or four back-up singers cluttering everything up, and they just SUCK every little bit of life and energy that this thing had. So, yeah, Bowie made a very wise decision in not letting this version pop up in his debut album!
When I Live My Dream (Version 2) B
I like the original version better, but I guess we get to hear Bowie's vocals more distinctly in this version. (I assume most people probably think that's a bad thing!) This wasn't the world's most exciting ballad to begin with, anyway, but the Bowie-phile will probably appreciate hearing this alternate version!
Space Oddity (Original Version) A
This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons you'll probably want to get The Deram Anthology instead of David Bowie. This, of course, is an early version of the very first song that David Bowie had a hit with. He improved it later on in Space Oddity with much lusher instrumentation, harder guitars, and a vocal performance that doesn't sound so weirdly dorky. But this is still a very entertaining song right here! It's sort of cool hearing a single keyboardist simulating the launch instead of those billions of moogs that surfaced on the final version! Those spaceman lyrics are certainly among the finest that Bowie has ever written. (You have to take a look at the video if you haven't already... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D67kmFzSh_o ... This would've been embarrassing for anyone other than David Bowie. As you know, it's physically impossible for David Bowie to be anything other than awesome.)
Space Oddity (1969)
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Space Oddity A+
It might have took him a billion freaking years, but it seems that Bowie has come up with his first mega-classic! Also, there was a significant period of my life when I called this my favorite song that ever existed! (It's now replaced with “Heroes,” by the same dude... I'm a huge Bowie fan, by the way!) This is the song that tells the tale of an astronaut who goes to space and decides to just stay up there, because it's easier. ...I really love these lyrics. Something that would appeal to a sci-fi addicted loner like myself. (There you go... That's my biography in one sentence!) Not only are the lyrics classic, but so is everything else about it. The melody is catchy and memorable, the instrumentation has a terribly creative use of mellotrons and such, simulating a space-launch. It has a real driven sense of drama, and develops in an almost progressive-rock kind of way. Even Bowie's vocals seem quite passionate and they sound great! So, there you go. I really like this song... A LOT. It's epic.
Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed B-
This song isn't so much *bad* as it is overlong and empty. It has a passable melody, but nothing too memorable. It goes into a lengthy jam session, which is about as much fun to listen to as any of these things are... which isn't very much... for me anyway! It doesn't have much of that famous David Bowie gusto (even though he's obviously trying), musicality, and of course the guy wasn't exactly an instrumental virtuoso!
Don't Sit Down
I think some fans are still puzzled at this 40-second snippet where his lame backing back jams around and then Bowie comes in with some boring lyrics and then cracks up like he's on something. (Was he on something?) Pointless though harmless.
Letter to Hermione C
Stop studying so much, Hermione! (David Bowie, of course, is referring to the Harry Potter character. I mean, who else could it be?) Um... I've often read from reviewers their elaborate opinions on why David Bowie sucks, and I usually roll my eyes on that. But on the other hand, if they're referring to this dead-dull song, then I guess they have a pretty good point! This is a very atmospheric and dated '60s ballad that has a boring melody. Geez, most of the stuff from the Deram Anthology was more interesting than this. Even “Ching-A-Ling.”
Cygnet Committee B-
David Bowie had a bit of an inkling toward progressive rock in the late '60s, it seems. The main problem with Bowie trying out prog, as I hinted at in the “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” track review, is that his backing band just wasn't very good. They had quite a few more lessons to take until they would do anything 1/8th as great as King Crimson! (Never mind that Rick Wakeman was playing harpsichord in the band, but I'm pretty pissed at him anyway.) The good thing about this song, I think, is the main melody, which is quite nice. Bowie's singing also tends to get more passionate at the end... He's obviously overdoing it, but that does help this song seem more epic and surprisingly not as boring as a 9-minute song should be.
Quite a good song this time thanks to its endurable melody and more manageable three-minute running length! He still had a little ways to go before he'd be writing such consistent songs, but I do have a minor fondness for this one.
An Occasional Dream A
This is very dated like “Letter to Hermione” except I actually think this song completely rules! The melody has plenty of good hooks in it, the flutes sound great, and the dreamy reverb actually sounds like a *good* thing. I don't think anyone would ever confuse this is one of Bowie's monster classics, but this is a nice little gem for anyone willing to give it a go!
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud A-
The weird thing about this album is that the second half of it is overwhelmingly better than the first half (with the exception of the title track, of course). This is a heavily orchestrated song that sounds like another one of his half attempts at prog, except this time it's fairly interesting. The lush orchestration is so overwhelmed that it's ridiculous, but rather glorious in its own way.
God Knows I'm Good A
Another weirdly convincing song from David Bowie. Not that his songs usually aren't convincing—it's just that you wouldn't expect Bowie to be able to pull off an obvious Bob Dylan clone! The melody is catchy and interesting, the acoustic-centered instrumentation is done pretty well, and the lyrics about a poor shoplifter are rather touching. Not bad, Bowwwwwwwwie!
Memory of a Free Festival B
There's a two-part version of this song lurking around somewhere, and I remember that one being a lot more quickly paced and enjoyable. This song just starts out rather slowly and drearily with a depressing accordion and a sort of unmemorable vocal melody. On the other hand, the quasi-drunken choir of people at the end repeating “The sun machine is coming down, and we're going to have a party” has an epic quality to it that I like. This has its good qualities, but I don't think Bowie quite had it in him to turn this into the epic that he was probably shooting for.
The Man Who Sold the World (1971)
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The Width of a Circle B+
That's the diameter! (Oh, how clever I am!) We get a load of David Bowie's new guitarist Mick Ronson playing a really cool riff at the beginning of this eight minute epic. That's pretty much all there is to this song, though. The heavy metal posturing in the first half is pretty cool and crunchy, but at the same time it'll hardly blow your mind like other songs from the era would. The second half is a little more poppy and shuffly featuring some more of Mick Ronson's crunchy guitar licks. It ain't bad, but it's also not too terribly interesting for me.
All the Madmen C
He's going a weird Medieval route here with some flutes and extremely dark Ronson guitar. The flutes were definitely a nice touch and probably the only thing I really like about this. The melody is OK, but hardly one of his memorable ones. The bit he brought in the middle with spoken dialog was a weird choice, but it only goes to make this hopelessly dreary song even more dreary.
Black Country Rock B+
I like this one. It's upbeat, has a good riff, and an altogether good melody. I still don't think Bowie's backing band really had it in them to put together a truly fascinating hard-rock song. But it still stands on its own feet pretty well. Ronson has a lot of good, shining moments on here, and Bowie is amusing when he does a Marc Bolan impersonation even though he sounds mostly like a squawking bird.
After All A-
This one's really good, although still a bit too dreary for my tastes. This low-key ballad with a bit of a circus theme inserted in between. Those goofy Muppets back-up singers and those bubbly synthesizers were a really bizarre touch, and I like them. I'm not sure where the hell he was trying to go with that, but that adds an invaluable and very twisted touch to this dreary song. It's not very pretty, but it has a good melody anyway. This is somewhat reminiscent of what solo-career John Lennon might have sounded like if he was weirder, I guess.
Running Gun Blues C+
The band sounds really great on this one. That's about all the compliment I can dish up for it! Compared to the wannabe acid-rock things from Space Oddity, this is certainly a major improvement. But this song itself is a big, clunky piece of boring. The riff is dull, the melody is unmemorable, and I don't find anything particularly delightful about the instrumentation. So, meh!
Saviour Machine B+
Here's the reason why David Bowie would never be able to write great guitar-centered songs: The best thing about this song is that bendy, high-pitched synthesizer we hear scaling about all over the place! As a whole, I'd call this another quasi-boring song on here with only a semi-interesting melody. The one thing that puts this over the edge is certainly the quicker pace.
She Shook Me Cold C-
Yucky. I really don't understand how anybody could like this song. It's a very heavy and obnoxious rock song without any good riffs and a melody that's excessively dull and unmemorable. David Bowie's voice, while it can be great in some contexts, sounds positively awful here. The band takes it into a jam, but it a boring jam. Yeah... We listen to Cream if we want boring jams!
The Man Who Sold the World A+
Wow, this song comes out of NOWHERE. After having to bear through all that messy, confusing, wannabe metal muck, Bowie finally gets off his derrière and delivers a bona fide classic. Why is this song so much better than the others? Because it's pop-rock, which like it or not is the only sort of music that Bowie excelled at. Mick Ronson plays a dizzying riff, but it's catchy, and so is the vocal melody! ...Oh, and everybody in the world, now, thinks this was a Nirvana song. Yeah, they wish!!!
The Supermen B
I like those spooky back-up vocals that sound like evil monks egging on the apocalypse. It's weird and atmospheric. That drumming is awfully spooky, too. Very pounding. The vocal melody is alright, too, but not up to Bowie's usual par I think. The singing, again, doesn't sound too great for such material. It's way too weak for a song that reminds me of the end of the world. Good song, though!
Hunky Dory (1971)
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If you were listening to David Bowie's discography in order, it's a little bit weird to hear this song. It sounds nothing like The Man Who Sold the World. This is a bit of a poppy show-tune with a piano, glam drums and a bit of a somber saxophone at the end. There's not even the vaguest hint of heavy metal or acid rock or whatever the hell he was trying to go for. ...It also happens to be an insanely catchy little number. Yup, you know it already. It's the song that goes “ch-ch-ch-ch...”
Oh! You Pretty Things A-
Bring me more of this piano pop! This isn't quite as great as the previous song, of course, but it's along similar lines. Perhaps the verses section lingers on for a bit too long, but that chorus is absolutely killer. The instrumentation is interestingly minimal... Really it's just Rick Wakeman on piano and then drums and a bass that come in for the chorus. ...Hey, where's Mick Ronson, anyway? Not that I'm complaining... this show tune stuff is great.
Eight Line Poem B-
This is a little like the previous song except without the chorus. It just sort of lingers around and never does anything interesting. Come to think of it, this reminds me of a Neil Young song. He'd do this stuff all the time... just lingering around with only a semi-interesting melody... At the very least, Ronson gets to play a high-pitched electric guitar almost like a slide guitar! ...This isn't the worst song on the planet Earth, but I think it's pretty firmly established that Bowie's at his absolute best when he's in showman mode. Give us thy choruses!
Life on Mars? A+
What did I tell you about choruses? This chorus is so powerful that's it's guaranteed to launch you into outer space! ...Well, I don't mean that literally, which is good because I've heard that it's pretty difficult to breathe in space. But still! Listening to this chorus pop up, my brain is on some sort of different realm. The instrumentation consists of more of Rick Wakeman's piano, some elaborate string arrangements, and a few, brief Mick Ronson touches here and there. There's even some very dramatic timpanis at the end. This is a song that achieved to become big, and it has succeed!
This is a sweet little song that Bowie wrote for his son, and it's catchy as hell. In a way, it rather similar to the sort of songs he was writing in his debut album, except a little more mature. (Hard to say why exactly this song seems more “mature,” since it was written for a kid.) Once again, Rick Wakeman plays a delightful piano.
If there was any doubt that Bowie wasn't on top of his game, then you can extinguish that right now! This sounds a lot like he was going for another “Life on Mars?” and he very nearly achieves it. It doesn't have the outer space lyrics, but it does have some bizarrely effective sort of philosophical lyrics that are terribly fun to sing along with. (“I'm not a prophet or a stone age man / Just a mortal with the potential of a superman / I'm living on / I'm tethered to the logic of Homo Sapien / Can't take my eyes from the great salvation / Of bullshit faith”). Aren't those great? It also has a very dramatic melody, too. It's very serious, but somehow it doesn't completely bog me down like serious songs tend to do... Great string section too... Everything about this song is great!
Fill Your Heart A-
After all that drama, it's only fitting that the follow-up song should be a lighthearted show-tune along the same lines as “Kooks.” Funny, I hadn't noticed until now that this is actually a cover of a song written by a duo named Biff Rose and Paul Williams. It was originally the B-Side to Tiny Tim's “Tip Toe Through the Tulips.” It's probably not as insanely snappy as “Kooks” was, but I enjoy it lots. It's nothing if it isn't likable. I also have to mention that the bridge between this track and the next one is brilliant... That echoing horn fading out while those ominous beeping noises come in... Really well done. That's almost more notable than this song itself!
Andy Warhol A
That bit at the beginning when David Bowie argues with someone over the pronunciation of “Warhol” always seems to crack me up. I've listened to this album about a billion times, but it always seems to amuse me. I can't say exactly what it was about Andy Warhol that made David Bowie want to write a song about him with a lot of Spanish guitar in it. But it's a good song, and that echoey, snapping drum is really cool.
Song For Bob Dylan A
And I'm sure that Bob Dylan appreciated it! ...Or maybe not. I don't know. But Bowie was obviously wanting to pay tribute to some of his influences, and it's pretty engaging listening to him do that. And this is a pretty dang well-written song, too, with an interesting melody, some good guitar passages from Ronson, and Bowie's interesting vocal take on Dylan's style. Of course Bowie would never be able to sing quite as good as Dylan, no matter how much he might try. Ah, poor Bowie.
Queen Bitch A+
Rock 'n' roll music! I remember that! This is the album's only true rock song, and it completely rules over anything from The Man Who Sold the World, because it's a great little song! ...This is a Velvet Underground tribute, which was also reportedly a huge influence on Bowie. He comes up with a truly fantastic riff and a really butt-kicking rhythm. This is a great song to crank up to 11!
Bewlay Brothers A-
It took me somewhat of a long time to finally appreciate this song, although I fear I'll never appreciate it like the fans do! (Oh wait... I'm a fan. I mean, if I'm not a fan of Bowie, then I'm a fan of nobody!) Anyway, this one starts out folkish and acoustic like it's going to be another “Life on Mars.” It draws you in until its weird chorus, which is pretty explosive although not quite as such as other songs in the album. ...The melody is generally good, although still it's hardly anything I ever find myself humming under my breath. Perhaps it's also a bit too lengthy and slow moving. In that way, this is very similar to The Man Who Sold the World, particularly that outro where he brings back the goofy Muppet vocals. (Yeah, is it any wonder that he would later get an acting gig with a bunch of Muppets?)
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (1972)
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Five Years A+
Oh man... here it comes! This song starts with a fade-in of an ominous drum loop, and Bowie starts to sing these over-dramatic lyrics about a world that has just learned that it has five years left to live. The music starts out very quiet and subtly almost like an ordinary theatrical song, but then it completely explodes with wild and weird orchestral arrangements and Bowie's vocals get passionate and screaming. This is quite compelling!
Soul Love A
This starts to sound a little more like actual *glam* music of the T. Rex variety. (I dunno... “Five Years” sounds much more like Broadway than I envision glam to sound like!) Very catchy and repetitive with a bit of a crunchy rhythm section. Mick Ronson comes in with some terribly cool guitar lines for the chorus, and it never fails to excite me. Extra points goes to that swinging saxophone in the verses, as well as that echoey solo. Simply put, this is utterly delightful!
Moonage Daydream A+
God, that chorus still hits me right there somewhere in the middle of my chest! Interestingly, I think I like this song more now than I did back in 2002. (I seem to remember my old, old review of it being slightly less than enthused.) Of course, Mick Ronson shines here like a rock star! (Because he is a rock star!!) This guitar performance both adds to the melody and it soooooooars. The main melody is immediately compelling, and I even like Bowie's vocal performance... That echo effect he puts on it is really cool. Of course, Bowie never had the greatest voice, which is probably why he comes off so well playing a space alien!
The best of the best in my opinion. I used to give out scores higher than an A+, but I had to cease that practice because it was ridiculous. But let me put it this way: If I was going to make a list of my Top 50 favorite songs, “Starman” is a shoe-in! This is one of the most utterly catchy and endearing melodies that he has ever come up with. ...Sorry, I'm spending so much of my energy mouthing along with the lyrics that I can hardly type straight! The acoustic guitar at the beginning is bouncy and gives us just the right texture, and the string section that comes in the middle gives it just the right amount of body. Basically, this isn't much more than an ordinary pop song, but somehow, it sounds like the greatest thing on the planet Earth. (Sorry for blatantly over-praising this album... I do that sometimes...)
It Ain't Easy B+
One of my classic questions regarding this song has always been: “Why did it have to be included in this album?” Yup, I still have to wonder about that, since Bowie had a song in the can called “Velvet Goldmine” that was not only a great, A-level song, but it also had lyrics were a better fit for the album's concept. No kidding, I used to object to this song so much that I routinely skipped it! ...But now I know better. While I continue to think that this is the weakest entry of the album because of its more sluggish pace and less interesting melody, it continues to be a terribly enjoyable listen. Particularly when that thunderous chorus pipes up! It's the sort of chorus that has a tendency to stop me in my tracks!
Lady Stardust A+
Man... This album just doesn't let up with the classic moments! This is an amazingly rich Elton-John-like piano ballad with an appealingly soaring vocal performance and a terribly engaging vocal melody. There's something about this song that seems entirely rich and masterful to me. I think I've sprained my voice a few times trying to sing along with this in my car! (Say what you want about Bowie's voice, but he's a much better singer than I am...)
I've also traditionally had somewhat of a difficult time enjoying this song. The melody doesn't strike me as being anything great, and I think the rock 'n' roll aspects of it could have been more *driving!* Nonetheless, I still enjoy this song, and it does boast its fair share of solid hooks! ...This is hardly the highlight of this album, but it's still quite fun.
Hang Onto Yourself A+
Bring on the glam rock! ... As I've mentioned earlier, much of this album isn't the same sort of “glam-rock,” but this is without a doubt GLAM! The guitars are poppy and crunchy, and the rhythm section is cute and ultra-clean. What I like about it the most is, of course, Mick Ronson's catchy riff, and Bowie's catchy main vocal melody. What more can I say about it? It's friggin' catchy!
Ziggy Stardust A+
This shares the spotlight with “Starman” as being one of the best of the best. This is such a classic anthem that it has its classicness dribbling off of it. Once again, Bowie comes up with a melody that's immediately compelling, and Mick Ronson's guitar licks are ultra-slick and appealing. ...I don't even know what else to say about it! I still get rather awestruck listening to it.
Suffragette City A+
This is the album's great rabble-rousing rocker. It's also fairly close to being actual *glam-rock* with its ultra crunchy though clean guitars and a quickly paced drum beat. And, once again, this melody is so catchy that it still manages to sound fresh no matter how many times I've listened to this. To say that I'm “tapping my foot” to this isn't even half of it. I'm singing!
Rock N' Roll Suicide A+
Bowie cuts yet another masterful classic. Actually, I'd say this was more reminiscent of Hunky Dory than anything else on this album. (Have I mentioned, yet, that Bowie never liked to repeat himself? That's another reason why I turned into such a huge Bowie fan.) This starts out as a very tuneful, folky song, and it draws you in. But the more it plays, the more dramatic and elaborate it gets, eventually ending with Bowie screaming “YOU'RE NOT ALONE!!!” and “GIVE ME YOUR HAND!!!” at the top of his lungs. This is such an epic song, and frankly, I'm a little bit shocked that it's less than three minutes long! It seems like it should be at least twice that long! ...Man, this is a great album.
Aladdin Sane (1973)
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Watch That Man A+
This song kicks ass. That's all I need to say about it. But you probably want me to elaborate, don't you? OK. Give me this kick-ass crunchy guitar for all the peanut brittle in the world. Mick Ronson appears to be rocking out more than he did on Ziggy Stardust, and he's an absolute rock star. The driving rhythm is rollicking and punchy, and it makes me want to get off my buns and do my mightiest rock 'n' roll dance. Perhaps most importantly, Bowie comes out with a very fine melody, that he screams at the top of his lungs with tons of spirit. Bowie still doesn't have the greatest vocals in the world, but he definitely sounds better than he did on The Man Who Sold the World. The spirit is mostly what matters, though, right?
Aladdin Sane (1913-1938-197?) A+
I've been listening to this album for years, but I still don't know what the deal is with those years! ...Ahh, David Bowie was big into sci-fi, so there's probably some weird explanation! Anyway, this is probably the coolest lounge-lizard/rock incarnation on the planet Earth. Seriously... if there's a better one, then it'd have to be so good that it would split the earth wide open. Not only does Bowie come out with a punchy, memorable melody, but he has his pianist (not Rick Wakeman anymore... Mike Garson) go totally nuts. Holy crap that guy and his piano sound absolutely splendid, improvising some of the craziest freaking things imaginable while still keeping the general groove. Bowie had never sounded cooler.
Drive in Saturday A-
Not a whole lot different than an ordinary '50s do-wop at first glance, but of course the chord structure is more interesting than that. And, of course, there's Bowie's own warped personality scrawled all over it! (If you don't immediately love Bowie's warped personality in his songs, then you're not the same sort of Bowie fan that I am!) Also, you cannot or should not deny that this is yet another catchy melody. I'd say the only reason this gets knocked off a few points is just because it's missing that extra something *special* that the previous two songs possessed. I can't say this is something that lingers on in my mind much afterwards.
Panic in Detroit A-
I've often wondered why this song is usually singled out as one of the better tunes from this album. It strikes me as one of the more ordinary, and too-heavy-handed songs here. The melody is very good, of course, but somewhat weak. The busy rhythm section with a bongo beat is quite cool, though, and of course you can't deny that Ronson's crunchy guitar licks are pretty awesome as well, and he gives some truly gritty and invigorating solos at the end! I'm gonna say that the twisted highlight of this song are those female back-up singers who hardly resort to cliches.
Cracked Actor A
Maybe the reason that everybody likes “Panic in Detroit” more than most of these other songs is because it can't as transparently be placed in a genre. This song is quite obviously R&B and it uses a somewhat cliché riff and a harmonica in the expected places. But as I mentioned plenty o' times, Bowie (at least at this stage) always seems to be able to make things sound interesting and entertaining. Give a billion dollars to his backing band who makes this song absolutely kick while suiting wonderfully to Bowie's odd singing voice. And give another billion dollars to Bowie himself who wrote a freaking catchy melody.
Man, this is another classic! This one is more in the show-tune route, which I mentioned in Ziggy Stardust was a particular sweet spot of mine. I can just picture this song in a Broadway play or something! ... And it would be awesome no doubt. This is another fun song to listen to, although I'm gonna say that the reason for the mere A- is it's missing that extra something to make it special. It's still a completely excellent song, of course!
The Prettiest Star A
Man... Bowie continues to lay on the charm in a big way! I'm gonna put this one in the “show-tune” camp as well, since it has a pleasant, swinging mid-tempo pace and a little bit of music-hall piano in the background. Once again, Bowie shows us that he can come up with hooky melodies like nobody's business. Not a terribly original melody, probably, but why the hell do you think I care about that? This is just more coolness from the cool guy.
Let's Spend the Night Together A
Surprisingly good! This of course is a cover of The Rolling Stones' classic song from the '60s, and Bowie and his band go absolutely nuts with it. Just listen to that piano at the beginning of it! ...Freaking Mike Garson is the coolest. They play it quite a bit faster than originally, and give it some really big guitars. Making the experience seem more alien I guess are all sorts of beeps and blips that are placed at opportune moments. ...This is nothing more than just a mega-blast!
The Jean Genie A+
While I don't agree that “Panic in Detroit” is one of the mega-highlights of the album, I definitely agree that “The Jean Genie” deserves that distinction! This is probably the most well-known song of the album, and that's for one reason only: It completely rules. Like “Cracked Actor,” this is based on a somewhat cliché R&B riff, but Bowie's so awesome at this point that he makes them sound really cool. Once again, his backing band gives it a lot of grit and kick, and Bowie comes up with a terrifically cool vocal melody. This is a cool song to tap your foot to!
Lady Grinning Soul A
David Bowie made a very good decision in closing the album with this song! It has a real epic 'conclusiveness' quality to it that ends up being a good wrap-up for this whole thing. Although, as a lounge-jazz incarnation, I suppose it could be construed as a weaker lounge-jazz song compared to the title track, which it undoubtedly is. But this is still a pretty excellent song. The melody is memorable, and the instrumentation is dazzling.
Pin Ups (1973)
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Here it goes... As far as covers go, this one ain't half bad. I'm not very familiar with the Pretty Things' original. I just listened to it now to compare it. Well, it was just an ordinary '60s R&B ditty, but I will give The Pretty Things credit for making it sound pretty raw and rough for the time. (Oh... wait... I'm reviewing the cover--not the original!) Bowie for the most part keeps the rollicking and spirited R&B-ness of the original pretty well intact, and this is quite a lot of fun to listen to. Interestingly, despite all the accusations thrown at this album about Bowie butchering these covers with bad vocal performance, I can't say that Bowie gives a less thrown-at-the-wind vocal performance than the original singer!
Here Comes the Night B
This is a cover of a Them song, the band that Van Morrison was in before he made it big as Van Morrison. It's a pretty nice song that Bowie chose to cover, although it's a bit sluggish and uninteresting for my tastes. Probably the nicest thing about the original was that sudden tempo change. Bowie keeps that well intact. ...I unfortunately don't find this melody to be very intriguing!
I Wish You Would B-
This is a Yardbirds cover. The Yardbirds were better at it, I think. The rough guitars in the original were better able to capture the spirit than these ultra-clean glam licks! The melody is somewhat uninteresting, though, and thus I'm a bit bored listening to this. That really dark guitar section in the middle-eight was really cool, though. I think it's Ronson that deserves credit for that probably!
See Emily Play A
Ah, now we're not really surprised that Bowie would choose to do a Pink Floyd cover! Although, if the purpose of this album was to preserve the great rock songs of yore, then this one was probably unnecessary. Pink Floyd was massively famous by this time, so this song was hardly threatened by obscurity! Anyway, Bowie always sounds better when he sings a great melody. He was also quite a bit more creative with this one than the others. That goofy chorus, that fruity harpsichord, those classical strings that close the song. ...Man, Mike Garson even starts to play “Also Sprach Zarathusa” in there. All very cool ideas. It hardly surpasses the original, but it didn't want to.
Everything's Alright B
I found the original Mojos version on YouTube, and the lead singer does sound a bit like Bowie. Maybe these are the songs that he used to practice with in front of the mirror! Anyway, the original song is very enjoyable, melodic and Beatles-esque, and this version is much the same. Although Bowie loses some of it by making it looser.
I Can't Explain B+
Yeeesh... It took me a few listens to finally grow into this. That huge, pounding riffs comes off as a bit clumsy over The Who's original more upbeat treatment. But after awhile, it starts to grow on me. That riff is deep, dark and powerful. Mick Ronson comes in with a cool electric guitar solo, and that squealing saxophone sounds pretty neat as well. Hardly a masterpiece, or anything, but it's good!
Friday on My Mind B
So, my first instinct upon hearing this song was that Bowie sped it up quite a bit. This seems ridiculously fast-paced! But I then listened to the original, and it's pretty much the exact same tempo! Bowie's vocal performance gets a little too weird and undisciplined in this case. He would have sounded better if he would have concentrated a bit more on just singing the melody, which is a good one!
This one's by The Merseybeats. Try not to get them confused with The Easybeats! ...As far as the melodies go on this album, this is by far one of the hookiest. It has a cool riff, and a nice pace to it. Bowie's vocal performance of course is rather enthusiastic, but at least he preserves the melody by singing it well! So, here we go. Here's a truly excellent '60s song that I never would have heard of if it wasn't for David Bowie making Pin Ups!
Don't Bring Me Down B
Another Pretty Things cover? ... Well, alright then! This is another fun R&B type song, although it doesn't do a whole lot to interest me, melodywise. The general thing of interest in this one are those weird guitar textures that Ronson comes up with as well as that wild harmonica deeply in the background!
Shapes of Things A
Another Yardbirds cover. Funny how Bowie seems perfectly at home singing this. I guess, come to think of it, the original was a pretty strange song for the early '60s. Maybe they were ahead of their time! This is a rather epic song, and Bowie's voice manages to soar pretty well over it. The chorus is stranger and more rockin'. And Ronson comes up with some interesting things in his solo! ...Hey, we never denied that the guy wasn't a great guitarist!
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere A-
For some crazy reason, that rumbly thing they do with the guitars at the beginning as well as that pulsating rhythm throughout this reminds me of The Sex Pistols! Sort of weird... Anyway, this is a pretty spirited cover of a Who song. (Why is Bowie covering so many songs from ultra-famous bands?) The melody is pretty good, although The Who would later to better of course. I'm giving this an A- just because of the whole Sex Pistols thing!
Where Have All the Good Times Gone A
Quite a good cover of a Kinks song! ... Again, I have to wonder why Bowie wanted to preserve a Kinks song if The Kinks were doing a pretty good job of preserving themselves. I really just think Bowie picked a bunch of '60s songs he wanted to sing, reminiscing about those old days when he wanted to be famous but nobody would listen to him. I can't blame him. Anyway, give him points for picking a great song to sing—easily among the catchier melodies on this disc—and give him bonus points for Mick Ronson for making that riff very rough and pounding! That actually does it quite a lot of favors.
Diamond Dogs (1974)
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Future Legend A-
Ha! This is a pretty hilarious one-minute introductory track where Bowie describes a future world where civilization has been reduced to some living nightmare. ...It's pretty funny. You can hear some of the mutants muttering things in the background!
Diamond Dogs A+
And now we get one of the album's most iconic songs, this stomping glam number with a catchy and dirty riff, and an excellent melody. Bowie actually plays the guitar on it, which I guess shows that he was pretty capable although he's clearly not Mick Ronson! He also plays some really dirty saxophone, which gives the song a more swinging and still-dirty quality to it! But anyway, this is a fun song, with an excellent, driving pace.
Sweet Thing A-
You can there's a little bit of soul in this track, which goes to point in the direction that Bowie would take soon in his career. Of course, it still has his incredibly twisted personality strewn throughout, which is of course what makes this David Bowie! The production continues to be pretty dirty and gritty, and his back-up overdubs are pretty weird. But there is something about this song that I don't particularly like, and that is the slow pacing of it. The melody is pretty nice, but it doesn't seem to quite have the *drive* that I want it to. The melody is still pretty good, and I like Bowie's passionate performance, but it seems like more could have been done with this. (I know, I'm still giving this an A-, so it's still quite good. I'm just complainin'.)
I can't be too sure why this was split up into its own track since it continues the same thread of “Sweet Thing” ....... and the next track is just going to be a reprise of “Sweet Thing.” Yeah, you can consider these all the same song! Anyway, the beginning of this features a bunch of dirty guitar and saxophone solos from our friend Bowie. They're not bad, and they prove that Bowie might not have done such a terrible job if he played lead guitar on all his albums....... but at the same time, you can tell why he was smart for working with full-time guitarists! In this song, Bowie picks up the pacing a little bit, and the drive is done well, but what about the melody? I like the dreary atmosphere pretty well, but ..... it's also not my favorite sound in the world.
Sweet Thing (Reprise) B+
The beginning of this features a pretty nice saxophone solo from Bowie! ... He sings that central melody again for awhile, and then they adopt some sort of crazy new groove with Bowie noodling around in the background with a growling, fuzzy guitar. It sounds like he's playing random notes, but again that fits in pretty well with this album's uber-grungy atmosphere.
Rebel Rebel A+
Ah, don't these massive classics just stick out at you? It's no wonder that a lot of people mistakenly call David Bowie primarily a singles artist! (Yah, his radio classics are better than the songs that didn't make it on the radio, but you might find enough to like in the album tracks that they'll be worth listening to.) Anyway, this song has, quite clearly, one of rock 'n' roll's greatest riffs. It's right up there with anything The Rolling Stones wrote for my money. You can tell that immediately when you put it on for the first time! ...This is just another foot-stomping classic. Also, evidently, it was meant as Bowie's farewell to glam music. .......Goodbye!
Rock 'N Roll With Me B+
There's a little bit of soul in this one, although I understand that he had written this sometime earlier! (Well, maybe Bowie going soul wasn't something that just came out of the blue!) This is a nice song with an alright melody. Again, I wish it had more drive to it. It just seems like a huge show-tune chorus. It's not a bad show-tune chorus, but it's not a great one, so it could've used some more rock 'n' roll in it!
We Are the Dead B
Not bad, but like “Sweet Thing,” it's very slow moving and doesn't have enough umph to it for my tastes. The result is a perfectly strapping song, but it starts to get pretty boring to me. I've listened to this album quite a bit, but I've always had some trouble with this song. (I know! How can a huge Bowie fan such as I call one of his huge ballads boring?) This was meant to be more of a conceptual song based on something from the book 1984. Maybe he just bit off more than he could chew? He should, perhaps, have just concentrated on the music instead of the concept.......
Have I mentioned that some of this book was inspired by the novel 1984? Yeah, it was! Bowie tried to get the rights to make a musical from Orwell's widower, but she didn't give it to him. (And yet Rick Wakeman came along and made one later... Way to steal your former boss's idea, man!) This is quite clearly a funk, proto-disco ditty that would pretty clearly point to his all-out soul outing with Young Americans. This melody ain't one of Bowie's finest, but at least it has a cool disco rhythm. I also really like his theatric vocal performance. There's some cool things he does here and there. Hardly a great song, but one that's terribly fun to listen to anyway!
Big Brother A
I really like that fade-in! It's really crazy atmospheric thing with another pretty cool horn solo from Bowie. (Seriously, we shouldn't be too quick to underestimate this guy's instrumental abilities.) I generally like this one better than most of the other non-hit songs, because it has a weird rhythm with tambourines and hand-claps and everything! I also think this melody is quite exciting, particularly the chorus, which Bowie does a nice soaring job with. Although not everything is perfect with this song... He brings in a folky refrain in here, almost unnoticed.
Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family A-
I'll always be in debt to Bowie for the image listening to this song gives me. A bunch of skeletons doing a crazy dance around a camp-fire. The riff he comes up with is pretty bizarre, and oddly appealing. This song is mostly just a groove and no melody. Bowie just comes in with things like “Woo woo!” and “Move it up, move it up!” At the very end, there was some sort of tape malfunction in the studio, so it just repeats the same loop over and over and over. (Seriously, that was a mistake, but Bowie thought that was a great ending for the song!)
David Live (1974)
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A nice rendition of a funk song from Diamond Dogs. Considering that Bowie was trying to go soul throughout this whole album, it makes sense he would start off the whole thing with one of the only genuine funk songs of his catalog! The band doesn't sound too complete, though; it seems like they're missing some back-up instrumentation somewhere. Bowie's vocals sound OK, but he strains too much trying to sing all “soulful” like. If you think he sounds weird singing there, then prepare to drive yourself crazy for the rest of this album.
Rebel Rebel B+
A mediocre rendition of a great song if you ask me. Where's the glam-tastic drum beat, and why the hell does that riff sound so passive? What's there a saxophone doing noodling around in there, and why does Bowie sound like he's hoarse? Either he had a terrible cold, or he's trying to sound all “soulful.” My guess it's the latter, but he sounds awful regardless. ...All things considered, this is a great song that was difficult to ruin, but believe me, Bowie tried.
Moonage Daydream B-
Another great song that's difficult to ruin, but Bowie seemed to do his worst. Don't you remember that the original song had such a thundering, powerful, butt-numbing riff? Again, this thing has been reduced to something tame and timid... In fact, the saxophone takes over part of the riff, which was a bizarre decision. Don't you remember in the original when Bowie's vocals soared over everything most pleasantly? Again, he destroys it by muting his voice so freaking much. ...And I really don't know what's up with the drummer who's coming up with so many bizarre fills that this song can't seem to get a foothold. ...Man, way to extract all the *ROCK* out of a song that used to *ROCK*. I can't even believe I'm listening to this.
Sweet Thing / Candidate / Sweet Thing (Reprise) B-
Yup, here's another Diamond Dogs song that had a lot of soul elements in it already, so Bowie didn't have to change it a whole lot. But if you remember my review of that album, I was never too thrilled about these songs to begin with. It has nice melodies as a whole, but it's very slow moving as a whole. Bowie's vocal performance is generally good throughout, although I don't know what was with that weird Brooklyn gangster thing he did at the beginning of this! ...Man, I don't even think Bowie even knew what he was doing!
Look. I know that I don't particularly like it when artists perform live versions of songs that sound exactly like their studio counterparts, but this is ridiculous! Just sing it normally, man!!! Naturally, this is one of those songs that is impossible to screw up no matter how many weird soulful intonations that Bowie was able to heap upon the mix, but that doesn't make it any less disheartening for the longtime fans. It just seemed to lose all of its heart and soul by making it “soul.” These were ch-ch-ch-changes that we never wanted!
Suffragette City B+
Again, it's pretty much impossible to destroy this song, but they've really done a disservice by numbing down that riff. Don't you remember on Ziggy Stardust how completely butt-crunching that it was? Ahhhhhhhhh, boooo!!! At least Bowie doesn't do anything overly weird with his vocal performance, and that saxophone section seems to actually swing a little bit, which is semi-constructive.
Aladdin Sane A-
The saxophone is a cool instrument, but why is it playing what Mike Garson's piano should be playing? ...... In fact, where is Garson anyway? I can only faintly hear him twinkling around in my left speaker! Wow, these are more drastic changes that shouldn't have happened. I mean, that piano was the #1 star of the original, wasn't it? ............But why do I like this? I don't know. That festive, tropical tone Bowie brought to the chorus might have been a strange idea, but it manages to swing quite pleasantly. And, lucky me, Garson has a bit of a chance to do a wild piano solo in there. Holy crap, that guy is nuts!!
All the Young Dudes B-
Yeah, this is the Mott the Hoople song that Bowie wrote for them. I guess he has to remind the world that it's his song, after all! While the original was great, and the single version of it that Bowie recorded is also great, this soulful reworking of it is really missing the boat. The best Bowie could do for a soulful vocal performance was this weird, hoarseness. While this is yet another great song that was hard to ruin, every new thing Bowie thought to add to it just didn't work. Sorry to say. The hyperactive saxophone solo. Eh. Listen to the polite audience applause afterwards. Thousands of slightly disappointed kids, no doubt.
Cracked Actor C
Again, what's with the saxophones taking over the main riff? The original had such a great, Stonesy sound to it, and it packed a powerful punch. But these freaking saxophones make it sound like the “Rubber Ducky” song from Sesame Street. And those electric guitar solos throughout are going completely nuts, screeching all over the place, without once adding anything constructive. God, what a smelly bomb. I guess this wasn't one of Bowie's all-time *great* songs, and so it didn't have enough greatness in its bones to save it.
Rock 'N' Roll With Me B
This was probably Bowie's most 'soulful' outing that he had written by this point, and therefore there was no need to really change it around. And yet, Bowie changes it around! That bedroom soul vocal performance was a terrible idea. Wasn't the original more of a gospel? Ack! Anyway, the chorus still picks up a little bit of dust, but not really enough. The saxophone, again, does seem like it should have been noodling around so busily like that, and the guitars sound more fluid than they should. Whatever happened to that famous Bowie crunch? Or was that too glammy?
Watch That Man B+
Listen to that guitar crunch along a bit at the very beginning. And then it's thrust way into the background. Oh man! BRING THAT GUY UP THERE!!! Instead, of course the saxophone is most predominant in the mix. But at least it's swinging instead of just noodling around like some idiot that had just been raped by Barry White. I like that they generally kept this song an upbeat rockin' thing. Of course, it's a lot tamer than the original, but Bowie stopped being a dumb, wannabe soul-ster and pretty much just sang this normally. That's good, at least.
Knock on Wood A-
Cool! Maybe Bowie should have just spent the concert performing actual R&B covers instead of just whizzing all over his back catalog. This cover of an old 1966 soul song from Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper sounds just right. The guitars are nice 'n' crunchy, Mike Garson's piano seems to twinkle along just right, and the blaring saxophone doesn't sound bad either. Bowie's vocals aren't bad, either. ...Yeah, more like this, please!
Here Today, Gone Tomorrow B
Alright, another cover! This one's by The Ohio Players, and it's quite good! It doesn't pick up the same spirit as the previous song did; the band certainly could have been bolder and more swinging. The vocal melody was probably pretty good, but I get the feeling that Bowie obscures that as much as he can with those weird 'soulful' vocal intonations that he keeps on doing. Bah! That weak little hand-clap they bring in is a fairly good indication at how lame this is. Mike Garson's funny, twinkly piano made an unusual texture, though.
Space Oddity B-
Really?! Couldn't you have at least played this song more or less straight? Again, what's with the weird vocals??? Gahhhh! He hits a few pretty bad notes in here. It's not like this was a difficult song to sing; he just needed to sound spaced out the whole time. He didn't need to go all freaking James Brown on this. And where's the guitar? The original was a nice little hippie folk song. But, again, it's just Mr. Saxophone and Mr. Guitar and Mr. Piano noodling around aimlessly. ...To be fair, this doesn't make a horrible listen since it's pretty impossible to screw up the original song, but I'll be danged if he didn't try.
Diamond Dogs D+
Oh my freaking crap. Right away, they screwed up the riff. The original was an awesome, butt-whomping riff, but this sounds like somebody is strangling a cat. Once the main part of the song picks up, it doesn't get a whole lot better. The pacing is boring and clunky, and again that saxophone is much higher in the mix than it deserves to be. Oh man, I'm never gonna listen to the saxophone again! ...I would have thought this also would have been an impossible song to screw up, but now Bowie has 100 percent succeeded! I can hardly even listen to this!
Panic in Detroit C+
I was never greatly wild about the original, but at least that one had real drive to it. This funkified version of it still has a little bit of drive to it, but those quickly chugging guitars don't quite seem to be the ticket for it. At least it's still kept upbeat thanks to a bouncy bass guitar, and the weird guitar solo in the middle ain't half bad.
Big Brother B
The only reason I liked the original was for the melody and its quirky percussion section. The melody is still here, even though it's slightly ruined by his attempts at **soulifying** it! But the rhythm section is more streamlined, which makes the overall experience much less distinctive. ...Well, they have a mellotron solo anyway! And they also tack on “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family,” which was a nice touch.
Funny how this almost works as a soul song, but it's still not nearly as powerful as its more glam-tastic original. It's nice that Garson pretty much kept his original fancy-piano work intact throughout it, and he was also given a bit of a chance to solo around a bit in the middle. Screw the saxophone! Just let Mike Garson noodle around through this whole album!
The Width of a Circle C
Really? I thought we were just going to forget that The Man Who Sold the World ever happened apart from the title track! ..............And what the heck is the point of even trying to soulify that one? I mean, why don't you just go do a soul version of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” while you're at it? .......Agh, I swear this album is trying to murder me. ...The best thing I can say about this is that I suppose it could have been worse. I sort of like that mystical intro. But once that quasi-funky rhythm pipes up, it mostly loses me. There are a few moments when the instrumentals seem to jam along quite nicely, but those are only few and far between. This wasn't a particularly great song to begin with.
The Jean Genie C
WHAT?????????????????????????????????? How could Bowie sing portions of this song without the riff? That's like some asshole singing an a cappella version of “Satisfaction.” What's the point? Sure enough, the crunchy riff comes back mid-way through the song, but that's after making all of us collectively groan quite profusely. Geez... Again, this is another song that seemed impossible to screw up until you actually hear it. I know Bowie was doing drugs, but what was he thinking? There's a really bad electric guitar solo in here, too. That's poop-icing on the poop-cake.
Rock and Roll Suicide B+
...Huh, this doesn't actually make a bad soul outing, either. I guess I'm not surprised now, but it seems like Bowie's soulful vocal performance seems pretty passionate, much like the original. I sort of wish that clunky rhythm section would have picked it up a bit, though. That's my main complaint. The original packed such a wallop, and these guys don't quite make it. Particularly the ending, which was supposed to create the apocalypse. Although, I sort of can go for that angelic thing they seem to do instead.
Young Americans (1975)
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Young Americans A+
If this was the only reason that David Bowie went soul, then that's alright with me as far as I'm concerned. Forget that David Live even existed. Seriously. That'll just lead you astray from this glorious path! Bowie figured out the best way to sing “soulful,” which is an excessively positive development. David Sanborn is still here on the saxophone, and he's noodling around quite deliciously. The funky rhythm section is wonderful, keeping the pace crunchy and snappy. I even like those soulful back-up singers giving it some nice backbone. The melody is catchy. What else can I say? This is classic!
........And then there are the other songs. Why do there have to be other songs? When I first got this album at the height of my Bowie fandom, I hated the other songs so much that I used to just play “Young Americans” over and over and over. And then I'd skip down to track eight and do the same thing to “Fame.” And, when you think about it, can you blame me? This song blows!!! I'm sitting here trying to convince myself that this was a good song all along, but I swear I'm bored to freaking death with this. The echoey horns fluttering around occasionally was a neat idea, I suppose, but considering this overall song is so slowly paced and clunky, it only makes it seem boring and clunky. The melody is nothing. I don't know what to say to you, Bowwwwwie.
This is better since it has a more upbeat rhythm, but it has an awfully difficult time catching fire. You can tap your toes to it, if you want to, but you'll have to force yourself. Bowie's ultra-wobbly vocal performance is sort of cool to listen to, even though I get the feeling that he's trying too hard. All things considered, I think David Sanborn is the star of this show! Listen to that dude toot around in the background!
Is this a clunky David Bowie album or what? I suppose it's more delectable than The Man Who Sold the World, but it's not nearly as creative. This song, for example, is just an ordinary, extremely repetitive, and not-too-hooky funk ditty. It's a dime a dozen. Not that Bowie's been excessively original, but I've always been able to pick out his twisted personality in his songs. And here, I just can't find it. This is faceless! But then again, there's still David Sanborn... He's the only one who's making this song interesting.
Somebody Up There Likes Me B-
Not half bad this time. Bowie's vocals are a little more confident, and I'm able to get myself interested in the crunchy groove more or less. David Sanborn gets quite a bit of time to noodle around in the forefront at the beginning, and I seriously wouldn't have minded just listening to him some more! Other than that, I've got so say that this isn't an overly interesting song. The melody is so-so, and the instrumentation is fairly standard for the genre. Plus, it goes on past six minutes, so it tries my patience, too.
Across the Universe B
Oh, boy! David Bowie did it now! He butchered a BEATLES song! ..... Oh crap. Listen closely and you'll very faintly hear a familiar voice on back-up vocals. .....Why it's John Lennon!!! He plays guitar on this, too. Who the hell knows why Lennon came in and helped Bowie do a butchered version of that song. I suppose Lennon went on record saying that he hated this song, so he just decided to have a lot of fun doing a silly Pin Ups version of it with David Bowie. Hey! I would have done the same thing if I was John Lennon! David Bowie is awesome! ...This doesn't sound like it was very well planned. I think the story goes that Lennon just showed up in the studio one day. That freaking weirdo.
Can You Hear Me B-
I can tell you one thing: This song would make an extremely boring Verizon Wireless theme song. Again, this is just a smooth, bedroom soul song that's exactly like most songs of the genre. It's missing a compelling melody, and it's missing David Bowie's distinctive personality. The pacing is slow and boring. Bowie's vocals are OK, but nothing special. AND AGAIN DAVID SANBORN IS COOL! I'M JUST GOING TO LISTEN TO THE SAXOPHONE NOODLE AROUND ON THIS ALBUM AND NOTHING ELSE!
Oh, what a freaking cool song. This is the sort of song that 's so much fun that it almost makes me forget that the previous six tracks bored the snot out of me. First of all, this song has a cool riff! That's almost all there is to it, since Bowie doesn't do much but bark the vocal melody. But Bowie is the coolest person in the universe, so I love listening to everything he barks. And then there's John Lennon doing some really cool back-up vocals, echoing the word “Fame” with an extremely pleasant coo. ...Man, what a freaking awesome song! No wonder it was David Bowie's first (of two) #1 hit singles!
Station to Station (1976)
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Station to Station A+
Oh yum. The first bit of lyrics to this song speaks of the return of the “Thin White Duke,” but the Thin White Duke sounds very little like he did on Young Americans. He's a completely strengthened person, now. Yes, he's still messing around with funky R&B music, but the beats are far more mechanical, the melodies are stronger, and the singing is more passionate. Best of all, this has exactly the extra-terrestrial edge and druggie personality that had been missing in that album. ...Oh man, and how can you beat this groove? This song takes 10 freaking minutes to complete. Given that I complain about lengthy songs far more often than I embrace them, I'd say this is a pretty huge deal! The song starts off with a lengthy train sound effect. And then, very slowly, a mechanical funk groove begins to play. Get it? It's like a train starting up! Isn't that cool? The song gradually gets quicker and more rockin' as it goes along, which makes it even more exciting. Bowie's vocal melody is catchy, fun, and he sounds awesome singing it; it's great to sing along with him at the top of your lungs. In other words, this song rules!
Golden Years A+
Rumor on the street says that Bowie had originally written this for Elvis Presley who didn't want to sing it for some reason. God knows why—it's awesome! Maybe it was too weird, or something. (Too weird for Elvis?) But anyway, this is yet another home run for David Bowie. Not only does it have a terribly snappy funky groove and an engagingly mechanical beat that Bowie sounds positively awesome singing, but it's got more solid hooks than you can shake a stick at! (Why am I always talking about shaking sticks at things?) This is like what Talking Heads became, except it's more entertaining and not quite as artsy!
Word on a Wing A
The first two songs were funkastic ditties, so it was only appropriate that the Thin White Duke would finally settle down and croon to us by the third track. ...And I'll be danged if this ballad doesn't sound just as cool as the previous two songs. For a start, the melody is fantastic, and Bowie has never crooned better. I mean, I still don't think the dude has a great singing voice, but I can't picture anybody else sounding this good singing this song. He's dangerous, dramatic, passionate, romantic, and 100 percent cool. Even the lyrics are brilliant in their own twisted ways. The rhythm section continues to be crunchy and mechanical, which I greatly prefer to those thwoppy things we heard all throughout Young Americans. Alright, if a song like this can absolutely rule on this album, then the sky is the limit.
TVC 15 A+
As far as lyrics go, this could very well be the weirdest that Bowie had ever written. It's about a TV set that gobbles him up! Of course, it doesn't help that he's always taunting it by constantly going “Oh my T V C one five, oh oh, T V C one five.” Once again, I've got to give this backing band credit for playing an appealingly funky groove, and making it excessively tight, giving it the robotic feel. Of course, Bowie's not letting up on the infectious hooks. This is another song that I enjoy cranking up on my stereo and singing along with. This is just as joyous as “Station to Station” if not more so. How the hell could he do this more than once on an album? Man, maybe cocaine is good for you! (Disclaimer: This reviewer does not recommend the use of drugs as a means to spark creative processes.)
Alright, this album is just going to be unparalleled in its awesomeness. The album is getting close to being over and I haven't even once entertained the thought of awarding anything in this album. That doesn't happen too often, no sir! I might point out, however, that this isn't the world's most diverse album. For the most part, I can say the exact same things about this song as I could on the previous tracks. The groove is mechanical, the riffs are catchy, and Bowie's vocal performance is weird and alluring. But this entire album is something that should be listened to from beginning to end without ever stopping, and I'm always still having a blast when I get to this part!
Wild is the Wind A+
David Bowie's greatest cover ever? This was originally performed by Johnny Mathis for a film soundtrack, but I'm assuming that Bowie wanted to do this after hearing the heartbreaking rendition of it by Nina Simone. I suppose this isn't actually a “soul” song, but Bowie performs it as though it was one. Lemme tell you, his overall venture into soul music might have overall been a mixed bag, but since it culminates with this, then the whole thing was very much worth it. Of course, Bowie drugs it up with another crunchy, mechanical drumbeat, which—again—positively rules. But then Bowie makes it even weirder with one of the more heart-wrenching vocal performances I've ever heard him do. (I know! Isn't it weird to hear Bowie sound all 'soul-bearing' and stuff?) Anyway, I think Nina Simone's version is probably better, but this one's more entertaining.
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Speed of Life A
This is an instrumental that seems to have everything going for it: a danceable bass-guitar, an ultra-clean drum-thwop, and some great textures provided by guitars and synths. This was one of a kind. Surely it isn't the first proto synth-pop instrumental on the planet, but it's the coolest, and it inspired a lot of other musicians around this time. The best thing about it, of course, is that this even has a memorable tune. That melody the guitar plays as well as the response from that whooshing synthesizer always seems to get caught in my head. It's fairly complicated, too, since there are plenty of different interesting melody-lines presented throughout. ...This is really cool.
Breaking Glass A+
I've sometimes wondered if people aren't just being lunatics when they say that this album launched the whole New Romantic scene. But, listening to this song right now, where the hell else could it have come from? This song is herky-jerky! It's got a drugged-up disco bass-line! It has no emotion whatsoever! ...Man, I can't believe they didn't even make this song last longer than two minutes, and yet it somehow seems longer than that. Bowie's vocal melody is even incredibly infectious, and that cold, emotionless way he sings is it perfect of course. As a matter of fact, this seems like the sort of music that he was destined to sing. Alright, so he gave a gut-wrenching performance for “Wild is the Wind” in the previous album. But this is better.
What in the World A
Much more disjointed than the last one, and I still like it. Too cluttered? Maybe. This is supposed to be druggy dance music, though, remember? But I don't care. I like those beeping noises in the background that sound like a verrrry old video game. Who ever would have thought to put a noise like that in a pop song other than Brian Eno? Of course it was Bowie that probably have the song the infectious melody as well as that deeply pounding bass-line. (I guess I don't know much about that, but Bowie's the cool guy, right?) Again, I have to marvel at how short this song is, and yet it clearly has one or two distinct melodies in it.
Sound and Vision A+
As great as those previous three songs were, this is quite clearly a major highlight for Low. (I know that I gave one of those songs an A+, but I didn't know what else to give it.) Apart from the ambient instrumentals, which I haven't talked about yet, this album is loaded with infectious melodies. But this one's just a little more infectious than the others. God, and talking about cool bass-lines, this is another great one. That ultra-clean thing waltzing around down there gives us a perfect excuse to tap our feet. ...Funny, but I think this is just a tad less complicated than the others, since this quite clearly only features one riff whereas the others seemed to jump around a lot more. But whatever. This one finds a great little artsy groove and sticks with it.
Always Crashing in the Same Car A
Yet another mega home-run for this album as far as I'm concerned. Not so much danceable as the other ones, although you might be able to do an interpretive slow dance or something! Like “Sound and Vision” this is more of a linear song; he's not constantly changing things around as he did in the opening three numbers. Luckily, they don't let up on the cool, ultra-clean drum thwops! Brian Eno's wavy synthesizer going in and out of the mix was also an undoubtedly cool touch. ...Really, if you didn't get my impression yet, this is one undeniably cool album!
Be My Wife A+
Back to the weirdo dance music! These cold, druggy and infectious songs just keep on coming. Can you imagine Bowie coming in, crooning some broad with this song and sounding like he doesn't really mean it? Yeah. I bet the chicks loved that. I really like that weird cowboy piano in the introduction, and those guitars noodling around in the background really go nuts, too. I'm not sure I pay attention to them very often! Have I mentioned to you yet how cool Low is? Well, I'll do it again! It's coooool.
A New Career in a New Town A
You can sort of tell right away that this is Brian Eno's baby. Of course Eno had a lot to do with the previous songs, but I still get the (potentially false) impression that Bowie was principally responsible for the dance tunes. This song, on the other hand, is a crazy instrumental using an echoey piano pattern that I distinctly remember hearing on an early Roxy Music album. It's a really cool effect! The atmosphere of this song is really everything, how it seems to draw me in and asks me to snort some cocaine. (I have to refuse, though.) Keeping it fun, of course, is the disco drum beat and the bouncy bass. Also, that harmonica wailing in the background is so cool that it reminds me of that Ennio Morricone soundtrack. (Oh, everybody should see Once Upon a Time in the West. Best movie ever.)
Yeah, some listeners of this album claim to not like the instrumentals, especially the ones without the drum beats and bass guitar. But how can they? They're awesome! (Do you like my reviews? I should write them all like this.) I think Eno got better at this in the next album, but this is pretty dang good, too. As long as they were going for the cold, emotionless feelings, then Eno had might as well come in and do the most cold and emotionless song that he could freaking come up with. And man. If these cold, buzzy synthesizers don't describe complete coldness for you, then ... I guess you're a campfire, then. Not only does this atmosphere make me fell all cold and lonely, but this theme is kinda memorable as well. I mean, I can whistle it after it's done playing. ...Never mind that I've listened to it a billion times, and I have a normal person's memory.
Art Decade A-
I know what you're thinking. Here is a reviewer who is so caught up as a starry-eyed fanboy of David Bowie and Brian Eno that I'd be willing to give an A+ to recordings of them farting in a microphone. Rest assured, I would never do that. ...That is, unless they were very inspired farts. ...But anyway, Low ain't a perfect album, and the addition of this instrumental is living proof of that. What's it's problem? Well, it's just a tad too slow and uneventful for my tastes. Give Eno kudos for the cool atmosphere. I think those pig noises are sweet. But this just goes too slow. Though interestingly, they do come up with a pretty good instrumental theme. You know, 'themes' are generally thought of as optional when it comes to ambient instrumentals. But not to these guys, because these guys RULE! This is like getting lost in a giant supercomputer!
Weeping Wall A
Ah, here's a really cool instrumental. That textures Eno creates with the rapidly pulsating bass and the xylophone instruments are, of course, his specialty! They create a terribly creepy atmosphere that's very easy for me to get caught up in, and it sounds nothing like the previous instrumentals. In keeping with the idea to put memorable themes to their melodies, they succeed wildly once again. Those synthesizers and dirty guitars that wail around this entire track are nothing but melodic.
Well, this is of course a wonderfully done instrumental, and it creates a nicely stark and emotionless atmosphere. Naturally, it was revolutionary for the time. I know Eno's solo records didn't quite have such a rich synth-texture as this song does. As I said earlier, Eno would perfect it for "Heroes", which features some of the most amazing instrumentals that I've ever heard! ...As far as this one goes, I'm only giving it an A- just because it's so slow moving, and it doesn't have interesting melodies like the others. (Well, there's a saxophone solo!) Of course, this is a great track; it's just not as entertaining as the rest.
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Beauty and the Beast A+
Ah yes, this is a Euro-dance song with a full-on dance beat, druggy haze, and a half-rapping vocal performance. It seems like this should have been a big hit on the disco floor, since this was released at the height of that craze, but I don't think it was. Maybe three and a half minutes was too short? Maybe it was too artsy? I don't know. But unlike most dance songs from the era, you can listen to this one today and not think it's too dated. Brian Eno's razor blade synthesizer work throughout the song is nothing short of brilliant, and of course Bowie's vocal melody is infectious as all hell.
Joe the Lion A+
This is very similar to the previous song, and it's another score. The Euro beat and the infectious melody are the #1 stars of this song, of course, but you also have to appreciate Robert Fripp's brilliantly drugged-up guitar noodling throughout. (I mean, if these guitar noodles aren't “cocaine fueled,” then nothing is.) And you also sort of have to appreciate how this melodic structure is so complicated... unlike most dance songs, this isn't just one melody and chord sequence being repeated over and over and over... This is a rarity in dance music, my friends! It's artsy and you can dance to it!
My favorite song of all time? The instrumentation and production are just as well done as the previous songs—the beats are crunchy, Fripp's guitar and Eno's synthesizers continue to give it that thick, drugged-up atmosphere. Of course, these are integral parts in making this the great song that it is. The clincher is Bowie's devastating and romantic lyrics about two souls trying to find love across the Berlin Wall are some of the most tear inducing that he was ever responsible for.
Sons of the Silent Age A-
Man... it took me a long, long time to finally begin appreciating this song. It was always a little too spaced-out and not disco-centric enough for my tastes. But now I like its complete spaciness. You just don't get songs as spacey as this all the time! I never cared much for the melody until, interestingly, I heard Philip Glass' interpretation of it. This is a very melodic song! (Glass brought it out more.)
More disco! This isn't as infectious or as well done as the two songs that opened the album, but Bowie still makes these lush disco songs as masterfully as anyone could. That buzz-saw synthesizer noodling around all throughout is perhaps freakier than it should have been, and maybe Bowie's overly paranoid vocal performance is a tad over the top. Who knows? But this is art dagnabit, and it all comes down to drugs pretty much. (I mean, literally, this song is about drugs.)
V-2 Schneider A+
I've listened to a lot of electronic instrumentals in my day, which could explain why I probably like these “Heroes” instrumentals a lot more than the average person would. I've listened to them all... Klaus Schulze, Kraftwerk, Vangelis, Tangerine Dream... and while most of them are quite excellent, none of them were ever able to create anything quite this good. Not only does this instrumental implant a precise image in our head, but it has a catchy bass-line to boot. It also helps that it's only three minutes long, which is insanely short compared to most Kraut-rock instrumentals! (The image that we're supposed to get from this is Germany preparing to go off to war... You get a very optimistic atmosphere as well as some very subtle airplane noises with the synthesizers.)
Sense of Doubt A
Well, apparently Germany lost the war, which would explain why this instrumental is so damn depressing! I cannot express to you how much I've been listening to Klaus Schulze over the last year. While I like his work very much, he takes about a half an hour to give us a song like this. Bowie and Eno do it in just four minutes. Bite size pieces are good, I say! The atmosphere is completely nailed again... Once you know this song is about a dead post-war Berlin, you can't get that image out of your mind. (I used to imagine someone traveling in a desert before I knew what these instrumentals are about... No matter what, you're going to feel deathly isolated when you listen to this track.)
Moss Garden A+
Things aren't going to stay dark and depressing in Berlin for long. There is life springing out of the ashes! I hate to repeat myself this much, but they have the atmospheres down perfectly; there's really nothing else you can get out of listening to this. These guys were nothing but geniuses I tells ya! That moody, noodly koto (a Japanese “banjo”) noodles around not only texturally but melodically. I always like noodles that do that the best... and with such a cool sounding instrument! I swear I can even hear a few hints of birds tweeting in this!! (OK, I'm in love with this song. I'll fess up.)
Live came back to Berlin, but there was a horrendous wall in the middle of it, and things were sort of dark and seedy there. Yes sir, you get the entire spirit of the Cold War in this four-and-a-half-minute instrumental. Where else are you going to get that? I wasn't originally going to give this an A+, but listening to that saxophone solo just now proved to me why I should. That's the most emotionally devastated saxophone solo I've ever heard. And yes, that the good man David Bowie playing that himself. Who says he wasn't a great instrumentalist?
The Secret Life of Arabia A
This is disco pop song quite probably the most straightforward song of all of “Heroes”, which might explain why some reviewers are divided over it. I suppose its relative shallowness is a betrayal after all the emotional anguish presented in the previous tracks. On the other hand, I have a hard time saying “no” to albums that want to end on a high note. (Most classic Kinks albums ended sort of like this.) I like this song because it's damn catchy. And if I had ambitions to be a DJ, I'd probably play this song all the time at wedding receptions. Screw “Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough” in the ass.
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Hello! This is a live album and thus it's virtually impossible for an intense instrumental to be as resonant as the original version. First of all, the original gave me a feeling of intense loneliness, but you don't exactly get the same thing if you're listening to a whistling and cheering audience in the background! ...Oh well, it's a concert album, what do you expect? I like that he started it with this instrumental. He probably spent the whole thing backstage... And he teases the audience when they hear him sing those nonverbals in the backstage. ...I hear him, but I don't see him! ...Bowie did the same thing when I saw him in concert in 2004. Except it was some different song.
Bowie has entered the stage, and he gets right down to b'ness and sings his most popular song of the hour. ...Although considering things, this is probably his most widely loved song of all time, and for good reason. I'd imagine that some studio purists out there would be disappointed over the simple instrumentation, and especially disappointed over that cheap-sounding whip-like drum they use from time to time. Also, Bowie sings this very casual-like, as though he were Paul McCartney singing “Lady Madonna” or something. But whatever. It's still pretty awesome given lightweight treatment.
What In the World B+
Where are the cool Eno synthesizers?!!! Alright, you see, we all have to get over the fact that these are much more lightly handled concert versions instead of those insanely menacing originals. And this way, we also get a firsthand account of how strong these songs sound on their own two feet. Yup, this is a nice pop song with hooks! ...Perhaps not exciting or anything, and Bowie's vocals seem strangely playful, but it's still a lot of fun.
Be My Wife A-
...Well, I'm not going to go in big detail about these live versions, since they're nothing spectacular. As I already said, it's evident by Bowie's vocal performances that he's taking a very lighthearted approach to these songs. He's basically keeping a rhythm going so that people in the audience can dance along awesomely with the catchy music. And, of course, “Be My Wife” is one of the catchier, more danceable songs from Low.
Somehow this song comes off as a major highlight of Stage. Perhaps it's just my perception that this was pretty much a danceable disco track in its original incarnation instead of a serious art-house thing... I dunno... All I know is the melody is catchy, and you can dance to it.
Sense of Doubt B
After the four-track string of danceworthy tracks, Bowie has to remind us that he did a lot of instrumentals recently in his albums. I almost wonder what the point of these are since he's probably better off just playing the album track. But I suppose there was some light-show or something going on. I don't know. I wasn't there. I wasn't even born yet. ...I'll let you know as soon as I invent my time machine. (If I can make one out of stacks of empty Coke cans, I'm already halfway there.)
Speed of Life B+
Still an instrumental, but this is far more appropriate for a concert setting since it has a dance beat. It seems a lot more cheap and campy than the original... and I could be wrong but it also seems more quickly paced... Naturally, this is going to be a freaking enjoyable song, and most people in the audience are loving the crap out of it, I'm sure.
Breaking Glass A-
Ah, good, we're back to the pop songs again! Oh man, these songs are catchy aren't they? If you don't agree with me, then you're not going to have much reason to listen to this album. ...Duh, Bowie wasn't one of those live musicians who were capable of jamming or anything. He pretty much does this the way it's in the album, except it's more casual.
Beauty and the Beast A-
Nowhere near as menacing as the original. The synthesizers are bouncy and lighthearted, and his vocals (while they sound awesome) sort of bounce lightheartedly with everything else. Granted that this was basically a disco song to begin with, everyone in the audience was probably bouncing up and down uncontrollably with the merriment!!!
Ah, now what would a David Bowie concert be without his #1 hit in America? I don't know, but I'm sure there would've been a lotta disappointed people in 1978 if he didn't play it. And, just as you'd guess, it's one of the huge highlights from the disc. Given that I assume Bowie was touring with a well-seasoned rock 'n' roll back-up band, it should come to no surprise that they were far better equipped to play this song more like the original than those proto-synth-pop ditties. So, there you go. This is just like the original.
Five Years B+
If you have the CDs, you'd be on the second disc right now, and this is the first of the five songs Bowie performed from his mega-classic Ziggy Stardust. As you probably know already, that's easily my favorite of his albums, so I'd also be heavily anticipating any offering he'd give us from that album. ...But the problem is, it seems that he wasn't too thrilled to be singing this song. He sings this so casually that he doesn't seem to be singing quite the same melody as he did in the original version. ...Bowie does this rather frequently, actually. I saw him live twice, and I got two separate renditions of “China Girl,” which is the #1 song it seems he had to obligingly perform...
Soul Love B
This is a great song, but what I had to say in the previous song still sticks. He doesn't seem to care too much about this. The backing band plays it like a jolly jingle, and Bowie's vocal performance sounds like he's playing at a show in Disney World or something. ...Maybe he's giving us the impression that we shouldn't have taken his albums so seriously? ...Maybe he's tired of singing the same old songs always in the same old way? ...Either way, this song isn't so enjoyable.
I'm not sure why he had to play this one over the more well-known hits from Ziggy Stardust. That album of 10 tracks had eight highlights, and this wasn't one of them. But whatever. It's a fine, strapping song, anyway. ...He would have been better off playing “Starman,” though. I'm just sayin'.
Hang Onto Yourself A-
He's still giving it the lite version compared to the more rock 'n' rolling original, but I guess that's what must come from no longer playing with Mick Ronson. Bowie's vocal performance starts to get a little Mick Jaggerish in here, which is certainly a major step up from the Disney World performances in the previous few songs. Also, this song rocks, so I'm sure everyone in the audience was excited as CRAP to be in the middle of this.
Ziggy Stardust A-
Oh man. This used to be the flagship of Bowie's live performances. Just get a load of that passionate performance on his live album Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture. Now, he's doing it more as an obligation. The gruff guitars was replaced by cheesy synthesizers, and Bowie's vocals are just a little less convincing. It's not like he's half-assing it, but somehow I just don't get the same incredible rush from listening to this as I think I should have.
Art Decade B
Back to the instrumentals! ...I know that I'm repeating myself all the time, but ...urgh! Listening to this watered-down live version of this track won't in anyway come close to matching the studio cut. This is only for people who are curious about how he might have done it in a live show. ...And, sure, it's fun to listen to because the instrumental has a memorable theme, but yer probably not gonna be too impressed otherwise.
Alabama Song B+
Interesting! Bowie surprises the world by covering that crazy circus song made famous by The Doors. (I thought they wrote it until I was corrected.) I call it a “circus” song only because that's what it sounds like to me, whether that's rational or not! This is a bit of an unexpected treat, I guess. Like everything else here, he seems to be taking things pretty lightheartedly, and that suits this sort of song just well. Of course, it was a damn catchy song to begin with...
Station to Station A
I saw Bowie do this number live! He said he hadn't done it in awhile, and I later checked his tour set-lists on a fansite, and I confirmed that. ...So there you go! I saw something rare. And I'm hearing it on this live album! Call me crazy, but this is another one of the HUGE highlights on this album. That is to say, it's not anywhere close as awesome as the original... He seems to play it a bit too fast live, and he shaved off the running length by a minute and a half. But it remains a great toe-tapping piece of fun.
Alright! More Station to Station! I can't complain about that, you know! It's funny how he's lumping in all the same albums together. I gotta wonder slightly why he's doing that... I mean, why not spread them out to give your audience a variety? And why'd you completely cut out Hunky Dory? ...Ah well, I guess that was too long ago or something. At any rate, these electro-funk songs are proving to be incredibly fun in the concert setting... which I guess shouldn't come to any surprise. Naturally, the studio cut had more polish, but this version is just as toe-tapping.
And he closes it with this epic about the demonic television set. It doesn't seem quite as thunderous or exciting as the previous two songs although I suppose this was probably the better song to begin with. It seems like they could have done the rhythm section is comparatively a little bit weak. ...Even though I'm still a little bit confused why Bowie had to lump all the songs together from one album all together, I guess it is kind of cool to put all the intrinsically danceable tracks at the very end. It's the one's that'll get you out of the experience with a happy dance groove!
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Fantastic Voyage A
This is a weird song to start an album with. It seems too slow, lethargic and drugged-up. Perhaps it's a little bit drunk, or perhaps it's on magic mushrooms. (I personally have never experienced being drunk or on magic mushrooms, but I know film directors have, and I've seen their movies.) Anyway, I like this song. It has a catchy melody, and Bowie delivers a passionate, paranoid vocal performance. (He might have been on drugs, or pretending to be on drugs, which might explain how weird he sounds.) The instrumentation consists of a bored, plain piano and a slightly chugging guitar line. There's some faint string synths in the background. This song is pretty creepy, but it'll grow on you. Well, it grew on me, but people who know me in real life have been known to call me creepy.
African Night Flight B+
I used to hate this song, but now I sort of like it. It's the most bizarre thing Bowie has ever done. Bowie has been known for being a little bit strange at times, but I wouldn't exactly describe anything he did previous to this as bizarre. This song, on the other hand, is a weird conglomeration of industrial, sound-effects driven music (ala The Art of Noise), world music, and rap. None of that really existed in 1979. If you listen to this, it sounds like Eno got a little carried away with his bleep and bloopy sound effects, and Bowie had trouble figuring out how to put a melody to any of it, so he just talked quickly over some of it. The weird thing is, there are actually a few hooks in here. Notably those weird, tribal chants that pop up occasionally. .......Yeah, I used to hate this. I probably only like it now, because I've listened to it so many times that it eventually grew on me. You'll probably hate it, if you haven't heard it yet.
Move On B
Maybe my main complaint about Lodger is that Bowie's shirking his duties as a first-class melody-writer for these weird experiments. This song does have a memorable melody if you've listened to it as many times as I have, but they're more weird and obscure. I like the pounding drumbeat I hear in the background. But those weird vocal overdubs going “Ayeeeaaah!” and “Ayeeeeoh!” throughout do get somewhat irritating. ...At the very least, it has a rhythm! So you can dance to it! ...If you're mental!
Yassassin (Turkish For Long Live) A
Now, this is a song that I can claim to love. The melody beats everything in this album so far, and Bowie's still keeping up with those bizarre rhythms. The instrumentation consists principally of a bouncy drum and guitar rhythm, and then Brian Eno (probably) does some Middle Eastern, bendy things with a synthesizer in the background. This is mostly silliness, but I like silliness.
Red Sails A-
Man, these songs are so weird that, even though I've heard this album many times, I still get freaked out by these. Once again, this is a dance song that contains funny chord progressions and a very detached sounding vocal melody. You wouldn't think any of this would be hooky, but I've been known to getting this stuck in my head from time to time. ...Even when I was new to the album, I can still remember thinking about it. I also really like that wild, squeaky guitar solo noodling throughout. (That's Adrian Belew playing if I'm not mistaken.)
Oh... Here's another reason why Lodger is a weird album: It isn't until the sixth track a relatively well-known song appears. Ordinary street-people probably don't know it, but I'm sure casual Bowie fans know it very well. (I am the DJ, I am what I play!) It's another one of those drugged-up, quasi-disco dance songs that'll either inspire you to do some bizarre interpretive dance or snort some cocaine or (most likely) BOTH. It's not normal, anyway. The beat is rather typical, maybe even cliché for disco, but the pounding guitar rhythm is weird, and the melody is all spaced-out. Of course Bowie's rather uncouth vocals are perfect for this sort of trippy dance song. He never sounded normal, anyway.
Look Back in Anger A
Another excellent song. A rapid drum pattern and druggy synthesizer sounds characterize this one, and that automatically makes it a fun listen. The melody sounds obscure to me, which is another reason why this is a weird, weird album. Bowie's vocals get very loud and overblown by the end, which accentuates its already paranoid feeling.
Boys Keep Swinging A+
It's hard to pick a favorite song of this album, but it's surely either “DJ,” “Look Back in Anger” or this one. I might go with this one, because that blank, pounding drum sound at the beginning sounds like “They're Coming to Take Me Away.” After that, there's another weird, druggy dance beat and a crazy cacophony of violins going off in the background. Also, the melody is probably the most immediately likable of this whole album. It seems more like a normal melody with normal hooks. Of course the atmosphere is still insane, especially during those crazy, distorted electric guitar solos in the outro. Not bad!
Strange! Another reviewer pointed out that the crazy, repetition of this sounds a lot like Talking Heads. Funny I haven't noticed that before! The best thing about this song is that funny guitar or synthesizer that sounds either like a bullfrog or a rubber band. That weirdly addictive sound along with Bowie's engagingly mundane lyrics make this song about as memorable as it gets.
Red Money A-
If you're an Iggy Pop fan, you'll immediately recognize this as having the exact same backing groove as “Sister Midnight” from The Idiot. And, Bowie wrote that backing groove, so he hardly ripped it off. But....... I really don't know what the point of recycling it was. He didn't improve it by writing a different vocal melody or anything. What's more, it doesn't sound nearly as seedy or sinister as the Iggy Pop version! Although maybe that was the point? I wouldn't call this version more strange, but maybe I would call it more whimsical. The textures are more alive and bright here with that machine-gun rat-tat-tat-a rhythm and some of Carlos Alomar's bright guitars.
Scary Monsters (1980)
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It's No Game (Part 1) A+
Holy mother of crap. If this song doesn't excite the living bejeezus out of you, then we are entirely different people. (I have to stop myself from saying things like “then you're stupid” because some people will take that seriously. Needless to say, anybody who would take something like that seriously is ….... an entirely different person than I am.) It's been said by a number of critics that Bowie's career-best vocal performance can be found on this track, and I am inclined to agree with that. Listening to him scream so paranoid like that is utterly spine tingling, much like John Lennon's screams in “Mother.” It's amazing. That combined with the hazy drug-influenced atmosphere and rubbery bass guitar is the perfect atmosphere for that sort of vocal performance. ...It's been said by people more knowledgeable than I am about such things that Bowie was heavily influenced by music that was coming out of Japan, which would partly explain why there's a woman spouting out things in Japanese throughout this. It's pretty weird. Extra credit for Robert Fripp's extremely tasty, disconnected guitar noodles, which lends this an extra bit of grime.
Up the Hill Backwards A
Not quite as amazing or as cerebral as the previous track. In fact, it's altogether rather pleasant! But “pleasant” with this album just makes it seem more creepy as though there's something seedy and evil lurking beneath it. Bowie's layered, somewhat robotic vocals sing a hooky melody while super-clean drum thwacks pound the beat steadily. ...It's impossible to describe, but it's presentation seems weird to me, and I can't quite put my finger on it. What steals this show, though, are Robert Fripp's cat-scratching electric guitar solos throughout. They're a perfect touch.
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) A+
Bowie is on fire here, but that shouldn't be a surprise since he was on fire ever since Station to Station. If this isn't one of the best electro-drugged industrial pop songs that ever existed, then I'm missing out on a lot of great stuff. That darkly pulsating bass keeps the beat going at a menacing rate, the vocal performance is scary and melodic, and Robert Fripp goes to town with this guitar noodles. This is absolutely fantastic.
Ashes to Ashes A+
There was a point in my life, and not too long ago, when I considered this my favorite song of all time. It still is one of my favorite songs of all time, and that's for good reason. That melody is so catchy that I've never been able to get it out of my head! (Unlike some catchy songs I've run across, I love it when this song gets relentlessly stuck in my head.) Lyrically, this is a sequel to Bowie's 1969 breakthrough hit “Space Oddity” but musically this is a mid-tempo, heavily drugged-up new wave pop song. The keyboards are bouncy, the drum beat is detached and crunchy, the vocal performance is brilliantly disturbed, and he's not afraid to orchestrate it using a ton of well-chosen synthesizers, which includes a quite memorable drunken piano keeping the main riff. Quite a brilliant little song!
I can hardly believe it, but at the height of my fandom of this album, I wasn't able to fully connect with this song. Now I consider it one of the major highlights of Scary Monsters with its crunchy drum machines, drugged-up disco bass, and yet another one of Bowie's catchiest melodies. I think I probably appreciate dance music more than I used to. (Hard to imagine why I like dance music more as I've gotten older. Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?) I wonder if Robert Fripp should be made the patron saint of new wave guitar playing for his performance here, seeming to insert perfect phraseology at the end of each stanza. Dammit, you just have to listen to this song and take my word for it. It doesn't get better than Fripp.
Teenage Wildlife A-
Still a good song, but it's not uncommon of me to turn off Scary Monsters while this song is playing. Bowie seemed to put all the prime material up there at the beginning of the album! The melody is OK, but much weaker compared to the earlier stuff, and there isn't anything particularly noteworthy about the instrumentation. It just doesn't quite have the alien, heavily drugged-up atmospheres as the others had so distinctly. Of course, it continues to be very nice, and Fripp turns in a soaring guitar performances, which ought to continue to be treasured.
Scream Like a Baby A-
I still claim to enjoy listening to this song, but it does continue the gradual decline of this album. The melody is even less memorable than “Teenage Wildlife,” and I'd even wager to say that this is substantially more boring. What I do like is that Bowie still took the time to create a seedy atmosphere with some dark electric guitars, high-pitched synthesizers and rather doom-ridden drums. Bowie's vocal performance is perhaps among the best of the album, continuing that drug-addled vibe he had going for “It's No Game (Part 1)” even at times hissing like a snake. Not a terrible song, and perhaps my main beef with it is that the transition from the verses to the chorus seems somewhat forced.
Kingdom Come B
This isn't terrible, but it's a rather heavy drop down. The melody is OK, but it sounds like it would have worked better as a gospel ditty than this quasi-new wave thing Bowie was flirting with. It also doesn't seem to work with Bowie's over-the-top vocal performance, which is too wobbly and ugly. I'm not too sure what he was thinking when he sung on this. This song still makes me think of seedy doom, and I still like it overall. It creates some great energy at the end. But clearly, this could have been better. And where the bleeping hell is Robert Fripp's guitar? It's sorely missed.
Because You're Young B
Once again, Bowie's doing a great job with these seedy atmospheres! But that's almost all there is to this song. The melody doesn't strike me as anything special, and just like “Scream Like a Baby,” the transition to the chorus seems forced. Stuff like this really proves to me that perhaps Bowie wasn't the greatest songwriter on the planet... But he was still a good one, right? Bowie's drugged up vocal performance is more appropriate this time, really sounding amusingly paranoid.
It's No Game (Part 2) A-
Some people have been really put off by this retread, which sees Bowie singing in a passive voice instead of the extremely paranoid way he sung it earlier. But I rather like this. It's like he got a lobotomy. ...I mean, if you ever find yourself in the state that you're feeling like “It's No Game (Part 1),” you'd have to do something artificial like lobotomizing yourself to get over it, right? Or maybe take some antidepressants. That's what Bowie did. And besides, this is still a catchy song. Sort of a deceptively normal ending.
Let's Dance (1983)
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Modern Love A+
My God, this is an awesome song! I wasn't into ordinary '80s pop music at all before I heard this (I was only into '60s and '70s music, and I only got this album because I liked Ziggy so much), and now I am a bigger fan of '80s pop than I probably should be. So, thanks Bowie. You've completely ruined me. But anyway, this is such an awesome song! Don't you like that riki-tiki-tiki-tiki sound he makes with the electric guitars? Don't you find those loud stadium drums to sound awesome for once? Doesn't Bowie sound dreamy muttering that stuff at the beginning that makes no sense? Don't you find this melody to be so freaking catchy that it'll stay stuck in your head for years, and you actually want it there? Wow. Even those swinging saxophones keeping a tight groove are cool as hell. I might not particularly appreciate that Bowie completely sold out and wrote music directly for gum-popping teenagers, but with “Modern Love,” he did it with style.
China Girl A+
My God, he does it again! (Why do these pop songs seem to have me taking the Lord's name in vain? Maybe rock 'n' roll is the Devil's music after all.) This time, he took a weird song that he and Iggy Pop wrote for the 1977 album The Idiot and turned it into an epic '80s radio-pop masterpiece. Bowie sings this suavely, using the lower parts of his vocal register, and he has never sounded cooler. He even looks cool singing this on that weird music video. This melody is so catchy that it shines with every uttered syllable. (I've listened to this song waaaaaay too many times.)
Let's Dance A
ANOTHER FREAKING AWESOME DANCE-POP SONG! This one actually hit #1 on the charts, which was a pretty big deal back then in the age of Michael Jackson. There's nothing more to say about this other than it's melody is infectious, and it's fun to dance to. The four minute single version of this gets an A+, but this full seven and a half minute version was just too much. It seems that the only reason he extended it was either to lengthen its danceability without adding anything else remotely interesting to it, or because he didn't want to write another song for this album. Maybe it was a little bit of both.
Without You C-
DAMMIT!!!!! That was faked anger because I've listened to this album maybe 30 times all the way through over the last eight years, but I still feel absolutely betrayed that this album gets extremely lame, extremely fast. I'm even wondering to what extent this can be called a “song.” This mid-tempo thing doesn't seem to be able to conjoin into anything resembling a strong melody. It's more or less someone playing a dead bass, boring drums, and a dumb synthesizer loop. Occasionally Bowie finds the time to sing something in a high voice, but his vocal melody is so boring that I'd much rather pay attention to that dumpy bass line.
Holy crap, man! If you're going to make pop music, the least you can do is actually make it something you could dance to! If you're not going to write dance music, then go back to doing those freaky Lodger experiments. This weird mid-tempo ditty has one of the world's least captivating grooves, and an utterly toneless melody. He makes some pretty lame attempts at 'funkifying' it with a horn section, but that just accentuates the fact that this thing is dead as a doornail. The only creature that could enjoy this song is a dead fish, because it knows how to dance to it.
Criminal World C+
It takes about a minute to get going, but at least this airheaded pop song has the basic “dance” ingredients to be at least mildly enjoyable. The drums are paced at a tempo that we like to tap our feet to. Still, even compared to Madonna, this doesn't even get enough of a thrust going, and I doubt anyone is actually going to want to dance to this. The hooks are extremely weak, and too evident that Bowie just wasn't applying himself. Good thing “China Girl” was so good that we would much sooner play that 1000 times than play this twice.
Cat People (Putting Out Fire) B
This is at least decent. It was a song that Giorgio Morder had written for the film Cat People, and he asked Bowie to write lyrics and sing for it. This is a pretty standard/boring '80s pop song, and it's definitely not up to Bowie's usual standards. The melody is OK, but not too interesting. It's danceable, but not infectiously so. If I was the dancing sort of person, I wouldn't feel much of a need to get up and start dancing around if the (lame) DJ put this thing on. Unfortunately, this is the best Let's Dance had to offer on its second side!
Shake It C
Sounds a little like the electro-funk of Prince, except this is pretty lame, and I was never much of a Prince fan, anyway. At least Bowie kept a regular, steady drum beat so it has the form of a good dance tune, but it doesn't have *dance* in its bloodstream. You know what I'm talking about. Something about “Let's Dance” makes me want to party, but this thing is so dead-in-the-water that all it makes me want to do is sit here and try to come up with insults for it. ...Come on, David Bowie. Don't suck like this.
Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture (1983)
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Hang On To Yourself A
Whew! He likes to start the show out with a BANG, doesn't he? This huge classic from Ziggy Stardust is performed with VERVE; the guitars are rough and fast, Bowie's lead vocals are boisterous as hell, and the rhythm is infectious. Mick Ronson comes in with some particularly dirty guitar licks, and he's certainly taking more liberties here than he did on the album. As a whole, it's purely sloppy entertainment, and it's awesome.
Ziggy Stardust A
It's true, though, that Bowie was primarily a studio musician, and even if he tried, he would never ever be able to exactly match the studio versions of any of his songs. ...So he didn't even try. Mick Ronson makes his guitar as thick and distorted as it could get before coming off as completely nonsensical noises, and it's pretty awesome. The rhythm section comes off a bit too loud, but that's because this is live! And the recording quality ain't exactly pristine. Nonetheless, they're playing one of their best songs EVER, and I'm excited to hear it!
Watch That Man A
I saw him!! ...Bizarrely enough, I remember watching this movie so early into my acquaintance with David Bowie, I'm not even sure I was a full-fledged fan yet... It just came back to me, right now, that I hadn't even bought my copy of Aladdin Sane yet, so I was completely new to this song at the time. I thought this was too much of an ordinary rock song at the time, but … Wow does it ROCK! That's really what Aladdin Sane is best for... Cranking up on yer stereo and letting her RIP. These guys are really great live. Mick Ronson is chuggin along with his heavy electric guitar, and that must be Mike Garson doing his thing on the piano deeply in the background. Bowie's growling and hollering in the microphone in his rock 'n' roll way. Without a doubt, this proves that Bowie did know how to rock. ...Just in case anyone said he didn't, really.
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud B+
However, I was familiar with this song when I watched the movie! Goes to show that I apparently bought Space Oddity before Aladdin Sane. Man! That was so long ago! ...Anyway, why is he performing this little bit of weirdness? (Hm! I guess that's what happens when you only have five albums in your back catalog... well, six, if you count his 1967 debut, which he was entirely ignoring.) But anyway, I've had something of a soft spot for this song (as I do with pretty much every David Bowie song). It does have a nice melody. ...And anyone who thinks that it was too overblown and overlong in its early form should be glad to know that it's shortened to three minutes here.
All the Young Dudes A-
Weirdly enough, the previous song bleeds into a brief rendition of this song, which he had given to Mott the Hoople. That's a great song, and it's awesome to hear Bowie perform it himself. Although why not do a full-length version? This is less than two minutes long! I want MORE!!!!
Oh! You Pretty Things A
Oh! This is another song snippet. I suppose hearing these snippets performed like this is especially interesting, since they're completely unlike their original forms, but … eh! I like these songs! I want more of them, dang it! But anyway, he starts out singing it with Mike Garson playing some jazzy notes with his piano until some drums pipe up, and Bowie sings that Broadway-ish melody with more of that glammy verve.
Moonage Daydream A+
Ah, now if they were going to actually extend any song on Bowie's back catalog in this, live concert then it should be “Moonage Daydream” for one reason and one reason alone: It's easily the song that gives Mick Ronson the most chance to shine. And boy... that dude lets 'er rip. He of course spends the first half of the song chugging away mightily at his instrument giving Bowie's boisterous lead vocals the proper chance to shine... but he's only biding his time to give a SOLO, and it's actually mightier and crazier than it was in the studio versions. Siren noises, screechy noises, scratchy noises... everything. It's awesome. I complained earlier that the drums and bass seemed a bit on the loud side, but I actually like their volume here. Everything about this song makes it seem like they're playing like it's the end of the world. It was not my top favorite moment of the original album, but this is by far the highlight of this live concert show.
See how serious I am about “Moonage Daydream?” I'm only giving this version of “Changes” an A-. ...Of course the original was polished and pristine, and while I appreciate that this dirtier interpretation of it is different than how I've listened to it countless times, it's not an improvement. “Moonage Daydream” thrives on that GRIME. ...But anyway, this is a nice performance! It starts with Mike Garson playing some gentle lounge-jazz piano and Bowie giving a bit of a weird jazz-man performance of it. But when that song EXPLODES, the rhythm section is loud, Ronson's distorted guitar is chuggy, and it's quite an exciting listen!
Space Oddity A
David Bowie's outer space opera given the live treatment is surprisingly solid. And when I say “surprisingly,” I mean the original was so much a studio creation that I would have just been glad with a much simpler version than what we've gotten here. ...But there it is; Mick Ronson completely saving the day. He starts this off making some wobbly outer space noises with his guitar, and during that famous orchestral build-up, he does it with his GUITAR. It's awesome. Otherwise, Bowie's vocals are great, and certainly it's brilliant hearing him sing easily one of the best songs he'd ever written.
My Death B+
He spends the first minute of this trying to get the unruly crowd to shut up. ...Except I'm assuming most of the people in the audience were teenagers or in their early '20s and had plenty of adrenaline pumping through their veins! What do you expect, a piano recital? ...Anyway, this is a Jacques Brel cover, of all things! And if you know Jacques Brel, then you'll know that French dude wrote and sung some of the most melodramatic music of all time. He also knew how to write a tune, and he also had a voice that was a little bit wobbly like Bowie's, so this is an especially nice thing to hear. The performance is as solid as everything here. Mike Garson especially brings in some fancy ivory tickling!
Cracked Actor B+
Well after that audience of horomone ridden teenagers had to sit politely through that boring Frog song, they're treated to one of the RUDEST and GLAMMIEST songs that he'd ever done. And Mick Ronson... Geez, man... I didn't think he could possibly make his electric guitar more distorted than it was earlier on this album, but I think he accomplishes that here. Maybe his screechy noises throughout the song are just a bit too much since they interfere with the driving rhythm. Nevertheless, this is a high energy and fun interpretation, and I LIKE IT!!! (Was there ever really any question whether I'd like these songs?)
Oooh, it's also not quite what I would have hoped for. Like the previous song, the rhythm section comes off a bit weak at the beginning, and it's not helped by Garson making all these heavily distorted, long-drawn-out notes with his guitar. There's a time and place for those, but in my opinion, this kind of disrupts the flow of the songs. It doesn't really pick up steam until its last minute where they go into that rousing, drunken “La-la-lah” chorus. It might not be the highlight of this live album, but I of course love the original song, and this live interpretation is different. I wouldn't call it better, but it makes an enjoyable listen.
The Width of a Circle A-
This is certainly one of the better songs from The Man Who Sold the World, but why choose this song over the title track? ...Oh, it was probably Mick Garson, right? This song gives the dude the chance for more of his guitar solos, which he does for about 15 minutes. This was never my favorite Bowie song, though, but Garson's screetchy, squealy and scratchy solos are pretty entertaining to hear, if you're into that sort of thing. Still “Moonage Daydream” is still the crown jewel in that department, and it didn't need 15 minutes.
Let's Spend the Night Together B+
Bowie's high-energy interpretation of The Rolling Stones classic is given similarly energetic live treatment. It's nicely done although nothing to particularly blow me away. Bowie was probably dancing insanely around on the stage, which might explain why he's singing erratically into the microphone! (I can only vaguely remember the movie at this point...) It's fun, but nothing that blows me away.
Suffragette City A+
This is more like it! A surefire rock 'n' roll classic from Ziggy Stardust, and Bowie's performing it in a rude and sloppy manner. In other words, it's FUN and ADRENALINE-FILLED. I mean, I would describe the original like that, but this version makes that version seem tame like a pussy cat. Believe me, if you forgot your cup of coffee this morning, then maybe you should listen to this to get that jolt of electricity that you need.
White Light / White Heat A+
Here is another mega highlight, their cover of The Velvet Underground's wild and rude classic, "White Light / White Heat," a song that Bowie would cover very consistently through his career. (I even saw him do it when I attended one of his concerts in 2004.) Well, these guy's rough and adrenaline fueled performance of it surely rivals one of The Velvet's own live performances of it, and that's saying something. The rhythm section is crunchy and toe-tapping as hell—I feel it right in my gut—and Mick Ronson plays a squealy and rude electric guitar solo that matches perfectly its mood. ...Easily, this is one of the major highlights of this live performance.
Oh no!! Listen to the reaction in the audience when Bowie mentions that this is the last show that he would ever do! I guess they didn't really know what he meant by that, and many people in the audience thought that Bowie was going to completely retire. ...AS IF!!!! Anyway, this is a bit of history, I guess. This was the last performance he would do as Ziggy Stardust.
Rock 'N' Roll Suicide A
It's only appropriate to close the live show with a ROUSING rendition of the great song from Ziggy Stardust, which was also the perfect, conclusive way to end that album. Bowie's out-of-breath and tired, but that doesn't stop him from screaming loudly and passionately throughout this! Ronson doesn't do anything to steal the show with his guitar playing apart from a very brief and heavily distorted at the end, which is probably a good idea, because Bowie was the real star of the show, after all. (...And they play a tape of “Pomp and Circumstance” at the end? ...Did they all graduate from the Ziggy Stardust academy of rock 'n' roll awesomeness, or something? ...HELL YEAH!!!)
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Loving the Alien A
Even though this album as a whole is a steaming pile of crap, Bowie was at least kind enough to put forth this rather soaring, synth-heavy masterpiece on the album. And when I'm calling it a masterpiece, I'm not exaggerating! It starts with a pulsating bass and some dramatic drums... Soon, a catchy xylophone riff pipes up, and the drumming gets faster... It's all very '80s and gets me in a rather excited mood. When Bowie gets around to singing, he turns in one of his more soulful and soaring performances, particularly in the chorus when he belts out “But if you praaaaaaay...” Throughout the song, Bowie makes great use of those synthesizer strings, making it seem like he's orchestrating some sort of film, and I'm put smack dab in the middle of it. My only minor complaint about this was that it was too long. ...Don't listen to the single version, because that's too short, but there's a little bit at the end of this 7-minute track that could have been cut. Just as it is, though, I sit through this song pretty mesmerized.
Don't Look Down C-
And just like that, the album dies. Miserably. This is a sort of adult-contemporary/ska hybrid of a previously good Iggy Pop song. I suppose that “China Girl,” was such a huge smash that he thought he'd polish up another Iggy Pop ditty, but this was terribly misguided. The instrumentation is totally bland with that weakly ska rhythm and those terribly sterile horns, synthesizers and saxophones trying to “spice” things up. Bowie's lead vocals sound like he's half-singing at some upper-class lounge-jazz party. Maybe that vocal style might have been cool in a different setting, but this is pretty lame.
God Only Knows B
Die-hard Beach Boys fans got their panties in a bunch when David Bowie did this sloppy Pin-Ups style cover, and I have to admit, they had a pretty good reason to get angry. Listening to this song on Pet Sounds is one of the most soul-filling experiences that you can possibly have in music, and Bowie's treatment is a lot like you'd expect out of a cheap Vegas act. On the other hand, this is a really good song, and it would have been exceptionally difficult to screw it up. Bowie tried, though, with that utterly hammy vocal performance, singing so loudly and fake passionately that it blows out his voice occasionally! ...Anyway, I kind of enjoy this. I know I shouldn't.
This is the second Iggy Pop cover of the album, and also the second Iggy Pop cover that he tried to turn into a lite adult contemporary/ska hybrid. I suppose the original was a little bit ska-ish, so the transition wasn't quite as strange as “Don't Look Down.” But this song still isn't the great shakes. The groove is so luke-warm and unchanging that it gets terribly boring to listen to at the end. What's more Bowie somehow managed to get Tina Turner to sing back-up vocals, and she sounds just as dull as the groove. What a waste! At least the melody is pretty good, and there are some well-done synth string arrangements.
Neighborhood Threat B
Come to think of it, there's a very strange lack of dance songs in this album, and this is the first time we got anything even closely resembling a Let's Dance style beat. Interestingly, this one has a pretty dark and sinister atmosphere, so it doesn't exactly give me the desire to get up on the dance floor and do a little boogie to it. All in all, it's not as terrible of a song as some people say it is, but I do wish Bowie found some more interesting rhythms/guitar-textures/synthesizers for this, since this sounds like every other banal banal song from the '80s.
Blue Jean A
This was the album's big hit, and that's for good reason: IT'S CATCHY!!! I wouldn't quite put this on the same level of catchiness as “China Girl” or “Modern Love,” but this can definitely be put alongside those songs. It's based on a well-programmed industrial beat, and some hella crunchy saxophones tooting away. Bowie's loud, passionate vocals here are right on the money, scream-singing a bit at the end. (After all, this song is about unrequited love, so why not scream a bit?)
Tumble and Twirl C
Agh! Don't you just hate the non-hits? It's like Bowie spent all his energy on two songs and then couldn't give a crap about anything else. This is another song that comes off like some sort of cheap lounge song, which Bowie gives a rather smarmy vocal performance over it. At least it has a toe-tapping rhythm to it, and occasionally he happens across a few hooks here and there. Five minutes was way too long... This is pretty obvious filler... I usually don't like to use the term “filler,” but this is exactly where that applies.
I Keep Forgettin' B-
What's with these cheap Vegas songs? If Elvis didn't die on that toilet seat, and he stuck around for the '80s, this might have been something he would've performed. It's a cheap '80s-fied version of a '60s R&B song. I suppose in a parallel universe, Bowie might have made it big on the Vegas circuit, but then I wouldn't have turned into such a fan!
Dancing With the Big Boys B
Oh man... This is an over-produced piece of overblown electro-garbage, but there's just this little bit of weird creepiness in Bowie's vocal performance (notably having his high-pitched and low-pitched voice singing at the same time in spots). Even that choir calling out at times gives me a funny feeling, and there's even a goofy deeply pitched voice, sounding like a member of the Muppets, that occasionally joins in. The brass section is completely generic for this sort of '80s song, but it's fun to listen to. My biggest complaint about this song is that it's one hook being repeated over and over, but … it's not a bad hook. This is certainly not up to Bowie's standards, but it's sort of fun on a base level.
Absolute Beginners (1986)
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Absolute Beginners A+
Really cool song, and you should hear it if you haven't already. This isn't exactly an album that you'll find in your nearest CD store (unless you're really, really, really, really lucky), but thankfully this song is available on the double-disc compilation albums and it's been included as a bonus track in some versions of Tonight. So you don't have to order this album online just to have a copy of this song. (I happened to order this from Holland, and it took about a month to finally make it to me. Fortunately, it seems the availability has improved since then!) The main difference between this and the single version of this song is it has about three extra minutes added onto it, which isn't too groundbreaking. But it contains a cool jazzy percussion rhythm and a chuggy saxophone solo, so maybe it'd be worth your while to take a listen?
Killer Blow A
You mean there are other songs on here that have nothing to do with David Bowie? Yes, and it's all about as entertaining as it could possibly be. This track happens to be Sade's song, and lo and behold, it sounds exactly like a Sade song! This was done in the mid-'80s, which was at her peak too. This is a cool, breezy, with loungy bongos in the rhythm section. Sade's whispery vocals are of course the main attraction. It's not a real shocker why she's such a well-loved singer, and this is certainly a worthwhile song to scout out if you're a fan. (What's more, I'm not aware of any place to find this other than this soundtrack album.)
Have You Ever Had It Blue? A
I believe this song by The Style Council is fairly well-known although I could be wrong about that. It doesn't sound very much like other Style Council song, although that's mostly a good thing. (Other than this, I've found it difficult to get into Paul Weller's music, which is strange, because I think I probably should.) Nonetheless, this is bright, bold and wonderful, jazzy pop tune with an amazingly catchy melody. I also really like those blaring horns at the beginning of this, which almost sound dissonant like cars honking on a highway, but they never overpower that shuffley beat and those cute sounding female back-up singers.
Quiet Life A
Ray Davies even found the occasion to return to writing sarcastic music the way he used to. This song is about an ordinary, middle class person, and its bouncy jazz melody (and slightly plasticy instrumentation) is right out of Everybody's in Show-Biz. That is amazing, because when I was reviewing the Kinks discography, I figured Ray Davies had morphed into an entirely different person in the mid '80s. I guess I don't know what was up about that guy! Well, it's an excellent tune anyway, and his fans might find the time sometime to go scout it out on YouTube. (The version you get from the soundtrack doesn't contain all the spoken dialogue you hear from the film version, which is definitely cool.)
Va Va Voom A
Well, even the jazzy instrumental interludes are terribly entertaining and laden with hooks. This was done entirely by Gil Evans who was the man in charge of the whole soundtrack. I don't know jazz very well, but this thing sounds brilliant to me. It starts out with a really hooky horn melody that's played casually. Midway though, it gets much more violent and exciting, and listening to that texture he creates is quite a thing to behold. I mean, this is nothing less than a work of art. And I'm sure the scene from the film this went to was also a work of art! It's been awhile since I've seen the film, but I remember the set decoration and dance choreography was amazing. (I relooked at a few clips on YouTube to confirm this!)
That's Motivation A-
I did review this album once before, and I remember rather disliking this song. I'm still somewhat torn by it. This of course is the only other Bowie original composition, and it's quite a bit different than the usual sort of thing he composes. It seems like a rather confusing mishmash of jazz and rock 'n' roll, and it's difficult making heads or tails of it. On the other hand, the horns sound excellent, and it's head-over-heels better than that lounge jazz junk from Tonight. Bowie's vocal performance is quite strong and perfectly suited for such a grandiose Broadway style production. This might not be a coherent pop song, but it's more of a performance piece. The best way to listen to this is along with the images. And those were some crazy images. (I just rewatched it on YouTube. The giant typewriter is the thing I remember most from it, but that song goes all over the place.)
Having it All A
Patsy Kensit was the star of the film, and she also happened to be the lead singer for The Eighth Wonder. (These days, nobody ever talks about The Eighth Wonder and I'm sure Kensit is way more famous for being an actress.) Unless Wikipedia is lying to me, that band actually played this song, and fortunately it's a far cry away from the electronic Madonna-esque stuff that band usually plays. It could have been a Sade composition for all we knew. It's quiet, it's snappy, it's jazzy. Kensit was not only suited to sing such a song, but her voice was amazingly just as cute as her face. And if you don't know what Kensit looks like, you've never seen a cute face before.
Rodrigo Bay A-
This is salsa music. Do you know how I know? Because I'm having flashbacks right now to that one time I made that unlikely decision to review Marc Anthony's discography. God, I really wish Marc Anthony wrote cool salsa like this. It's 1000 percent generic, but it has such a cool catchy melody. The salsa rhythms are smooth but crunchy. The swinging horn section actually swings and makes a few exclamations here and there, and there's quite an awesome piano solo that pops up briefly. The vocal performance is excellent and boisterous. Why am I not giving this an A or an A+? I'm not sure.
Selling Out A
I mean, it's not like this soundtrack is terribly original. We've heard songs like this before. But just because they're writing mainstream dancey jazz music, they go ALL OUT and make it about as fun as humanly possible. The horn riff is catchy, the speak-sung lead vocals are playful and endearing, and those back-and-forth exclamations between members of the chorus an added bonus. There's quite a lot going on here at the same time, and it's a total blast.
Riot City A+
This instrumental is eight and a half minutes long, it sounds exactly like the title, and it's a total blast to sit through. It starts out ominous and slowly with a slow bongo beat, but it gradually builds up to a full scale riot. And I mean, it's total mayhem. What gets me about this is the instrumental theme is amazingly catchy and memorable, and they keep that going consistently though this whole song even though it changes its dynamics quite a lot through its course. This might have been designed to go along with a scene in a movie (which truth be told I'm only vaguely remembering right now), but this is one example of a piece of film soundtrack that doesn't need visuals to go along with it. I'm not even exaggerating. This is a work of art and it's not even difficult to find entertaining. (I can't believe it, but I gave this song a 7/10 in my original review. I was being really stupid. Perhaps I get smarter as I get balder.)
Ted Ain't Dead A
Even the relatively corny glam pop stuff is catchy and fun. That warbly lead singing is weird, but he's really fun, and this song is so fast-paced and silly that it's impossible to not to find it amusing.
Volare (Nel Blu Dipinito Di Blu) A-
That's David Bowie singing there in a foreign language. It sounds Italian, but I'm not George Starostin, so I can't tell for sure. Bowie didn't write this breezy jazz tune, but he delivers the vocals quite well, and I quite like it. Once again, the lounge-jazz vibe that emanates from this album is quite similar to the feeling he was going for throughout Tonight, except here the songwriting is actually inspired and the instrumentation isn't all watered down and stupid. This is what Tonight should have been dammit! RIGHT HERE IN THIS ALBUM I ORDERED FROM HOLLAND! (And no, they didn't lace it with marijuana. I'm quite sober right now, thank you.)
For crap's sake, they just keep on piling on these great jazz tunes. At first, it sounds like it's continuing that light jazz vibe leftover from the previous track with the light bossa nova style rhythm (featuring an awesome steel drum!) and a breezy vocal performance, but this thing gets almost demented by the end. The chord progression is mystifying. I should also mention that the horn arrangements are so amazing that I'm not even qualified to talk about how amazing they are. I just don't know what terminology I should be using. (Not that I'm particularly good at using terminology to describe pop-rock!) All I can tell you is that the way those horns are layered dazzle my ears.
Little Cat (Never Had it So Good) A
Ah yes, here's a cutesy pop-rock tune that's right up my alley! I said this before, but what I really admire about this album is how unapologetic it is. Of course they weren't breaking new ground by creating such a cute pop song... but when they set out to create a cute pop song THEY MADE IT AS CUTE AS IT COULD EVER BE. The Monkees wouldn't even dare to make their drums sound so stiff and plastic like that, and that high-pitched twinkly keyboard loop is even more beneath them. And yet, this song is brilliant. That whooshy sound they bring in those little stops were a great touch. And of course the main attraction is that they found a 10 or 11 year old kid to do quite an amazingly immaculate Elvis Presley style performance. It's fascinating to me that somebody was able to pull something like this off.
Better Git in Your Soul (The Hot and the Cool) A-
This instrumental is less than two minutes long. While it might not be quite as amazing to listen to as “Riot City,” that song spoiled me. And they don't get lazy just because this is a two minute song. There's quite a lot going on in here. You get to listen to a quite entertaining back-and-forth exchange between blaring car-honks and more of a casual dance rhythm. This sort of thing goes on in my head all the time.
So What? A
Oh man, I can't believe that we're almost at the end of this soundtrack album, and it hasn't hit a snag at all. It's been wildly entertaining, terribly well arranged, and the hooks run rampant. Musically, this is another fast-paced jazzy thing, but it's rhythm quite fast-paced and driving. The lead vocals are taken on by a speak-singer who sounds to me like a seasoned Calypso singer.
Absolute Beginners (Refrain) B
I suppose this is technically the fourth track on this album that David Bowie had something to do with, but that still didn't give me the right to include it on his page! (I suppose at some point I should start an entirely new page devoted to musical soundtracks. These sorts of things used to be all I ever listened to.) This is unquestionably the dullest moment of the album, and musically I don't see much connection to the “Absolute Beginners” song. It consists predominantly of a two-chord keyboard groove while some saxophones and pianos noodle around in the background. It goes for about a minute and a half until a fade-out, so thankfully it's not really a big deal.
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Opening Titles Including Underground B+
This is probably the best of the instrumental tracks. It's a nice, opening with synthesizer chimes and mystical harmonies. It's a good thing old Trevor Jones saved these juices for the opening credits! Of course, it sounds right out of the mid-'80s what with those synthesizers and (gasp!) stadium drums. Bowie starts to sing “Underground” after awhile, and shows that it's a good song with a good melody. However, he's going to give this song its full go at the end of the soundtrack.
Into the Labyrinth C
I am going to try to be nice, but holy hell, these instrumental tracks are awful. I can't imagine these are a whole lot worse than most movie soundtracks from the '80s since I've seen a good deal of movies from that decade, but … wow … these are underwhelming. They're the kind of instrumentals that are there only to provide basic sound effects and atmosphere to the scene and not meant to actually be listened to. The first part consists of standard Vangelis-wannabe synthesizer textures and a synth-bass. Eventually some stadium drums start to play a regular rhythm. I'm sure they helped create tension in the scene. They're not creating much tension within me as I'm sitting here motionless, however.
Magic Dance A-
Alright. A lot of amateur music critics have trashed the living dickens out of these pop songs, but holy crap, I have terrific fun with these. Even apart from the context of the silly scene, it's a fun song to listen to. It has a catchy melody and a typically glamorous vocal performance from Bowie. We probably could have done without that blank drum machine sound and synth-bass, but I'm willing to forgive them. After all, it's a catchy melody. The instrumental interludes seem a little awkwardly paced, and there are a few strange sections towards the end that seemed rather cut-and-paste. As a whole, it's a fun song. People have criticized the lyrics. They're certainly more crowd pleasing than introspective, but I don't mind them. They rattle off Bowie's tongue nicely.
Let's compare these instrumental tracks to something. I can honestly tell you I like watching The NeverEnding Story for the soundtrack. Those composers managed to interweave some memorable themes in the mix, and the stiff '80s production somehow manages to sound cool to me. Even majestic sometimes. More than that, the soundtrack is fun to listen to on its own; it is consistently strewn with compelling synth-heavy atmospheres, complicated and elaborate arrangements, and memorable themes. That's an '80s fantasy film soundtrack that makes a great listen. The instrumentals from Labyrinth, while technically competent and “modern,” are just uninteresting. What's more, Trevor Jones doesn't even bother writing a new theme for this particular instrumental; it's merely a reworking of the opening titles sequence. While that's a common practice among soundtrack composers, this is only the third instrumental piece and he's already recycling themes. At least it's a decent theme.
Chilly Down B
This is easily the sloppiest of Bowie's tunes and probably the most annoying one. It took me a little while to warm up to it, and I don't think I've completely warmed up to it. One of the problems was that Bowie didn't do the lead vocals, but Mupper voice actors talking in a screechy voice. The hook is quite good, but not terribly strong, and it doesn't really start to get catchy until that chorus. What I do like about it is that jumpy stick rhythm at the beginning of the song! I remember the scene in this film seemed overly strange and unnecessary. (I also just noticed that one of the Muppets has a cackle that sounds exactly like Ricky Gervais!)
Just a bunch of quasi-mystical synthesizer sound effects from old Trevor Jones. It's atmospheric and contains a pretty annoying bendy bass riff, but things don't really start to sound terribly '80s until that bedroom saxophone comes in! Then, at the two-minute mark, he ONCE AGAIN comes in with the opening title theme. But that quickly leads into the theme for the following song...
As the World Falls Down A
I actually used to like this song way more than I do now, which is still quite a lot. This is one of Bowie's weird, twisted romantic ballads that he's been pretty good writing lately. (“Heroes,” “China Girl,” “Absolute Beginners.”) What strikes me about this ballad is the melody, which is beautiful, smooth and catchy. Bowie's sweetly sung vocal performance is suave and cool, and easily the star of the show. The instrumentation is synth-heavy, of course, but he pays more attention to developing a punchy texture, and he keeps the loud drum machines in the background. It's quite a compelling song. And even though the scene this accompanied in the film revolved around his apparent attempts to seduce a 15-year-old girl in the middle of a 18th-century costume party, it was probably the coolest scene in the movie.
The Goblin Battle D+
Ah, leave it to Trevor Jones to ruin the magic! This is what you'd probably expect out of an average Miami Vice episode. A bland synthesizer groove, horrid synth-horns grooving around, and an uninteresting drum machine. This is basically just a rhythm, and he doesn't even bother trying to work in a theme. Blah.
Within You B-
I never at all understood the plot of this film. The set-up was pretty good, but that whole “You don't have power over me!” realization at the end just seemed like a cop-out. Then again, maybe the whole film was supposed to be some sort of dream? My dreams are equally as senseless as Labyrinth, except they weren't blessed with original Bowie compositions. Even though I said “Chilly Down” was the sloppiest Bowie pop song of the lot, this is easily the most underwhelming of them. It seems only half-written and Bowie gives a weak vocal performance over some power chords. Meh. The M. C. Echer scenery in the movie was cool, though!
13 O'Clock C-
Did Trevor Jones compose these songs with a Casio keyboard? Once again, he doesn't bother composing a theme or coming up with engaging atmospheres or textures. Except, of course, rehashing the OPENING TITLES THEME AGAIN!!!!!!!!!
Home At Last C+
At the end of these instrumentals at last! Guess what? It's the opening themes again, except this time played by a tinkly acoustic guitar. He also revisits “As the World Falls Down.” Write a new freaking theme, for pete's sake? What do you think we pay you for? I like the guitar, and I like its tinkliness! Other than that? Hm.
Yay! The coolest closing credits music of all time! I'm saying that even though this contains Madonna-esque drum machines and a cold synth bass. Speaking of Madonna, how is it that people can love everything in True Blue and then turn around and spit bile at a song like “Underground?” Be consistent in your trashing of '80s electro-garbage, will ya? The main thing this song has going for it is its hooky melody and Bowie's soaring vocal performance. The song even goes gospel in spots, fully equipped with a gospel choir, and that just increases its excitement. He does a decent job keeping those synth textures evolving so that it's kept fresh and punchy, but a few of these textures rely too much on that synth-bass.
Never Let Me Down (1987)
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Day-In Day-Out B
While it's not a terrible song, this is a disappointment for David Bowie. It's extremely slick and polished '80s pop music with a loud drum, fake horns, and a sort of funky non-melody. It makes a pretty OK listen compared to most '80s pop song, and it does have some interesting instrumental solos in the middle-eight that shows some mild creativity. But I would rather Bowie have used that creativity to make a more melodically interesting song than just using all that juice in the recording studio! It's at least bolder and has more confidence than the average song from Tonight. But remember, that album started with the exuberant “Loving the Alien.” This is probably the worst ever album opener for David Bowie. (Or at least since The Man Who Sold the World, but that opener was quite good.) And at five-and-a-half minutes, it well overextends its welcome.
Time Will Crawl B
I used to mildly love this song, but now I just find it to be mildly decent. The melody is better developed and catchier than the previous song even though it's basically three notes repeated over and over. (That goes to show how weak the previous song was... a three-note melody beats it!) But it loses some of those points back with its terribly sterile style of instrumentation. The cheesy bedroom saxophone that surfaces occasionally isn't bad enough to be akin to Kenny G, but it's getting too close to comfort. In fact, this sounds too adult contemporary. Give me screechy Muppet singing over adult contemporary any day of the week!
Beat Your Drum C
This reminds me of those poor songs he used to write in The Man Who Sold the World and Space Oddity in that it never has a melody that captures my interest, and its development seems awfully forced. The pop-rock chorus seems unrelated to its spaced-out verses section. At least he makes the chorus danceable, which might be enough to distract you from the fact that this is quite dull. (I'm also getting mixed messages from the lyrics “I like to beat on your drum / I like to blow on your horn.”)
Never Let Me Down A
Without a doubt, this is the best thing this album has to offer. Finally, something on here has a catchy and developed melody and a verses section that flows nicely into a chorus. Icing on the cake is Bowie's vocal performance. He sings in a sweet and disciplined high-pitched voice, which makes him sound about the most pleasant that he ever sounded. ...I guess he's trying to sound like John Lennon, who this song was a tribute to. The instrumentation is still in that uber-polished late '80s mode, but this time, that's not a problem. The guitars are crunchy, punchy and plays a good riff.
I'm sure most of you who know this album by heart are raising your eyebrows at this one, but I've always had a soft spot for this weird stadium-rock parody. It has one of the finest melodies on this album. (The verses, like “Time Will Crawl,” is only three notes, but it redeems itself with a soaring and very catchy chorus.) The ghoul sound effects that we get at the beginning were a silly touch, and showed that even though this is a dull '80s record for the most part, Bowie was still capable of coming out with some out-of-the-box ideas. Also, this is instrumented with some Indian-flavored woody drums and a sitar! ...That's not the sort of thing you'd expect from average stadium rock songs.
Glass Spider D+
See, the goofy spoken-poetry stuff at the beginning of this song sounds exactly like the opening of Spinal Tap's “Stonehenge.” I more or less have to assume he was doing this with his tongue in his cheek, because Bowie's a pretty cheeky guy. Unfortunately, the song gets way worse after the spoken-poetry bit, getting into this busy drum machine texture that doesn't seem to mesh well with the pulsating synthesizers in the background. Bowie does what he can with his vocals, but his non-melody doesn't redeem it. This is a bizarre and uncomfortable song. ...And “Stonehenge” is wayyyy better. Both as a tongue-in-cheek thing and as a musical composition.
Shining Star (Make My Love) C-
At least I find this more appealing than that horrid lounge-jazz stuff from Tonight, but this strange combination between weird Art of Noise art-pop music and adult contemporary is hardly a replacement. Like the previous song, the percussion texture is weird and it doesn't mesh well with the synthesizers in the background. When it hits the chorus, it sounds like a dull Michael Jackson ballad. And he just drives a stake in its heart by dragging this thing out for five frikin minutes.
New York's in Love B
I used to really hate this song, but I have no idea why. Especially compared to the previous two songs, this is a slick and driving little number that's fun to listen to and sports a mildly catchy melody. It's hardly mind-blowing, and Bowie's still way too concerned with trying to write polished pop music for the '80s adult contemporary crowd. (And my cynical side really hates that fake urban “Heah it is!” call he makes at the beginning.) It certainly lacks any sort of personality, or at least that freaky alien thing Bowie was usually good for. DISAPPOINTED! But it's not that terrible.
'87 and Cry C+
That's what all Bowie's fans were doing in 1987 after buying this album! (Bwahahahah! I bet I'm the first person in history to think of that joke!) This is a fairly straightforward song with a usual drum rhythm featuring those loud stadium drums. Unfortunately, the rhythm isn't enough to inspire me to get up off my chair and dance with it. This is more complicated than a three-note melody, but unfortunately, it's never able to catch fire. Some seedy guitar work threaded in here is quite good.
Too Dizzy B+
The gods of pop-rock were smiling upon me the day I visited the record store and just happened to pick up a version of the album with this song on it. It's horrible, but this song is absent on all reissues. According to Wikipedia, Bowie had it deleted because “It's a throw-away.” To which most of his fans would reply facetiously “Then why didn't you delete all the other songs?” I really don't know what Bowie was going off on, because I think this is pretty good. With the exception of the title-song, it has the album's most catchy, well-developed, and boisterously sung vocal melody. ...I suppose you could say this is the album's most sterile track (which is saying something), and he doesn't bring in any particularly interesting instrumentals. The lyrics are also fairly boring, but it's not like I've been particularly thrilled about any of these other songs for the lyrics. But other than that, IT'S NOT BAD!!!!!!
Bang Bang B
Bowie used another occasion to help his dear friend Iggy Pop get some more royalty checks. This is a cover of Iggy's song from Party, and it's not bad. It's fun hearing Bowie try to Pop-ify his vocals, considering Bowie was the main inspiration for Pop's flagrantly unpolished post-Stooges sound. (But he did achieve his own new sound, didn't he? I mean, Bowie's clearly aping some of Iggy's mannerisms!) This was a pretty good song as well although not one of my all-time Iggy Pop favorites. (The title track of New Values is where it's at!) The melody is fine, and the '80s drums could have sounded worse.
Tin Machine (1989)
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Heaven's in Here A-
What's this? A mid-tempo R&B riff?! Yes sir, David Bowie called it quits with the boring '80s pop music and decided to write a bunch of R&B songs. Many thought that would have been a terrible idea, but people forget that David Bowie can get away with almost anything. ...Of course this being Bowie and this being R&B, don't expect anything original. That riff is from some '60s song that I forgot the name of. While the bluesy guitar playing is quite elaborate and gutsy, it's rather stiff, and it doesn't sustains my interest a great deal. But, as I said, it's gutsy, and it certainly works on the level that we all appreciate gutsy guitar-oriented music (as opposed, obviously, to the Huey Lewis & The News brand of overly glossy R&B). He would still have a ways to go if he wanted to create something like this on par with Cream!
Tin Machine A-
This sort of guitar-rock is as exciting as this album gets, and if that sort of thing isn't your cup of tea, then you're sniffing around the wrong album! (This also makes my job reviewing these track reviews somewhat tedious, because I've never been a huge fan of R&B guitar oriented music... particularly from a band that isn't obviously *great* at it.) However, what gets me with this song is mostly the energy. The riff, again, doesn't seem exciting or original to me, and it also seems like it could have used a little more *power* to it. The melody is OK, and Bowie sings it as though his testicles were being electrocuted.
Prisoner of Love B-
The funny thing about this song is it sounds like it could have been a normal David Bowie song... (And for some reason, it reminds me more of something out of ...Hours rather than his earlier material.) But the presentation of it was a bit misguided. The guitars are sloppy, probably more by design than by accident, but they just make this somewhat decent melody seem disheveled. Bowie had a few things to learn before writing music quite up there with the Pixies. Though that shouldn't surprise anyone!
Crack City A
Around 2003 or 2004, the days before I had an iPod, I made a compilation of the best songs from Bowie's 1983-1994 albums to lighten the load in the CD case that I lugged with me on trips. This is the only song from this album I put on there. Since I don't listen to this album very much, I'm by far more familiar with this song than anything else, and my rating of it is potentially skewed. But why did I put it on the compilation in the first place? It's a good song! The riff, for once, is presented heavily and confidently, and it flows very well. The guitar solos aren't so dumb and stiff. Bowie's growling the lyrics heavily, and not sounding quite like he's being electrocuted. It has a catchy melody. What else do you want?
I Can't Read B
Quite OK. (Ugh, that's the sort of sentence I write and then immediately erase. However, I think I'm going to keep it and, more than that, use it more often.) He adopts a sort of low, menacing groove for this one, and rumbles along with it. It's mostly a one-note melody apart from a more raucous chorus, but it's catchy. They're going for a gruff, distortion heavy sound with the guitars, and they're alright. It must be Bowie's long-time-coming tribute to Velvet Underground!
Under the God A-
I think it's safe to say that Bowie comes off best when he's singing heavy and fast song as opposed to grumbly, mid-tempo songs. His band certainly sounds better when they're playing loudly instead of trying to pull off (fairly unconvincing) subtle tricks with their guitars. The drums are loud and fun. The lead guitar flails about in a sloppy, heavy-metal sort of way, and it's not terrible. (This surely suggests Reeves Gabrels was the least compelling of Bowie's axemen... but he's alright.)
I hate that I watched that one David Spade movie about eight years ago, because every time I see that word, I always think to myself “Amaz-a-zing.” David Spade ruined my brain. But anyway, this power ballad isn't bad at all. It's more like a normal David Bowie song instead of a Pixies wannabe. The melody is good, and the guitars and drums concentrate on playing loudly and energetically without trying to show off. Hardly an AMAZING song, but it's a good one.
Working Class Hero A-
Bowie needed to remind the world, once again, that he knew John Lennon! Or maybe he just liked this song? Who knows? Without a doubt, this is probably the most memorable song of the album. Obviously, Lennon's simple melody is incredibly catchy! But Bowie and his band found a nice hard rockin' groove to play it, and Bowie's vocal performance comes off as growling and pissed-off, which of course is what the subject matter called for. (Of course nowhere near as convincingly angry as Lennon, but I get the impression that Bowie tried the hardest he possibly could, and that's worth something.)
Bus Stop B
This might be one of the album's rockingest songs, but it's not one of the better ones. (Surely the rocking aspect of it helped its enjoyability!) The melody certainly could have stood to be more interesting, or perhaps they could have played a good riff at some point (the guitars are mostly just playing one chord). It's only three minutes long, so it hardly does any harm. But, hm.
Pretty Thing A-
This one is more or less convincing in its gruff, electric guitar mayhem aim. It has a quick and menacing pace, and Bowie's loud vocals soar over it well. The guitarists don't try anything too fancy... they just want to play loudly, and that's about the best thing they could have done. All in all, one of the better songs here.
Video Crime B
More mid-tempo this time, and sounds somewhat similar to “Crack City.” The main difference is that song was exciting and tuneful, but this song doesn't quite fit that bill. Although I'll say, I like the way Bowie's, rhythmic vocals interacts with the main groove. (Although his vocals really weren't too well suited to this sort of heavy, guitar-oriented rock of the late '80s, was it?)
This one has a pretty good four-chord riff to begin with, but it ends up running out of steam rather quickly. The guitars sound alright, but I still get the feeling that it's too cluttered, and they would have been better off just playing these things straight. (I mean, not everyone could quite to the distortion/ugly-rock like Sonic Youth.) Bowie's vocals are much more guttural and screaming, which suits the material better than that light wheeze he was doing in the previous track.
Sacrifice Yourself A-
They do the squeaky distortion noises better here than any other place on the album, and that's mostly just because it's a terribly quick and energetic song. I suppose I should also be grateful for Bowie for making a more or less accessible album out of such music. (As you might know, I have trouble enjoying Fugazi for these reasons!) It's two minutes long, and Bowie gives a loud and boisterous performance. It doesn't leave a very strong impression, but it's fun listening to.
Baby Can Dance B
Is this the long-awaited response to “Magic Dance?” Anyway, this is another decent mid-tempo song, but it doesn't inspire me very much. The melody is a bit slow moving, but it has some hooks in it. The beat is heavy, and that's fine, and the guitars thankfully decide against playing messy chords. (There's some feedback noise, but it's all in the background, where it belongs.)
Tin Machine II (1991)
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Baby Universal A-
Tin Machine might be working under an album cover with a bunch of naked-man statues on it, but they could still rock out as strongly as ever. If its only goal in the world was to give us something awesome to dance to, then it has performed its set task with flying colors. The drums are rapid and loud (but not too loud), and the guitars provide some tight riffage. Unfortunately, it's not the catchiest thing on the planet... I don't find it terribly memorable... But it's good enough. The lyrics are funny, mostly because I like hearing Bowie sing “Hello humans, can you feel me thinking?” I also like hearing him yelp the chorus a bit. ...Yes, I pretty much like Bowie no matter what he does...
One Shot A-
They make the guitar at the beginning of this sound a bit like they're strangling a cat, and yet this still sounds like a nice ole mainstream rock 'n' roll song from 1991. This sounds like it could have gone on Never Let Me Down, except it's way better. The guitars are definitely better, and Gabriels gets a chance to let out a decently rip-roaring solo in the middle. The chorus is catchy, although I can't really say the same for the verses. There's probably not much artistic merit to this, but for once, why don't I just not give a damn about that? It's a fun song.
You Belong in Rock & Roll A
David Bowie, weirdly enough, seemed to become a cooler and cooler singer as he got older, and that's mostly because he figured out how to sing with the lower range of his voice. This is one of those songs. He's warbling that voice of his so deeply! The instruments are playing a really cool, toe-tapping groove as well. That deeply pounding bass, whale noises from a background electric guitar, a buzzy horn synthesizer, determined contributions from an acoustic guitar, and the occasional hand clap create one of the more interesting textures that I think Bowie has ever been responsible for.
If There is Something B+
It seems like this Roxy Music cover used to impress me more... I dunno. Maybe that was because I didn't quite have those Roxy Music albums memorized yet. This sounds like a standard bar-rock version of that song. The drums are playing a loud dance beat, the rhythm guitar and bass aren't doing anything particularly special. Bowie's vocals are decent, but they also sound standard... Of course, they're nothing like Ferry's original warbles. Gabriels turns in a very screechy electric guitar performance... which is actually quite interesting, so I'll give him props for that. ...I should also mention, in case you're unfamiliar with the original (AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE!!!) that the melody is about the catchiest thing on the planet, which these guys fortunately preserve.
OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!! …Er, sorry for that outburst, but seriously. What the hell is with this? After writing such crazily good (or decent) songs as the opening three, it's absolutely head-scratching to me whatever made him think a song like this would have been any good. Bowie sings a quizzical melody in a high-pitched voice amidst an acoustic guitar playing an odd chord progression. It's awkward. It sounds like they were trying to write something mystical or ethereal, but the instrumentation isn't even close to sounding right for that. The good news is that it starts to hold itself together a little better when the drums chime in... but by that time, the song is already half over and I have already hit the skip button in my brain.
Betty Wrong B
Alright, back to the groovin' rhythm guitar bar-rock stuff again, and no more of that misfired weirdness. ...Unfortunately, though, this song has a little trouble getting itself off the ground. The groove is catchy but it seems too passive, and it's not helped by a mumbly vocal performance. Also, I don't find this melody interesting at all until it hits the chorus where it starts to pick up quite a bit of steam.
You Can't Talk B-
B.S. To that, I say—I talk all the time. (I'm still making bad joke-responses to track titles, am I? Bluh!) Anyway, this is another strange one that's only really kept together on the virtue of its steady bar-rock rhythm. The chorus is strangely choppy and detached, and it's difficult for me to catch a foothold on it. Bowie processes his vocals in such a way that it sounds like he's singing in a fan... and I really don't see what the big benefit of doing that was. I mean, maybe he wanted to do something other than write typical bar-rock songs... and I guess he succeeded in that respect. But it would have been nice if he wrote something a little less anarchic than this.
What's with this album? Tin Machine wasn't the great shakes, but it was at least more fun than this. This song starts out alright as a slowly paced blues, but it doesn't take too long for it to start growing boring. I might normally criticize it for being based on a simple blues riff, but after the strangeness of the previous three songs, I'm a bit relieved that they opted for something a little more conventional. Bowie doesn't take the lead vocals on this, but I hear him singing in the chorus, which utilizes a rather odd chord progression. Gabrels starts to noodle something crazy at the end of this. It's more chaos real bluesy noodles, but it does end up living this up.
Shopping For Girls B+
Now there's a novel concept. It eliminates the need for me to be attractive or charming, and all I need to get is a bank loan. (...Why couldn't he write a song about that instead of one about underage prostitution? Dang it, Bowie, we want clever lyrics... not ones that make me think of the rotten state this stupid world is in.) Anyway, they're back to writing solid riffs again, and this is the first song for awhile that immediately caught my attention the moment it started. The atmosphere gets thicker as the song goes along, which is interesting, but somehow I don't think I'm getting its full effect. I think they were trying to be seedy, or something, but I'm not really feeling it.
A Big Hurt B+
They amp up the fuzz guitar for this one and deliver a more or less straightforward rocker. Let's be honest; these guys seem like they should have just stuck with the straightforward stuff from the very beginning! They're quite capable of writing catchy hard-rock riffs and performing them with verve. Toward the end of this piece, we hear Gabrels going off on another wild electric guitar solo. ...It's fun but not terribly inspired, which probably goes to show he was never one of Bowie's best side guitarists. But anyway, this is a fun song, and you can dance to it.
The nice thing about this song is that they apologize for it at the same time as they're playing it. This is supposed to be some sort of confessional ballad, and it might have worked if Bowie was doing the lead vocals. But it's someone else, who tries to sing loudly and passionately, but his voice keeps on breaking. The song itself is forgettable; the melody is bland and lifeless. The thick, reverb-heavy atmospheric touches done were a nice idea, but really it's just sugar coating on dung.
Goodbye Mr. Ed B
I was pretty upset when they took Mr. Ed off the air, too. (No, not the original run! When they stopped showing them on Nick at Nite! Anyway, this is a fairly mid-tempo song, which could have been a mistake, but it turns out that the melody isn't too bad, and the atmosphere is decently formed with a lot of wavy electric guitars. Bowie gives it a straightforward vocal performance, which in itself makes it freaky. The drums are fairly subdued under the texture, and probably a little too much.
Well, they saved some of the album's ultimate coolness for a one-minute track tacked on at the very end. It's actually a jam piece. Bowie (probably) plays a bit of wild saxophone at the beginning before handing off the reigns to Reeves Gabrels who rips out probably the album's most exciting guitar solos. It's a shame they couldn't put this to one of their songs
Oy Vey, Baby (1992)
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If There Is Something A-
Man these guys SUCK, but they're all IN YOUR FACE about it. What's more, I think they even realize they suck, but they're having fun with it anyway. David Bowie sings this Roxy Music cover very sloppily but his confidence-level is so elevated that I can't ignore it. Reeves Gabrels shreds a super-fuzzy guitar, scaling up and down in such an obnoxious way that … Well, you can't ignore it, can you? This is so crass that it's actually kind of awesome.
They seriously should have just stuck with the crass slop-rock... or at least have buried this ballad down at Track #7 or something. While this is a pretty good ballad with a good melody, it's not as fun to listen to. Not quite *boring*, because Gabrels seems to continuously find some strange patterns to play on his guitar... and some of those drum fills are kind of odd. Thus, this is a perfectly listenable song. But does it blow my mind away? NOOOOOOPE.
I Can't Read C+
You can't read? Then when I say you look like a donkey, that doesn't mean anything to you? … (OK, I'd better be careful or I might get punched in the face over the Internet.) ...I reiterate that TIN MACHINE JUST SHOULD HAVE STUCK WITH THE CRASS HARD ROCK. They had plenty of those types of songs in their brief back catalog, so it should have been easy. But instead of that, they give this rather bizarre interpretation of “I Can't Read.” It starts out sounding a bit like they were trying to do an art-jazz interpretation of it with the bongos and oddly textured lead guitar. But as it starts building up to the chorus, Gabrels really distorts his guitar. The reason he does that, I have no clue. The chorus is a little more exciting even though I'm already getting tired of Whoever Sales' uncouth drum fills. What is he thinking? After that point the pace gets even more sluggish and Gabrels starts making squealing noises with his guitar. This is extremely sloppy. Sometimes sloppiness is awesome. Here it's listenable, but it's also … mildly uncomfortable.
Who the hell is that singing? ...Oh right, I keep forgetting this is a band. I guess other group members have a right to take on lead singing too! I didn't care much for this song on Tin Machine II partly because it's based on a very simple (and boring) R&B riff. But after bearing through the sluggishness of the previous song, I'm kind of relieved to hear a normalish song for a change! This singer isn't terrible, but he isn't particularly good. He sounds a bit like a passable Bob Seger imitator. ...Anyway, after the main melody is through playing, Gabrels takes a chance to give a very elaborate guitar solo. It's like he kicked the singer in the head and declared “I PLAY MY OWN SONG!!” because his solos sound nothing like you would think they should sound. At one point it sounds like he's electrocuting a cat. They drag this on for more than eight minutes, which is rather excessive. ...But I'm just glad they didn't play “I Can't Read” for that long.
Under the God B+
Woof! Woof, woof!! Can't I just bark at this song and not tell you what I think of it? I don't have a dog and I never will, but if I did, I have a feeling that this unapologetically crass and sloppy rocker would inspire it to start howling at it. The raucous garage drum beat and sloppy riffage combined with Bowie's scream-singing vocal performance almost has me barking at it. As I said earlier, there isn't nearly enough rock 'n' rollin' songs on this live album, and here they finally delivered one. It's quite fun, especially hearing Bowie spit out the lyrics. (“Toxic jungle of Uzi trails / Tribesmen just wouldn't live here / Fascist flare is fashion cool / Well, you're dead – you just ain't buried (yet)”)
Goodbye Mr. Ed B-
Is anyone other than me questioning the song choice? (...Well maybe that's not a good question to ask since I have a feeling that my generally unenthusiastic but receptive stance toward this album is way nicer than how most people have taken this album!) I mean, it was OK on Tin Machine II, but not one of the highlights. Why not do “Shopping for Girls” instead? ...Ah, my words are completely lost on these guys. Anyway, this is OK. The song is well-written. The performance is sloppy, but doesn't really manage to inject extra life into the proceedings. I'll politely just shrug my shoulders at it.
Heaven's in Here B
(???!) Well, they're doing one of their all-time best songs, a fact that doesn't go unappreciated by me. Except they treat it like a jam tune and extend it past 12 minutes. ….........WHY?!!! I don't even like it that much when Cream goes off on these tangents in their live albums, but Tin Machine? Who do you think you are?! The main appeal of the original was its tightness and verve. This is just loose. After doing the obligatory rendition of the groove and melody, the drums start to pitter away, and Gabrels takes his guitar off on some wild tangents. ...I'm really trying to enjoy this, and he comes up with some weird alien vibes in a few spots that I find sort of appealing. Especially for a time in the middle when he's sort of trailing off and playing minimally. That's more preferred than how he normally plays—all wild and all over the place. In the middle, Bowie starts to sing “King Bee” for whatever reason, and the band seems to have adapted to it. ...Is that something they just decided to do randomly? Gabrels even starts to make stinging noises with his guitar (like the Rolling Stones did once... remember). He starts to give the bee rabies after awhile, but that's just how his mind wandered. About eight and a half minutes into it, they suddenly remembered that they were playing “Heaven's in Here.” So, anyway, this song is so spaced out that it's awesome. I give it a B, because that's what “King Bee” would have wanted.
You Belong in Rock & Roll B+
Once again, they're playing one of their finest songs, but they EXTEND the CRAP out of it. At least it's just seven minutes long this time. The main appeal of the original for me was its texture, which they don't really preserve for this live version. Bowie can't even give the same sort of deep, deep, deep rumbly vocals that did for the studio. He tries, but I can't really hear him sometimes, and sometimes it just sounds like he's hiccuping. Nonetheless, this remains a good song, and technically the best song they covered for this live album! The jamming bits aren't terribly exciting listens for me, but at least they don't get all weird and spacey like the previous song did. Gabrels also keeps his flailing guitar at bay. So there. This is pretty good then! ...And now, it's over.
Black Tie White Noise (1993)
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The Wedding B+
Wedding bells! (This album starts the same way as Kate Bush's The Sensual World?) Soon, I hear a synthesizer fade in, and then a bass-line. After that... er... what's that, a '90s drum loop. ...Oh no, David Bowie is writing music with boring '90s loops. Did you know that I spent most of the '90s disliking '90s pop music mostly because of drum machine loops? ...On the plus side, this is an instrumental and Bowie solos with his saxophone through most of it, and it's excellent. He goes off on a few tangents that strike up images of the Middle-East. Obviously a tribute to his new wife Iman who is from Somalia.
You've Been Around A
No need to try to deny it: This is a fun song. Completely, 100% '90s techno music. Ten years ago, I would have hated the crap out of this. Now, I have fun with it. Although the electro-bass line sounds a little bit like Michael Jackson's “Bad” at times. What I do like is his wandering vocal melody, and that vocal effect he puts on his voice that sounds like a chorus of emotionless aliens are backing him up. I remember Yello did a similar thing on one of their albums I reviewed recently, Gotta Say Yes to Another Excess. He quotes “Changes” … I guess as a gesture to his fans who can remember that far back.
I Feel Free A-
This is a weirdly decent techno version of a Cream song. I'm not entirely sure how he managed that since I didn't figure that such a feat would have been possible. Nonetheless, here it is. The techno beat sounds good, the melody is great, Bowie's low and warbly vocal performance suits it. It even has a very off-kilter horn solo that is fondly reminiscent of early Roxy Music, which keeps it interesting. Mick Ronson comes out of the woodwork and noodles around a bit with his guitar. (This must have been slightly before his untimely death the same year this album was released.) It's a bit long for my taste (nearly five minutes), but it's surprisingly good.
Black Tie White Noise B
Who the hell is that singing??! Apparently somebody called Al B. Sure! (And that exclamation mark is actually apart of his name...) Bowie duets with him, so he's still on here. Don't worry, nerds. Anyway, it wasn't so obvious in the previous songs, but I can't deny it here: This is a '90s R&B album. I know. Horrid. How could you, David Bowie? ...Ah, I guess this move was his latest change of underpants. Fortunately, it's not a horrible song. The hook is OK, but the problem is they repeat it too much. ...Also, why is every single one of these songs five minutes long? Eh??!
Jump They Say A
Well this one's quite good. It's based on a strange synthesizer riff that's quite compelling to me, and I love the way he sings in that low-pitched warbly voice of his. Behind that techno beat, it undoubtedly sounds cool. You could complain that the riff is overly repetitive, but somehow that doesn't bother me. The best thing about it is more of those off-kilter horn solos, which gives it an added seedy feeling ...Lyrically, I guess this is about Bowie's schizophrenic half-brother who committed suicide in 1985. ...Ouch.
Nite Flights C+
Ouch!!! And you would have thought that David Bowie would have sounded unquestionably cool covering this unquestionably cool Walker Brothers song from the mid-'70s. If you haven't heard the original, then get yourself on YouTube and find it! ...All Bowie does is orchestrate it coldly with a boring techno beat and some cold background synthesizers. ...IS THAT IT?! … DO SOMETHING AWESOME WITH IT, MR. LAZY!
Pallas Athena D
I don't want to sound too demeaning to my dear friend David Bowie, but this sounds like something I would write. And it sounds like one of my early compositions. Not one of my more awesome later ones. That cold violin synthesizer loop he comes up with is dead. Completely awful. Later on, he brings out another one of those drum machine loops, which is like layering more crap on crap. Blech. ...At least he had the sense to bring out another off-kilter horn solo, but that doesn't end up helping it much. ...This just goes to show what a lot of people say about David Bowie: When the dude is bad, he's really bad. ...Nonetheless, he's still my pop hero. ...I'll remember that as soon as this horrid song stops playing.
Miracle Goodnight D+
What happened to this album? This isn't as horrible as the previous song, but it's not much better. That harmonica-synthesizer riff he comes up with is annoying, and he doesn't make up for it in terms of a vocal melody or a drum machine loop that's interesting in even the remotest sense. Boring. Stupid. Dull. C'mon, man!! Get with the program!!
Don't Let Me Down and Down C-
Yeah, David Bowie. Don't let me down! … And down!! This is a cover of a song written by a Mauritanian princess. (A little geography lesson... Mauritania is located in Western North Africa.) It's not a terrible song, but it's boring. The adult contemporary instrumentation is plain and plastic. Bowie tries to make up for it with a loud and passionate vocal performance, but that only goes so far.
Looking For Lester B
Yet another instrumental! Don't you think we've had enough of these Sir Bowie? Because I thought you were supposed to be a pop star! ...But at least it's not dead-boring like the previous three or four songs have been. Keeping with the general spirit of the album, the main star of the show is the saxophone solos, but we also get to hear some piano noodles, which are strikingly reminiscent of Mike Garson's piano in the title song of Aladdin Sane. (I didn't see Garson listed in the credits, which surprised me!) So anyway count that as a pleasant blast from the past.
I Know It's Gonna Happen B+
This gospel song was written by Morrissey? I never heard the album this song is on... but I figured this would have been something on a Whitney Houston album, or something. But anyway, this is OK. Bowie does his best gospel performance, but unfortunately the instrumentation is quite dull. The gospel choir backing him up is OK, and the horns are well arranged. It seems to take itself very seriously whereas I'm used to Bowie songs having a sort of sparkly, sci-fi twist to them. Do we really want to hear him do straight gospel music? ...Written by Morrissey? ...But anyway, I enjoy this enough for that B+. It would be way cool hearing Bowie sing this in church instead of the crap I'm normally subject to there.
The Wedding Song B
Here is a retread of the song that appeared at the beginning of the album, except there's singing this time! I'm not sure the point of doing the same song twice, especially since the actual instrumentation is basically the same. We have the canned drum beat, and some horn noodles. His vocal melody is OK, but I don't know why it's so low in the mix that I can hardly make it out. ...Although he did put a pretty neat echo effect on them!
Real Cool World A-
This is basically the same song as “Jump They Say” except he repackaged it as a song for the film Cool World. I have never seen this film, but if I'm to believe its reputation, it's one of the worst movies ever made. ...Anyway, you'll like this about as much as you like “Jump They Say.” ...And you'll like that song depending on how much you like '90s pop music.
Lucy Can't Dance B+
Awwww, if you just spend a little time with Lucy, slap some make-up on her, and give her some contact lenses, you'll only be one montage away from her being a world-class dancer! (I've seen too many movies... At least to the extent of not seeing Cool World...) Anyway, this is a pretty cool song, actually. It's not different from the other techno songs on this album, but it has a few decent hooks. Although some of the other vocal hooks get kind of annoying as the song progresses... And this thing is nearly six minutes long, which doesn't help its case. He's using the same vocal effect that he used on “You've Been Around.” Kinda cool.
The Buddha of Suburbia (1993)
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Buddha of Suburbia A
Well, well, well! After the unfortunate techno/R&B stuff from the previous album, it's nice to hear Bowie go back to basics and actually concentrate on writing good songs instead of simply trying to sound hip and putting the songwriting in the backseat. This melody is fantastic, and it has a chorus that soars wonderfully. In a few parts, he notably quotes a few songs from his past, notably “All the Madmen” from The Man Who Sold the World and “Space Oddity.” (Why, do you ask? I guess Bowie was feeling a bit nostalgic and looking back for a change?) Since this was a film soundtrack, you can expect it to sound appropriately atmospheric... I haven't actually seen the movie, so I don't know how it works with the movie, but I bet it's awesome.
Sex and the Church B
Priests!!!!! ...OK, maybe I'd better not go there... Anyway, this is one of the more unusual songs of the album. It's also the closest this album has to recreating the techno feeling of the previous album, except Bowie was actually being creative with it. He creates a somewhat ordinary techno beat, but with a rather good bass-line that I'd imagine would give my toe the desire to start tapping if I were out on a rave, or something. ...And Bowie talks through much of this with a vocal synthesizer, which alters his voice to sound like a heavy robot. ...This really isn't too bad, but it isn't too great, either. Maybe my biggest problem with it is that it goes on for nearly six and a half minutes when it really wasn't interesting enough to warrant all that space!
South Horizon A-
Ah... You were wondering when they would start pulling these songs out, weren't you? I mean, the previous David Bowie soundtrack was Labyrinth, and the scene-setting instrumentals were pretty much crap. But here, on the other hand, is an instrumental that is fantastic. ...I mean seriously fantastic. It's based on a jazzy bass groove, and a mid-tempo drum machine rhythm (that seems somehow more tasteful than the drum machines did on Black Tie White Noise. Mike Garson, who played piano on Aladdin Sane, is back, and he takes center stage here, noodling around like a total madman. Of course, it dazzles my ears just like it did throughout Aladdin Sane. ...This is very good.
The Mysteries A-
Well, this song is characterized by what sounds like a reverse piano, which makes for extremely effective mood music. Sometimes when I'm studying, and I need to concentrate hard I listen to Vangelis film soundtracks... He's of course the master at creating atmospheric mood music with electronic instrumentation. It really wouldn't have surprised me if this track popped up in one of Vangelis' soundtracks. ...That's how effectively moody it is. The background synthesizers create a thick atmosphere, and those backwards pianos are hypnotizing like listening to wind chimes. It's seven minutes long, and provides some excellent stuff to put on in the background.
Bleed Like a Craze, Dad A
This is a little like “Sex and the Church” except the instrumentation is much lusher, and I find the repetitive bass-groove to be much catchier. There are all sorts of sounds going on at once in the instrumentation... There's a riffing guitar, a few soloing guitars, more of Mick Ronson's mysterious piano noodles, echoey keyboards, and David Bowie singing with heavy reverb put on his voice. ...It's funny that this song was meant to go along with a movie scene, but it's actually highly enjoyable listening to it when I'm just staring into the empty spaces... This is how all movie soundtracks should be like, dagnabit!!!
Strangers When We Meet A+
This song, along with the title track, represents the album's straightforward pop songs whereas most of the others seem a bit more texturally based and perhaps not designed for you to pay direct attention to. Nonetheless, this is still heavily atmospheric, and—wow—the melody is soaring and catchy. The bass-line is very catchy (although someone—I forgot where—pointed out that it was the exact same bass-line as a John Cougar Mellencamp song). The instrumentation continues to be brilliant. There are all sorts of things going on at once. There's an electric guitar playing fireworks deeply in the background, keyboards keep evolving in the background, and every once in awhile I hear this dazzling rhythm guitar! Very awesome! (You might also note that this song was redone for 1. Outside, but for my money this is the definitive version.)
Dead Against It A
Ah, you see? Here is what this album does that the previous album didn't as much: It gave me a good reason to tap my foot, and—at the same time—it gives my ear something interesting to listen to. This is song has singing and lyrics in it, but its beat is closer to techno than straight pop music that the previous song was. Nonetheless, the drum machines actually sound interesting to me. There's that whooshy one that sounds like it's always filling up and then deflating, they change their textures occasionally, and—most importantly—they are driving. The synthesizer and jangly guitar textures are similarly hypnotizing, usually changing its textures throughout the song. Bowie's main vocal melody is pretty catchy, and he sings around a fairly decent chord progression. (I mean, aren't most songs like this only two chords?) So, cool!
Untitled No. 1 A-
Ya know, this is still pretty great, but it's a disappointment compared to the previous song! This is also very texturally based, but the drum machine groove isn't quite as driving and entrancing. ...But I still like it. This one's quite busy, almost sounding like a lite-Latin sort of texture... but in a good way, of course, there are all sorts of clicks and clacks going in both my ears. The synthesizers continue to also create a complicated texture, and I also hear Mike Garson deeply in the background doing his weird piano noodling thing. ...And just for good effect, Bowie screws around with his voice at the end... He sounds more alien than usual, and he couldn't possibly be singing like that without some sort of vocal enhancement... ...What a freaky man!
Ian Fish, UK Heir A-
In, yet, another effort for this album to exert its dominance over Labyrinth in terms of movie soundtracks in David Bowie's discography, he creates another very interesting and relaxing bit of mood music, which last six minutes and 30 seconds. It's electronic, of course, and it's right up there with Vangelis' pieces of mood music that I listen to all the time when I'm studying. This consists of very quiet synthesizers playing a very subtle texture, and we get to listen to an acoustic guitar noodling around very pleasantly. It's a lengthy track, but it's not exactly time ill-spent! ...Really, it's quite amazing to me that Bowie was able to do this so well, and I've got to wonder what was keeping him out of the soundtrack biz? Those guys make wads of cash! (I mean even these days, in 2010, it's not like he's been releasing albums lately...) Of course he had “Heroes” and Low under his belt, which were ridden with ambient instrumentals, but I always thought it was common knowledge that Brian Eno did those.
Buddha of Suburbia (Featuring Lenny Kravitz)
Oh! I'm not going to score this song twice. And truth be told, which version is better is totally arbitrary to me. It's not like I'm awed to hear Lenny Kravitz play the guitar as opposed to whoever was playing it in the other version. ...As a matter of fact, he seems a bit too scratchy and show-offey to me.
1. Outside (1995)
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Leon Take Us Outside A-
What?! Who's Leon?! What's happe— ...Oh, this is weird. I guess this is a concept album or something. Basically this song starts out as a fade-in of a huge synthesizer chord, an artfully disjointed guitar noodling around, a twinkly piano, and I hear David Bowie muttering something in the background. ...He's making diary entries, like at the beginning of every Star Trek episode except without the “Captain's Log” bit. Anyway, I like the atmosphere they create for this one.
Now, this is the David Bowie awesomeness that has been sorely missing all throughout the '80s. I mean, not that he didn't have cool pop songs now and again in that decade, but very little of it had been terribly artful. This song on the other hand is quite interesting, and it has a fitfully catchy melody to boot. It has an interesting flow to it; that drumbeat intermittently goes slow and fast, which has a pretty cool effect on the song's pacing. Eno's background synthesizer work is really cool, too, managing to be both atmospheric and sort of grimy... but without being off-putting. Nicely done!
The Heart's Filthy Lesson A
I still remember being at that Bowie concert in 2004, and hearing those guys perform this song. Honestly I didn't think much of Outside back then—I was very much not into Bowie's '90s albums—but as I was standing there rocking out, I thought it was quite a cool song. Certainly, he's still using the same sorts of techno/drum-machine grooves that we've heard all throughout Black Tie White Noise, but they actually orchestrate it in a manner that's interesting. I hear Garson twinkling around with his piano ALL OVER THE PLACE just like he did in Aladdin Sane as well as throughout The Buddha of Suburbia, and of course it's great to hear that guy go at it. Brian Eno really goes to town with the sound effects, too... And they're very difficult to describe. Bowie's main melody isn't catchy, mostly because this is a performance-art piece. He talks, mutters, and sings wistfully through most of this.
A Small Plot of Land A
When David Bowie sings “Poooooor soul,” it really sounds like a section from Stephen Sondheim's musical Sweeney Todd. ...But anyway, this is another pretty cool atmospheric piece. They create a tense atmosphere with a busy drum beat, and Gabrels plays more detached, gritty notes with his guitar. Bowie sings through it like he's doing a performance art piece, and it works remarkably well (even though I suspect he accidentally borrowed some of it from Sweeney Todd). Sound and sounds and sounds come through my speaker, and it's all so well-mixed that I'm with it completely the entire way. It tends to get busier and more driving as it moves along... It never for a moment gets boring for its entire six-and-a-half-minute running length...
Segue – Baby Grace (A Horrid Cassette) B+
David Bowie put his voice through a machine process that makes it sound high-pitched. ...Could he finally have been trying to live up to “The Laughing Gnome?” ...Anyway, you can listen to what he's saying if you care. ...Truth be told I'm not wild about the concept of this album, which is probably one of my problems! Anyway, the atmosphere continues to be nice and thick, but I do tend to space out to it.
Hallo Spaceboy C+
Hallo Moondog... This is usually considered one of the more celebrated songs of the album, but CRAP those drums annoy the crap out of me. THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD-bye bye love-THUD-THUD-THUD-THUD, etc... Later Bowie sings “This chaos is killing me!” ...Yes indeed! There's something to be said for the instrumentation apart from the drums. Eno creates some weird synthesizer patterns in the background that are grimy and seedy and kind of cool. Gabrels comes in through both my ear holes playing some growly riffs. ...Other than that... those drums!!!!!!! ARGggggggggggggh.
The Motel B
This is another good one (and thank goodness those horrible drums are through). My problem with it mainly is that it takes sooooooooooooo long for it finally get started, and once it picks up steam already about three minutes has past. And then I notice that it's a seven minute song... Why not cut it down to four? However, the only thing keeping it terribly interesting until the electric guitar and drums pipe up at the five-minute mark is more of Mike Garson's piano noodling. While I of course love listening to him, I get the feeling that Bowie's using him as a crutch! ...Come on, Garson man, noodle around some more so people don't get too bored!
I Have Not Been to Oxford Town B
I haven't either, come to think of it... It's in the deep south, anyway, so I doubt it would be too friendly to weird European glam-stars who once went on record he hates country music. ...Anyway, this is also a fairly disappointing based on the melody alone. It's flat and uninteresting. The instrumentation is OK, though. They get a nice, crunchy swing going. It's a fine listen, but nothing I remember long after the album is through playing.
No Control A-
This one's a little more like it. Again, he's fond of using those '90s techno-ish drum machine grooves, and I've never been a fan of those. Bowie finds a melody to sing, although it's still somewhat repetitive and not terribly hooky. I do at least like the way he sings it... It's quite soulful, and I don't have trouble following him through it. Eno's background synthesizers do a few cool things, helping give the song an overall thick and seedy atmosphere that I like hearing out of them. Quite well done as a whole, but it still could have used more punch.
Algeria Touchshriek A-
This is another one of those talky tracks. Bowie talks in a high-pitched cockney accent, which amuses the hell out of me. I also like hearing Garson play some jazzy chords in the background. ...This might have made nice video game music. (In the year 1999 Bowie wrote music for a video game... I know, I played it... It was way cool.)
The Voyeur of Utter Destruction (As Beauty) A-
I say! This is a pretty good one! Again, I'm still getting tired of those programmed drums. (Man, I was in middle school in the mid '90s... This incessant drum machine music makes me feel like I'm in the movies watching some action movie with a lot of high-tech gadgets in them.) Anyway, that tight guitar loop is pretty cool, and Bowie gives another performance-art vocal performance with a lot of shrieking in it. I can hear Garson piddling around in the background... It makes me wonder how much I would enjoy this album if it weren't for Garson.
Segue / I Am With Name – Ramona A. Stone B
Maybe someone who named herself after seeing Romancing the Stone or anything starring Sharon Stone. (Ain't it obvious that my pop-culture world never advanced past the '90s... I still get a little bit freaked out to see that some of the big movie stars back in the day are wrinkly now. ...Or totally warped because of extensive plastic surgery.) Anyway, this starts as yet another talking track where Bowie's talking through a voice altering machine that makes him sound like a female robot. But then a detached drum rhythm pops up with a thick atmosphere, and Bowie sings another somewhat uninteresting melody, but in a performance art way. The sound-effects are pretty cool... I hear all sorts of industrial whizzes and buzzes going off. Even some gunshots. It's pretty cool, but hardly mind-blowing.
Wishful Beginnings B
When I was listening to this album a bunch of times over the last week, this one would always stick out at me. ...because it has this really weird burping noise that plays non-stop for its entire five-minute running length. Bowie sounds like he's improvising a melody over what's actually a very cool, despondent backing synthscape. It's very atmospheric, and especially all those computerized buzzing noises, reminds me of playing one of those Myst games. ...Holy crap that game was awesome! (Oh, I haven't played video games since the '90s, either.)
We Prick You A
This album is never ending!!!!!! The story is that Bowie was planning on this being the first of a trilogy, but that never happened......... Or maybe it was all a trick, and the entire trilogy is all in the same album? Anyway, he's clearly pushing the limits of a CD, where I would have thought he'd be better off making something more compact and thus more powerful... That's not to say that I dislike this song at all. In fact, this is one of the ones that should have made it through to the final cut! Without a doubt, this has one of the better vocal melodies from Bowie... as he's wailing “Telllllllllll the Truth!!!” and then responding with a chant “We prick you! We prick you!” But what makes this song really cool is that it has a groove that picks up a little bit of steam. One of those guitars sounds like the guitars from Seinfeld. (AGGHHH! GET AWAY FROM ME, '90s!!!!!) My only complaint with this song is this one squeaky instrument that plays incessantly through the whole thing. Gets a bit annoying. Luckily the background instrumentals get louder and drown it out by the end.
Segue – Nathan Adler
I just want to say that I'm on my third page of track reviews on this Word Document, which is set at 10-point Times New Roman font. ...When am I going to get a Pulizer Prize for doing this? (...Pffff, whatever, they only give Pulitzers to people who publish in newspapers. Snobs.) This talky track is just a minute long. I'm not sure what the “cut-off” should be for me to score a track. ...I'll say at least that there's a pretty cool backing groove as Bowie is muttering away. ...I don't understand anything of what he's saying! ...Hmmm...
I'm Deranged A
No... I'm deranged... This album is still giving me flashbacks of middle school, man... Geez, I would hate to go back there. Although it'd be interesting to have hair again. ...Well, I have to say, Bowie's writing better songs now that the album is finally thinking about coming to a close. Again with the drum machines, but at least they're playing a driving rhythm, and Bowie's singing his wistful (and still probably improvised notes) over it in a commanding manner. Garson goes to town with the piano by the end of it... which doesn't steal the show, but provides some background coolness to help give it decoration. (Usually it's not a good thing if Garson is the only reason I like a song.) ...The one thing it could have been with out is that forever-repeating four-note bass guitar pattern that plays incessantly throughout it. I mean, it was fine for the first minute, but … never changing for the entire four and a half minutes? ...But anyway, this is very cool.
Thru These Architect's Eyes A
As a civil engineering student, I have to wonder what the hell these architects are putting in their doobies. I'm thinking lead paint. (Every time I've heard a professional come and talk to our class, he/she always has a thing or two to say about architects...) Bowie's still pretty determined to finishing this album on a very high note. Again with the drum machines, but it's very crunchy and fun for me to listen to. I love hearing the soulful way Bowie is singing over it all. And then of course Garson goes to down. Yes man! Just play some more of your noodles there! They won't get bored! …And we don't. Thanks!
Segue – Nathan Alder
...This is another one of those talky tracks. Bowie mutters something for 30 seconds while a militaristic drum putters away in the background. Confusingly, it has the exact same name as another song on this album. But that one was one minute. This is 30 seconds. ...I'm deranged... I'm seeing through architect's eyes... (Hahahahhhhhh! BURN!)
Strangers When We Meet A
Hey! I know this song! It was in The Buddha of Suburbia! ...Why is he making me review it again? ...Anyway, it's a very nice song, and probably the only real pop song of the entire album. The melody is fantastic, and Bowie sings it in a beautifully passionate manner. ...The version on The Buddha of Suburbia is better, mostly because that version has a really awesome rhythm guitar that peppers it up. Nevertheless, both versions are pretty good...
Get Real B-
Some versions of this album have a bonus track, so I guess I'll address that! ...This is sounds almost like a pop song, with hooks in the melody... But I'm not really buying it. The hooks are weak, and Gabrels guitars going off in the background are totally dead. On the bright side, it has a clappy dance rhythm. ...Although all that does is make it seem like one of the weaker songs from Let's Dance. So, blah.
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Little Wonder B+
So anyway, the Outside review was giving me '90s flashbacks left and right, and … er … this album is doing much the same. (Does anyone else remember the Y2K bug? It was bogus. I soooo called that.) … The funny thing is, I don't think this is such a terrible song. It might be some goofy techno thing without much of a melody (or even an artsy performance-art thing like he gave throughout Outside), but at least there's enough of those scratchy little instrument things going off all over the place that keeps my mind engaged... though it's little wonder since shiny things always distract me... (And what's it with that sample of that scream? Does that sound soooo 1990 to anyone else? ...As in *EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!!!*)
Looking For Satellites B
That's generally an easy thing to do, unless it's a new moon. ...Or if you consider the Earth a satellite of the Sun, in which case all you have to do is look at the ground. ...Or yourself, since you're apart of the Earth as well. ...Er, what's with this song? ...It's a bit of a drag, isn't it? I really don't like that a cappella vocal introduction as well as that long-drawn-out, one-note pattern he likes repeating throughout this. On the other hand, he manages to create a very interesting chord progression out of this, which I think is responsible for keeping this one alive. I also like hearing Bowie come in singing over it nicely a soaring “sateliiiiiiiiiite.” Gabrels also manages to come in with a scratchy and distorted guitar solo by the end, which is … lovely.
Battle For Britain (The Letter) C
The letter I give this is C. Oh my god, the '90s sucked! ...Or maybe it's just this song? Unfortunately, this melody is so stilted that it's actually reminding me of his lesser songs from The Man Who Sold the World. And I really don't know what's with that excessively busy drum machine loop. It's a total, cluttery mess. On the bright side, Gabrels comes in with some rip-roaring, heavily distorted guitar licks. It sounds like he's torturing something. Garson plays some piano by the end... but it's far choppier than his usual Aladdin Sane routine. ...Sheesh. There's also a part in here where his vocals break off, like there was some sort of technical malfunction. It's like nothing in here works. Except for the guitar. Gabrels rules.
Seven Years in Tibet B+
That was a '90s movie. And a pretty good one, if I can recall it correctly. ...And this song is pretty decent, too! It's characterized by a rather lethargic drum machine beat and a wandering bass-line, which sounds kind of quirky, and the groove is littered up with some saxophone and xylophones basically acting as sound effects. The chorus suddenly pipes up, and it's loud. I sort of wish the verses section wasn't just two chords, but I guess it works in spite of that. It's quite long... well over six minutes... and I'm not terribly sure it warranted such a length.
Dead Man Walking D+
That was a '90s movie, too! I guess Bowie had been going to the cinema a lot lately... Anyway, what is with this song, and why is it so awful? The problem with it is that it's so repetitive that it drives me crazy. It consists of another techno-esque drum machine loop that's both boring and blank and then there's about a second-long vocal sample that gets repeated about a billion times. At some points it sounds like my record got a crack in it... but then I remember that this is digital. How horrendous.
Telling Lies A-
Was that a '90s movie, too? Maybe he meant True Lies. ...Anyway, why does this high-pitched synthesizer loop sound exactly like a similar loop in Kate Bush's “Wow?” He even bring in a bunch of atmospheric synth-strings, similarly to the Kate Bush song. ...Well, I guess Bush's song wasn't so fast paced and it didn't have a finger-snapping, subdued rhythm. This is kind of a fun song, anyway. Bowie comes up with a bouncy and somewhat memorable melody to fit the atmosphere, although it hardly ranks among the catchiest songs he's ever written. As a whole, this is quite good! The first “quite good” song of the album! Also, according to Wikipedia, this was the first song that was ever available to purchase online from a major artist. And then two or three years later, it was available for free on Napster.
The Last Thing You Should Do B-
You mean That Thing You Do? ...Man, I had the song from that movie stuck in my head for two months after I saw that movie... Anyway, unfortunately after the mildly inspired “Telling Lies,” Bowie fell back into the realm of boring hyper-techno mediocrity. There isn't so much a melody here as there is a blank drum machine loop and a bunch of high-tech sound-effects. I suppose Bowie's voice sounds pretty cool over the mix, but he's not singing anything particularly riveting... Blah, blah, blah. The best thing I can say about this is that it's listenable.
I'm Afraid of Americans A
I'm Afraid of The Dark... some horrible Nickelodeon show I used to watch in the '90s. And finally Bowie delivered a *song* that's actually more or less memorable. The rhythm is inspired, I like the lyrics as well as the paranoid way he sings them, and the heavy riff that pops up in the middle is pretty fantastic. The melody isn't anything terribly noteworthy... The chorus is three notes, and he basically raps the verses. Nonetheless, it seems just about right... I find it memorable! ...Also according to Wikipedia, an early version of this song appeared on Showgirls. Now there's an epic '90s movie.
Law (Earthlings on Fire) B
Law & Order, a franchise that started in 1990... At least Bowie decided against closing this album with another one of those boring, horrid techno exercises. Not that this isn't a techno exercise, but it's slightly more interesting. That rubbery bass loop that I hear playing incessantly throughout is more interesting than it is not, and I find much of those space-age sound effects more interesting than not. (I hear Star Wars laser sounds in this... you know, that series was going to be revived soon... I remember seeing those dorks in tents outside of the movie theater... little did they know, the movie would blow.)
If you care enough about it, there's some remixed versions of “Little Wonder,” “I'm Afraid of Americans,” “Dead Man Walking,” and “Telling Lies.” ...I don't care, though.
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Thursday's Child A
What makes this song so excellent is that it's a *song*... It's no more of that goofy, wannabe hip stuff he subjected us to in his previous two albums. The melody is catchy, and he follows it up with a genuine sounding vocal performance, which I think goes to show that his voice had certainly gotten better with age. The chord sequences are very nice... Even without the singing, the song would still be interesting. The instrumentation is nicely polished without sounding, at all, like it was overcooked. (I guess that's a contentious statement!) The synthesizers are a bit washy, but I like them, and there are an array of goodies in here to provide extra texture. ...Some cool drum machine effects, a whispery female back-up singer, watery guitar from Reeves Gabrels. It's a beautifully constructed song, and it's so memorable that I probably could have written this paragraph without listening to it again. (...But then again, maybe I've listened to Bowie's albums a little bit too much?)
Something In the Air A-
Yet another nicely done song! Maybe it's a little bit too long (six minutes is definitely pushing it for me), but it's something that I quite enjoy the whole way. Like the previous song, Bowie's concentrating on the melody and using instrumentation only as a means to push the melody forward... Say unlike most of the songs in Earthling where Bowie seemed to give more thought to the instrumentation (which I wasn't big on) and not enough attention to the melodies. The melody is pretty nice, and Bowie delivers it in a soaring way. There are plenty of textural goodies that help move this song forward even though my first thought listening to it was “porn music.” There's some of Mike Garson's piano noodling around in the background, a full choir's worth of background singers, and some orchestral swells that come in just when Bowie decides to sing louder. ...I even hear a glockenspiel.
Surely one of the best written songs on the album, and one of my picks for the song of the album. (Despite this not always been a highly thought-of Bowie album, I have a hard time picking a favorite song on it just like I've had trouble picking one on Ziggy Stardust.) The melody is beautiful—the verses lead up to the chorus in an artful manner—and Bowie's vocals are as heartfelt as ever, which I believe shows that he had reached the reflective stage of his career. (“Where's the mourning in my life? / Where's the sense in staying right? / Who said time is on my side? / I've got ears and eyes and nothing in my life / But I'll survive your naked eyes / I'll survive.”)
If I'm Dreaming My Life B-
I graduated from Washington State University two weeks ago, and ever since I moved back to the Seattle area, I've had a dream about that college every night. This morning, I woke up in panic thinking that the semester was over, but I had forgotten to turn in my senior design project. It took me a few seconds to realize that the project was turned it in weeks ago. More than that, I have my degree, and also my final report card (3.70 GPA my final semester, baby!!!) Everything is done. ...I don't know if this happens to anyone else, but the architecture in my dreams are so fantastic that if I were to draw them, they'd most likely freak out an architecture student, which is hard to do. One of the classrooms in one of my dreams a few nights ago had enough seats in it for probably 5,000 students, although most of the seats, you couldn't see the teacher, because the room was far wider than it was deep. The campus architecture has been getting more and more twisted and distorted every night that I had been dreaming, which has been every night... The dream I had the night I got back, the campus looked more or less like it does in real life, except larger. ...So you might be asking yourself: Why did I have the time to write all that stuff? Because this song is seven minutes long and not particularly interesting. It's orchestrated pretty well although doesn't contain any of those goodies that I reported loving in “Something in the Air.” Just the ordinary instrumentation... pounding bass, synthesizers, Reeves Gabrels providing some watery guitar in the background. At a few points, the pacing of the song changes, which is kind of cool and none of it is awkwardly done. All smoothly executed. ...But unfortunately Bowie doesn't come up to the task of writing a terribly interesting melody, so that kind of ruins it for me. ...Now, just listening to this in the background while you're writing a paragraph about the dreams you've been having lately, it's quite good!
Easily one of the best songs Bowie had written through the '90s (which might not be saying much, but it's saying something)... The melody is breezy, likable and memorable, and the instrumentation is simple and sensible. The background synthesizers are a bit plain, I suppose, but they do help keep the song dramatically moving forward. Gabrels strums his acoustic guitar as those atmospheric synthesizer swells gently sway in the background. Gabrels comes in at the end with some minimal guitar licks. ...He's certainly restraining himself from the old Tin Machine days! There's not much to this song, but it doesn't need anything else. ...I almost don't want to throw the term adult-contemporary at this, because it's so tasteful. (In my world adult-contemporary is an insult.)
What's Really Happening? B+
In this case, the instrumentation sounds like it was much more well-thought-out than the melody, which sounds more suited for a children's song than something on a serious '90s pop album. Nonetheless, the repetitive chorus isn't that bad. ...And as I said before, the instrumentation is nice. In particular, Gabrels lets his guitar rip in a few spots, playing a few interesting licks here and there. The atmosphere is quite thick and seedy (which really shows it doesn't fit that goofy vocal melody).
The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell B
...Oh my... If that's what he thought about The Pretty Things, British rock group from the mid-'60s, then why did he wait until the late '90s until he came up with this hate-song? ...Moreover, why did he cover two of their songs for Pin-Ups? (Or maybe that entire album was a big middle finger to all those well-thought-of bands from the '60s?) ...While none of that is actually true, this song was featured in the movie Stigmata, which I remember vaguely being controversial when it was released in 1999, but I never bothered seeing... and probably won't ever see. However, it's an altogether decent song, and far more rock 'n' roll than anything else had been in this album. The guitars are grittier and the drums are toe-tapping. Gabrels comes in with some flashy guitar solos, similar to his unkempt Tin Machine style. Unfortunately, I don't care anything about Bowie's vocal melody. Even the chorus seems a little bit stale.
New Angels of Promise C+
This is unfortunately one of the worst melodies I ever remember Bowie writing; it seems like a bunch of somewhat random lines of ill-thought melody that were stacking haphazardly on top of each other... and providing absolutely no hooks in the process. The disjointed flutes that open the song and appear in spots throughout were a nice touch in theory, but they only end up helping to add to the song's messy and confusing feel. ...Other than that, though, the instrumentation is handled pretty well. The guitars are crunchy, and the background synthesizers are thick. It's not uncomfortable or offensive in any way... it's just somewhat dull...
Brilliant Adventure B-
If this music is supposed to illustrate a brilliant adventure, then I can have a brilliant adventure all day sitting on my couch! ...I'm not too sure what possessed Bowie to write this two-minute instrumental that reminds me—not vaguely—of those instrumentals from Labyrinth. Why??? I suppose the atmosphere is handled pretty well, but there's no instrumental theme to speak of. ...I don't get it.
The Dreamers B
I do like this song, but it's failing to deliver the goods in terms of melody, although I more like hearing Bowie singing in a soaring manner. In the verses, which features some guitar stabs, Bowie sounds like he's singing in some sort of voice altering machine... fortunately, it's not in a particularly annoying sense. I just think it goes to show that he was running out of ideas! It would have been better if Bowie would've done what he was doing at the beginning of this album and concentrated on melodies... This album really had taken a turn for the worse towards its end, hasn't it?
We All Go Through B+
Actually, I'm brand new to this one—it was present originally on the Japan release of this album. Who knows why the Japanese get so many bonus tracks? ...And what do you know? It's not a bad one. It sounds something like a psychedelic Beatles song from Magical Mystery Tour except unfortunately, Bowie couldn't quite pull out a hook like the Fab Four! The instrumentation is of course suited for pop music in the '90s, but the mystical-ish instrumentation is done pretty well, and Bowie's always-unusual, high-pitched vocals end up sounding suited for the style. It's a good find for any hardcore fan who might have missed this!
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Wow... The difference between the quality of this song and the quality of the songs in 'hours...' is staggering. The arrangements are fantastic. That light and sort of off-kilter loop that I hear at the beginning is something to keep my brain engaged while I'm listening to Bowie sing artfully an interesting melody. Meanwhile, the rhythm section very slowly builds up to a point where, at the end, it's rather involved.
A Pixies cover! Bowie seemed to be learning in his later years that a good cover now and again is something that can help liven up a record... Certainly I'd rather him do an awesome Pixies cover than write a sort of fillery song. ...Anyway, as long as he was going to do a cover, he certainly made it sound different than the original. As in the previous song, Bowie's using technology in his favor; the sound production is great. Low-pitched and rumbly guitars are there playing a menacing groove while some very well-picked synthscape sounds permeate in the background at strategic times.
Slip Away A+
Always one of my all-time favorite songs on this disc. It's a power ballad like I've never heard David Bowie do one before. For one, the production quality is beautiful. It's crystal clear and entirely engaging. Its synthesizer introduction is characterized by a synthesizer that sounds to me like water dropping into a puddle. A piano starts to play captivating chords when Bowie starts to sing, and it ever-so-gradually starts to crescendo up to the chorus. The melody is excellent—one of Bowie's all-time best—and it's perfectly sing-along-able. I also like how he name-drops the year I was born in. Just an extra bonus.
Slow Burn A+
There's Pete Townsend playing the guitar! You remember him, right? (No, he's not the child porn guy! He's an important 20th century rock 'n' roll composer!) He shreds his guitar throughout this song in a very captivating away, reminding me of how excellent the guitar was throughout Scary Monsters. ...They generate a beautifully thick and heavy pounding noise. Some have called it a rewrite of “Heroes,” and that wouldn't be terribly far off. Nonetheless, the instrumentation certainly makes it sound different. Swinging saxophones chug away, 21st-Century synthesizers (all atmospheric and well chosen), bass guitar pounding away as clear as a bell. This is a beautiful thing.
I almost have to wonder to the point I've over-listened to this album. Maybe I have too many memories attached to it... I pretty much think all these songs are perfect. It's been a long time since Bowie had written such a string of excellent songs. The production once again is thick and just about as perfect as it gets. This one's far more upbeat and poppy than the previous songs. The rhythm guitar is bubbly, and the synthesizers are well-chosen. There's even a string section that makes a few crunches here and there. The drums not only keep perfect time, but their texture gradually evolves, which helps this song remain punchy throughout. Finally, the melody is great. Another soaring thing that suits his huskily aged voice beautifully. Even the lyrics are pretty brilliant.
I've Been Waiting For You A
Another cover! An excellent choice, too, because Neil Young's original was one of the highlights of his debut album. This version improves it terribly, though. The production once again proves to be perfect. They use guitars heavily in this, and they always sound crunchy and gruffy, but that doesn't sacrifice the overall polished feeling of this song. ...Surely producer Tony Visconti was at one of his career highs with this album... And he, just like Bowie, had plenty of career highs. ...I mean, get what they did at the end of this song, with those synthesized voices and some chimes of a ferryboat bell. They didn't have to do that, but it's awesome that they did.
I Would Be Your Slave A+
I always thought it would be weird for a guy like David Bowie to write a song like this... But then again, maybe he's actually been human all this time? (“Walking in the snowy street / Let me understand / Drifting down a silent path / Stumbling over land / Open up your heart to me / Show me who you are / And I would be your slave”) His vocal performance is excellent, not only improved because it's smokier and huskier than it was in his younger days, but it sounds like he genuinely believes everything he's singing. This vocal performance rivals the one he did for “Wild is the Wind” all the way back in Station to Station. ...The production isn't quite as marvelous as any of the previous songs. The synthscape has an interesting texture with a sweeping string texture, and the drum machines are extremely well-programmed. ...But we don't want too much stuff to distract us from the vocal performance, do we?
I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship A+
...Alright, maybe I've listened to this album too much, but... you know, I've always had a soft-spot for this awesome song that takes place in outer space. ...And they're hitting another one of my soft spots by purposefully choosing this theremin-like synthesizer to wobble around faintly in the background. It's just that little touch that completely gets to me. Also those sweeping strings that come in occasionally is quite majestic. The drum machines continue to be beautiful. They're busy, crunchy, they evolve, and there's plenty of fills. ...Seriously, all you 21st Century youngins' programming drum machines these days, this is how it's done. (This is a cover of a song from a band called The Legendary Stardust Cowboy. Although if it weren't for the lyrics, it would have been entirely unrecognizable.)
5:15 the Angels Have Come A+
I might understand why you'd be wary of me giving the previous two songs perfect ratings, but this one... Well, I do hope that even you would concede that this song has a brilliant chorus. And the way that chorus suddenly erupts over the also-catchy verses section grabs hold of my senses and takes them for a thrill ride. The atmosphere is completely nailed the whole way through, and the lyrics continue to be interesting. These ones are rather pessimistic. (“5:15 / All of my life, angels have gone / I'm changing trains / Angels like them thin on the ground / All of my life / All legs and wings / Swings turn the eyes.”)
Everyone Says “Hi” A+
Well, after the previous song's pessimism it's about time for something just a little more uplifting. It's a song about a letter to someone writing to a friend who is far away. (“Said you sailed a big ship / Said you sailed away / Didn't know the right thing / To say / I'd love to get a letter / Like to know what's what / Hope the weather's good / And it's not too hot / For you / Everyone says hi / Everyone says hi / Everyone says / Don't stay in a sad place / Where they don't care how you are / Everyone says hi”) ...These are some of the best lyrics he's ever written. Plus, the melody is beautiful; the verses are engaging, it soars in the chorus... it even has a middle-eight section that's perfectly placed. There's another brilliant build-up in the orchestration; it starts rather simply with an acoustic guitar, but it isn't too long before we get a sweeping string section.
Better Future A+
...Yeah, another song I can't bear to give anything less than an A+ to... Well, I don't call David Bowie my favorite musician for nothing, you know! That watery guitar that's noodling around in the background is excellent. It's a bit like Moose's High Ball Me, which is another one of those recent albums that I had listened to freshly in the '00s, which defined that decade for me. ...There's a build-up to all these songs, but this one somehow seems more magical. The atmosphere grows thicker and thicker as it reaches its conclusion, but it never for a moment seems like it's too much.
Heathen (The Rays) A
And here's the grand finale. I've been listening to this album for quite a few years now, but it always seems to end a little too quickly. (The vast majority of albums on the planet have at least ONE song that's somewhat substandard compared to the rest... which are usually the moments I start counting down until the album's finale... Heathen does not. Seriously, all the mere As I give this could have easily been A+s... but you know? I've got to distinguish between the songs I love and the songs I love even more.) This is another heavily orchestrated masterpiece. Bowie sounds utterly frightened, delivering these lyrics. (“Waiting for something / Looking for someone / Is there no reason? / Have I stared too long?”) ...Once again, how could it be that David Bowie was human all this time? ...Was the rock 'n' roll space alien just an act? The instrumentals are thick and larger than life, generating these rather huge orchestral swells throughout that just captivate the hell out of me.
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New Killer Star A
Right away, you can tell that he's not trying to make another album like Heathen. But that shouldn't be too much of a surprise, since he didn't even like making his albums sound like the previous ones in the '70s. This is much more of a rock 'n' roll song with a thrusty beat, simple though upbeat verses section, and a soaring chorus. The rhythm is nothing if it isn't toe-tapping with that catchy riff, and the chorus is something I usually like mouthing along with. The instrumentation is far more rock oriented than the previous song, but you'll hear some goodies if you listen to the background; there are these high-pitched, wobbly guitars everywhere, which provides an interesting texture. ...It's not the best song Bowie has ever done, but it's catchy and I love it.
Pablo Picasso A+
This is a cover of a Jonathan Richman song and—in keeping with the tradition from Heathen—he makes it sound virtually unrecognizable from the original. There certainly wasn't that broken up, Latin-inspired guitar in The Modern Lovers' original! Again, it's really cool how they produced that... When the actual song pipes up, the beat is absolutely driving, and it's endlessly entertaining how Bowie belts out—almost raps—these hilarious lyrics. (“Well, some people try to pick up girls and they get called assholes / This never happened to Pablo Picasso / The girls would turn the color of a juicy avocado / Then he would drive down their street in his El Dorado / Well, he was only five-foot-three but girls could not resist his stare / Pablo Picasso never got called an asshole.”)
Never Get Old A-
Surely not the strongest Bowie hook in the history of Bowie hooks, but it's a well-constructed song all the same. I've always enjoyed that punchy rhythm, taken on but a bit of a menacing bass guitar and a funk guitar. The build-up to the chorus is well done, and the chorus itself that finds Bowie screaming “I'm never ever gonna get old!” is memorable. Perhaps he never will get old? Are people still going to be listening to rock 'n' roll 200 years from now?
The Loneliest Guy B
This is sorta one of those moments when Bowie can go just a bit too far with his artsy-fartsy tendencies while forgetting to create a particularly engaging song. This is a very sullen and morose piano ballad with echoey effects put in the background, and Bowie sings these rather depressing lyrics. (“Streets turn from walls / Empty smell metal / Weeds between buildings / Pictures on my hard drive / But I'm the luckiest guy / Not the loneliest guy.”) ...Some of his sullen lyrics on Heathen were really good... but these seem a bit forced. It's also kinduva boring song. I say that with love.
Looking For Water A-
Again, it's not the hookiest David Bowie song in the history of David Bowie songs, but I like listening to it quite a lot. The loud, pounding drums are interesting and sort of menacing. The rhythm guitar riff has a weird, alien quality to it. Of course, all those sound effects in the background are a treat. Some jangly guitar in the background, hazy synthesizer effects, twisty guitar licks. ...Oh yeah, good song.
She'll Drive the Big Car A
Now this is a hooky song and a total pleasure for me to sit through. Once again, the rhythm continues to be pop-rock oriented, so you can tap your foot to it if you want. Bowie sings that juicy melody in that pleasant, high-pitched voice (a tone that he had used previously in the title track of Never Let Me Down), and it's almost like I've never heard anything more pleasant. The instrumentation continues to have plenty of goodies in it; the harmonica at the beginning is really fun, the background “oooohs” in the chorus is perfectly placed. ...I'm not sure what's with that brief sound effect of that truck backing up. I've been known to listening to this album a lot while driving in a car, and I keep on thinking a truck is about to back into me.
...This is just a good song. I mean, I listen to this and can't possibly wish for anything better. The melody is memorable and sweetly sung by Bowie. I continue to enjoy the upbeat and bright instrumentation as well as the atmospheric arrangements. (If you listen closely, there's some watery guitar, and—what's that popping up midway through—a Mellotron? Awesome. Though reading the lyrics, it seems like he's feeling guilty about something or other... (“All I've done / I've done for me / All you gave / You gave for free / I gave nothing in return / And there's little left of me.”)
Fall Dog Bombs the Moon A+
Doesn't that sound like a random string of words? ...(“Fall Dog is good and smart / Smart time breaks the heart / Fall Dog bombs the moon / Devil in the market place / Devil in your bleeding face / Fall Dog bombs the moon / What a dog.”) ...I don't get it! But lyrics aside, this is yet another insanely catchy and memorable tunes of the lot. The guitars adopt a far gruffier tone, and Bowie sings in an appropriately gritty tone of voice. It's all very entertaining. ...I even always like hearing how the song ends... (I can't possibly describe properly how those long-drawn-out tones suddenly flicker out, so maybe you'll have to hear it!)
Try Some Buy Some A
A George Harrison cover! He'd be my favorite ex-Beatle if it only weren't for Paul McCartney. (Well, Harrison's at least a close second.) This song always seemed a bit Italian to me, and I'm not terribly sure why. Maybe it's one of those synthesizers I hear in the background that seems vaguely like an Ennio Morricone composition. ...Well anyway, this was a really good song in its original form, and Bowie's utterly sweeping and lushly orchestrated version is beautiful as it plays that gracefully descending chord progression. The verses are just as captivating as that utterly soaring chorus.
Unfortunately, the title song always came across as a bit weak in relation to the rest of the album even though it certainly rocks the hardest. Perhaps it's those drums, which are just too intrusive to my ears? The melody isn't terribly great, although I certainly like hearing Bowie scream it on the top of his lungs. The gruff guitar that plays a few licks throughout is an excellent touch. The way this song suddenly jumps into a brief acoustic song in its final third—which is probably easy to miss—reminds me of “That's Motivation” from Absolute Beginners. Oh, remember that album? ...Oh yes, this is a nice song. Not my favorite, anyway.
Bring Me the Disco King B+
This has nothing to do with disco at all but rather JAZZ. Or something like jazz. Some jazz freak is probably freaking about that I'd call this jazz. But you know, there's a jazzy piano and jazzy shuffle drums and David Bowie singing like some sunglasses-toting jazzy king. The song goes on for nearly eight minutes, which is JAZZY. After sitting through this whole album, the last thing you'd expect is a song like this, I suppose. I like it, but … well it's long, isn't it? Even when I was listening to this album over and over and over again, sometimes I wouldn't listen to this one the whole way through. ...Who cares about jazz these days, anyway?
Live Santa Monica '72 (2008)
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Somebody says the house lights are about to go down for the appearance of David Bowie. ...What lights?
Hang Onto Yourself A-
Oh yeah... I'm sitting in my darkened bedroom writing these reviews where the lights have been down to begin with, so hearing such an announcement hasn't been terrible exciting to me. But then, I start to hear David Bowie singing one of his classic Ziggy Stardust songs! ...But first thing's first. The recording quality isn't very good. Bowie's voice seems to fade away at awkward spots, and I'm sad that Ronson's characteristic guitar solos aren't being picked up terribly well. For almost every reason, I can tell right away that you're going to want Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture instead of this for a good Bowie live document. ...This one's just for the diehard fans. I'm not even through reviewing all the songs and I'm making this proclamation.
Ziggy Stardust A
Then again, I suppose this was a bootleg, and I would much rather listen to a legit copy of this than having to sneak around in a dark alley somewhere and buy it in a paper bag. (How did people used to buy bootlegs, anyway? I mean, before the Internet made it so easy?) I'm such a fan of this song that I like hearing ALL versions of it, recording quality be damned. Of course, these guys were going off on a Velvet Underground tangent anyway, and especially these songs with heavily distorted electric guitars never seem to lose much with a poor recording. They just make those gritty things grittier. A few feedback noises from the microphones? No problem! It's a pretty good rendition of the great song anyway!
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch!!! ...It seems no matter what, I'll also never hate this song! ...The only reason I think I should, probably, is because I had just reviewed a Bowie live album that is better than this. This should have been released in place of David Live... (assuming the “soundtrack” was owned partly by the director or the film company), but this is all kind of pointless now, isn't it? ...Oh well. We all like “Changes.” Or at least I hope so.
The Supermen B
Well, now he's getting to songs that I never cared about! But at least it's something that wasn't featured in the last live album I reviewed, so this is something that his big-time fans ought to be able to especially like. It's a shame that it was always such an underwhelming song. The melody never did anything to me, and neither did the instrumentation. At least they give it some flashy glam treatment with some pounding distorted guitar and drums for the chorus, but that doesn't save it.
Life on Mars? A
Here's another song that I cannot possibly hate... even if I was at gunpoint and my life depended on it... It also wasn't on the other live album, and it's one of the BIG ONES, so count this as a highlight by default. However, don't expect this rendition of it to blow you away or anything, but Bowie at least sounds like he's having fun with singing the soaring chorus up toward the stars. Garson's piano is very pretty. ...What else should I say?
Five Years A
Yet another song not to be featured on the other live album, which I think a lot of fans would really appreciate. Obviously, it's one of his best ones. ...I don't even know why I'm writing this, since it's pretty obvious I'm going to give this album a 12. But anyway, it's such a cool song! I'm not sure what's with that guy singing out-of-tune closer to the tape recorder than Bowie, but whatever. At least he sounds like he's taking the material seriously when he sings it, and the instruments are handled nicely. Again, it's nothing that'll blow you away, but this is DAVID BOWIE! (Woooo!)
Space Oddity A
Still nice to hear even though it was already on Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture. For quite a time, I considered this my favorite song ever written, after all. But there's something weird going on here. It's 100 percent acoustic. Even that famous orchestral build-up that's supposed to have launched Major Tom into some sort of other dimension isn't electric... Rather it's taken on by Bowie yelling “Uuuuuuuuuu-uuuuuuUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU--daboodabuh!” That's pretty goofy. But somehow hearing Bowie having a nice and simple duet with someone (I think that's probably Ronson) is a very nice thing to experience. I still like the live version on the other live album more, but this is at least different.
Andy Warhol A-
Woohoo! A live version of this crazy old song!! But where's the crazy stopping and whipping sounds? ...Oh well, this is still pretty sweet. Like the previous song, this is fairly simple with acoustic guitar strumming and … perhaps just a bit of an amplified electric guitar that's not fuzzy or distorted at all. It almost feels like I'm listening to one of those horrible Unplugged albums from the '90s or something. ...At the end of this, Bowie starts to say something about palm trees. …???
My Death B
I don't know why, but I figured he had only done this Jacques Brel cover as a one-time thing for his end concert, but here I guess is evidence that he had been doing it for his whole tour. It's also interesting to note, here, that his audience seemed much more polite in Santa Monica, because Bowie doesn't shush anyone up or anything. It also sounds like he moved a bit closer to the recording mic, because I haven't heard his voice more clearly for this entire live album as I do here. ...Now for the rating, this isn't a Bowie song! Why the heck is he singing it? Who does he think he is, Scott Walker?
The Width of a Circle B
Uh oh! It's this song. (I still have to huff a bit whenever I hear a non-title track song from The Man Who Sold the World.) But great thing that they plugged back in that electric guitar, because this wouldn't even be half as enjoyable if that guitar weren't distorted all to hell. The jam they go off on isn't quite as lengthy as it was on Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, and I'd even wager to say not as spine-tingling, but at least it's shorter! We get this song over with quicker!
Queen Bitch A
Here's another one of his BIG songs that was inexplicably left off of his setlist in Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, but fortunately it's completely rectified here. It's much looser and sloppier than the studio cut, which you'd expect. I also can't hear Bowie's vocals terribly well the whole way through, but you know what? It doesn't matter. It's fun, and it still makes me want to tap my foot.
Moonage Daydream A
More ultimate proof that this album just doesn't cut it when you put it side by side with that other live album I keep talking about. There, the electric guitar solo was positively shattering, and this one seems more casual. On the other hand, I suppose people say that this is what the song normally sounded like on tour, and they pulled out the big guns for that final show of theirs. But anyway, this is still a great song of course, and it's always great to hear Mick Ronson go at it. I love the melody!
John, I'm Only Dancing A-
Ah, here's a song that I never actually reviewed! (Maybe one day I should go back and add track reviews to all those bonus discs that had been released in the past decade or so.) This is a catchy glam tune that did not gain wide airplay in the USA, because it was too risque. (It's about a homosexual assuring his partner that the female he's dancing with is merely 'dancing.') These days, people might stay away from it because he did another song called “John, I'm Only Dancing (Again)” during the Young Americans era, and it was AWFUL. Obviously, the studio album is much better than this mediocre recording, but we do get to hear Ronson making some interesting grumble noises with his guitar! That can't be bad. ...After this, we hear Bowie introducing the band! Although, he couldn't sound less enthusiastic. Like he was sleepy or something.
Waiting For the Man A
What?! This ain't no Bowie song!!! But hey what a nice cover! I wouldn't go so far as to say it's particularly better than any of The Velvet's covers (except for that godawful performance Live at Max's Kansas City), but it's quite good! Of course you shouldn't be too surprised at Bowie giving a good rendition of this tune; how could he possibly screw it up? His live band was good, and they put forth a lot of gruffy and gritty energy, which really starts to kick in at the minute and a half mark, and they pretty much keep on going for the remainder of its six minutes. Bowie's vocal style was modeled quite a lot on Lou Reed's. The melody is great, of course. ...Believe me, if you're a Velvets fan, you'll like this.
The Jean Genie A
I thought it was a little bit weird that there wasn't much material from Aladdin Sane in this album, but after spending about 0.015 seconds on Wikipedia, I discovered that Aladdin Sane hadn't been released when this was recorded. ...So, I guess here he's treating his lucky audience to a preview of the next album he had in the works! It sounds a lot like the album version, but Ronson is having some fun playing some excellent guitar improvisations in there. The beat of course is driving and solid such that it makes my foot tap!
Suffragette City A-
Wow, Ronson's going to town with that ultra-distorted guitar, which sounds like it's maxing out the speakers on a few occasions. The unfortunate thing is Bowie's vocals are very obscured here... at a few points it sounds like he either stopped singing or had his voice moved too far away from the microphone. This undoubtedly would have been a blast and a half to see live, but it seems a bit disconnected to me. ...and then ENCORE!! ENCOOOORRRRE!!! Mr. Announcer Guy from the first track of this album informs us that “We have a standing ovation!” ...Woo!!!
Rock 'N' Roll Suicide A
What a freaking fantastic song! (Did you know that I'm, like, a huge fan of Ziggy Stardust?) This is a neat idea for a post-encore song, too, just because it leaves everyone at the concert with a lasting, memorable impression. That's the sort of song it is! Bowie's vocals are loud and screaming and passionate, like they were on the studio cut. The band itself doesn't do anything wholly extraordinary to my ears, but they're surely solid. ...Ah these guys spoiled me too much in Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture obviously!
A Reality Tour (2010)
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Rebel Rebel A
I'm not going to be lazy, but I'm also not going to write a thesis paper on every single one of these songs. We *all* know them by heart, right? Or at least I do. He opened all his concerts on the tour with this song (apart from an instrumental that played before he came out of stage), and it's FANTASTIC. Bowie's vocals are excellent, singing its catchy melody with the appropriate amount of spunk for a rock star. It's sparkly, it's fun, it's energetic. Splendid.
New Killer Star A
I'm pretty much going to give all these songs As... but I've lost myself so far into Bowie fandom that this will surprise no-one. What I like about hearing his new songs among his classic ones is how well they seem to FIT in. The man's career certainly had its ups and downs, but there have been massively excellent songs scattered throughout. Extra kudos goes to that guitarist who's playing those rather beautiful and atmospheric noodles in the background... I also like hearing that keyboard bending around in just the right spots. …This live performance is completely nailed.
Give this an A also? Why not? ...I guess it defeats the purpose of track reviews if I give everything the same rating, but whatever. This is a consistent concert set-list! Also, they're generating such momentum that it's hard for me to deny that I'm having a blast with this. I'd even wager to say this version is better than the studio cut, mostly because the drums aren't so intrusive and I couldn't hear Dorsey's background vocals at all! ...Also, at the end of this, we hear Bowie's bantering. His bantering on this live performance is a little bit funnier than the bantering he gave at the shows I attended. But he must've been excited about embarking on a new tour! (And his last tour ever? ...sigh.)
Ah we know this song, right? In no way would I say this is better than the studio cut, but it's still a fantastic song of course. The bass guitar is really loud on this one for some reason, but I suppose that sort of gives it an extra attitude. Again, Bowie's vocals are solid and fun. Dorsey takes over John Lennon's role, because I guess John Lennon was dead, or something. They go off on a few playful tangents that wasn't in the original song, which surely makes it interesting to its longtime fans.
I remember Bowie announcing that he was going to perform a Pixies song and being somewhat taken aback when it was met with cheers. ...I'm pretty sure the crowd was cheering at everything he was saying, but perhaps everyone in the audience was a Pixies fan? ...Anyway, this selection from Heathen is a bit of gruffness at a time when it's appreciated. Of course, the melody is catchy, and Bowie sings it wonderfully! ...Yes, I'm still giving As to everything...
Sister Midnight A
Here's a song I never heard Bowie perform at either of the concerts! I feel left out! (But then again, I got to hear him sing “Starman,” which doesn't appear on this album... so there.) This is of course one of the more popular songs he wrote with Iggy pop in 1978. I suppose he also could have performed “Red Money,” since it has the same riff, but I think people everywhere know “Sister Midnight” slightly better. It's yet another solid performance of an excellent song.
Could it have disappointed a few people that Bowie was performing so many songs from his two most recent albums. ...I sure as heck know that it didn't disappoint me since I loved those albums. Though you might notice that I'm knocking this one down a notch. It's a great song, of course, but Bowie's vocals seem drowned out a little too much by that electric guitar. ...There I go, throwing around nitpicks!
All the Young Dudes A+
Yup, I heard him sing this one on tour, but I think this performance is probably better... as we all know, it's that classic Bowie gave to Mott the Hoople reportedly in an effort to keep them from splitting up! (That's kind of a weird thing he did... are pre-Bowie Mott the Hoople albums any good? I suppose I never bothered to hear.) ...Anyway, Bowie asks his audience for a singalong, and I think they probably do. He creates a dust-rustling atmosphere, and he's singing with as much verve as he ever sang.
Be My Wife A
Now he's performing songs from Low! The rock 'n' roll instrumentation from the previous songs carries over into this, so don't expect any of those cold synths! Although whatever they did to those drums sounds quite appropriate for it. I really love listening to those background keyboards... it sounds like it's on some sort of synth-horn setting, but it's just a slightly quirky touch that gives it a bit of a new personality. The two guitarists going off play riffs that sound similar to the studio cut, but they're also looser. Very beautiful!
The Lonliest Guy A-
Bowie did this song in Kansas City, and I remember the moment it started to play, the people sitting next to me took a bathroom break. They should have held it! (My strategy is to never drink liquids in the hours before a concert.) Perhaps not the most eventful song Bowie's ever done (and also probably the worst song on Reality). But whatever. We can't rock 'n' roll 100 hours a day... These guys do an excellent job nailing the atmosphere on this one with those wobbly synthesizers and sullen piano, especially for a concert setting, and Bowie's sings through it artfully.
The Man Who Sold the World A+
I thought I didn't get to hear Bowie sing this classic at the concerts I've been to, but the concert reviews I wrote of them have apparently proven me wrong. I heard him do it twice, as a matter of fact. ...Why don't I specifically remember it? Is my memory not as good as I think it is? ...Anyway, this is fantastic. I might even ponder if this is just slightly better than the original version, because this band is so good. The electric guitarist plays a smooth and loose interpretation of that familiar riff, and I really like hearing those thick and heavy background vocals. They even sound pretty eerie toward the end there. ...Nice!!!
Fantastic Voyage A
Now, this was a nice song for him to pull out of the depths of his back-catalog, the somewhat under-celebrated Lodger. (I guess I'm guilty of sort of under-celebrating it, but … that's only in relation to his other albums.) Again, I'm going to say that this better than the studio cut just because the atmosphere is so nice. The melody was always extremely hooky, but Bowie's vocals seem almost thoughtful amongst those echoed synthesizers and guitars. Beautiful!
Hallo Spaceboy B+
When I went to the Bowie concerts, I hadn't quite warmed to his '90s output. His '60s, '70s, '80s and '00s material, I worshiped, but his '90s stuff. ...Also not helping is the fact that this song was handily the worst song on 1. Outside. At least in my opinion. ...Fortunately, they greatly improved the atmosphere of this. The guitarists are continuing to play some extremely atmospheric and loose notes, and those drums aren't nearly as annoyingly pounding. The melody was never one of Bowie's more memorable ones, but he at least appears to be having fun singing with a distorted, echoing effect put on his microphone. Mike Garson gets a small chance to do his thing toward the end of this. (And believe me, I was thrilled to be able to see Mike Garson in person as well... I mean, he's the dude that gave Aladdin Sane much of its craziness.) ...Despite this not being nearly as excellent of a Bowie song as any of the other ones in the album thus far, it's interesting enough that it's hardly a chore to sit through. Rather, I like it! Hands down, this is better than the studio cut.
Wooo! One of the reasons I wanted so badly to see Bowie in concert supporting his recent albums in 2003 was because they were so good. I worried that if I waited he would release a worse one down the road, and I would have to sit through songs I didn't care about. ...Little did I know that the man would stop releasing albums. (Boooo!) Anyway, this fantastic selection from Heathen doesn't quite have the same delicate atmosphere. ...But how can anything anywhere create an atmosphere more delicate than Heathen? EH? The guitars are a bit murkier, but they're still easy to immerse yourself into. ...which is a good thing, because they extend this quite a lot, nearly seven minutes not including a jovial band introduction. And just as the studio album has it, they break into a driving drum beat halfway through, and I can feel it pulse through my heart!
Under Pressure A
You know what? I've never been the biggest fan of this song, in spite of the fact that it's by far one of his more recognizable tunes. (And I wonder if part of that is because Vanilla Ice sampled it... Being a product of the '90s, I heard the Vanilla Ice song long before I ever started buying classic albums...) I've since reconciled with it. I wouldn't put it in my list of Top 50 favorite songs of David Bowie, but it's still a nice song. Gail Ann Dorsey, apparently, can not only play a real mean bass, but she can sing Freddie Mercury's part very well!
Life on Mars? A
Man! This live album isn't even half over! ...Well, I can't imagine anyone other than hardcore Bowie fans would own this album, so keep it going! The guitarists more or less give it a rest for this rendition, and Mike Garson is given his due chance to shine. The audience sounds like they know the lyrics by heart; I can hear that thick wall of people singing in front of him. Halfway through, they start to layer on some thick synth strings and atmospheric guitars. ...Thus, let's consider this yet another fine rendition of a classic song!
Battle For Britain (The Letter) B
He also performed this one at one of the concerts I attended, and I specifically remember not being too thrilled about it. I mean, it was still awesome being in the audience, but he could have performed something else. ...Why not “Space Oddity?” ...The atmosphere is a little better than it was on the original album, but I don't think that can quite save this dead-as-a-dead-fish melody. ...Eh, not everything the man ever produced was golden. So what? (Or he could have performed “Golden Years.”) Mike Garson gets it on with his piano in the middle of this, at least!
Ashes to Ashes A+
Ah, what would a Bowie concert be like without this classic from Scary Monsters? (Why isn't “Fashion” on here, also? He sang one both times I saw him.) But I remember this as being one of the highlights in person, and not surprisingly, it's also one of the highlights of this live album release. The melody is just as infectious as ever. They probably didn't have a prepared piano so that memorable riff is taken on by twinkly sounding guitar. Bowie's vocals are also on fire, sounding like he's having the time of his life singing this. Yay!! Icing on the cake is Mike Garson who lends his characteristic piano noodles to the ending, which certainly wasn't there in the original!
The Motel B+
I like how at the beginning of these track reviews, I said I wasn't going to make them very long... and what do I do? ...Well, when I get going... Anyway... IF YOU'RE NOT GOING TO PLAY “STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET,” THEN STOP PLAYING SONGS FROM OUTSIDE, DANGIT!!!! ...Ah, but I mean no disrespect to Bowie and his band. The atmosphere is nailed one again and it really picks up steam as it goes along. Bowie sounds like he's some sort of jazz superstar singing through this. It's also giving Garson yet another chance to show off his flashy, acrobatic piano skills. Always appreciated to hear those. Again, this is probably better than the original, but it also wasn't the best song to begin with.
Loving the Alien A-
Unfortunately, I didn't get to hear this one! I remember anticipating the concerts and seeing that he was performing this song at some of his other concerts, but I guess he shook it out of his set-list before I came along... And why did I have a hankering for him to sing something from Tonight? Because I'm completely nuts, that's why. ...This also doesn't sound anything like the studio cut. Instead of being synth-based, this is guitar based... and acoustic at that! Gerry Leonard (I presume from the introduction) plays a much eerier form of its familiar riff on an atmospheric electric guitar before a sullen sounding acoustic guitar comes into give it some body. The drums never come up. ...Bowie sings the lyrics in a thoughtful manner. ...Interesting! (But I like the original better. Chalk one up for '80s overproduction.)
Never Get Old A-
Nothing like a smattering of “Never Get Old” to take us out of the acoustic lull of the previous song! (Not that I didn't like it...) This was one of the lesser upbeat songs from Reality, but it was still a lot of fun. It sounds nearly exactly like the studio version sounded, except for subtle differences in the instrumentation as well as a small smattering of audience noise.
Ch-ch-ch-ch!!! ANGES!!! How could there ever be a David Bowie concert where this wasn't performed? (Well I guess there was the early '90s... No wonder people hate Tin Machine so much...) But anyway, this rendition of one of Bowie's most classic songs probably won't blow anyone away. Unlike some of the earlier performances, they don't inject tons of energy into this, especially as I'd imagine Bowie was a bit tired of singing at this point. ...But no matter what, they couldn't go wrong with this.
I'm Afraid of Americans A
I did actually like this song way back in 2004... the only song I liked from Earthling at all. But even then, I didn't think it was the great shakes. It was, after all, a song from 1997 that wanted to be popular with the teenagers. I was a teenager in 1997, but never cared much for my peers' taste in music... (Is that messed up?) But anyway, this song is REALLY kicking in this live setting. The beat is driving, the guitars continue to be captivating and atmospheric, and Bowie's vocals are completely adrenaline-filled. I'm not sure how he recovered from that tired state he was in for “Changes.” ...Unless he had a break, or this album isn't sequential, or something.
This was the song he did before the encores during both of the performances I went to. And I couldn't come up with a better idea for a song to close with than this classic, which I've long considered my favorite song of his my whole life. It starts with some sort of minimal guitar before picking up some steam (and a bit of magic) when a synthscape and more of that smooth, atmospheric guitar comes in. Bowie's vocals are PASSIONATE through this, making it seem like he realizes exactly how great this song is. ...The only problem I can see with this is that this is the only song he ever sang from “Heroes”. (There was a guy standing behind me in Kansas City who kept on screaming “Joe the Lion” out at him. ...I usually don't agree with people who scream out at concerts, but this dude had a point! Some “Joe the Lion” action would have been damn awesome.)
Bring Me the Disco King B+
If these tracks are sequential at all, everything after this must've been a part of the encore... So this is that lengthy jazz piece that ended Reality, and … eh. As I said in that album review, it's OK but nothing to write home about. It's performed almost exactly like it was there, so I'm not going to write anything else about it...
Slip Away A
Easily one of my favorite songs from Heathen... although that's one of those albums where nearly every song is my favorite. (I'm a rabid Heathen fan, if you didn't know!) The melody itself is beautiful, and this performance is energetic and passionate. Of course the atmosphere doesn't quite match the quality of the studio cut, but they come surprisingly close. I hear those crystal-clear keyboard sounds and lovely jazz-piano lines. It's so beautiful!
Heathen (The Rays) A-
Another Heathen selection, and thus another great song! Though I'm not really getting the chills hearing it here... I'm not sure why, but it probably has to do with the much barer atmosphere that comes here. It's also quite long, and I can't think of a good reason why it should have been drawn out so much. Particularly at the end where it sort of fades out into guitar noise. ...Seemed like I was mostly complaining about a song that I like, but I have to justify my A-minuses to songs from Heathen, I guess.
Five Years A
Three or four more to go out with? Awwww!!! (I might normally be relieved after writing track reviews through such a long album, but... Hey this is David Bowie!) He's giving his Ziggy Stardust days a nod, which to this day is probably his most well-loved album by the people at large. And it shows. This song is melodic and so well-played and sung that it's EPIC.
Hang Onto Yourself A
Everybody loves this song, too! How is it possible that he's written so many excellent songs? ...Why are there people who don't like David Bowie much?? ...This song picks up all that rabble-rousing mayhem that you probably think it would. That is, if you're in agreement with every good person in the world and love this song. I wouldn't say this compares that well with the live versions I heard with Mick Ronson! ...But I suppose that guy was dead, unfortunately.
Ziggy Stardust A
He also closed both concerts I went to with this song, which happens to be one of my favorites songs of all time. (How many times do I write that?) I mean, the melody is catchy, the guitars sound gruff but still polished enough to be pleasant-on-the-ears. If it was the final song of the evening, then Bowie's indeed showing it with an especially good vocal performance, sounding just as passionate as he should be. And, yup, I can hear that audience sing along with it.
Fall Dogs Bomb the Moon (previously unreleased) A
I think this “previously unreleased” business means that it wasn't included in the concert video. Why did he leave this song off? I don't know! It's one of my more favorite ones from Reality, because it's so dang tuneful! As with most of the songs from the recent albums, they don't do much to change the instrumentation around. Suffice it to say, if you liked the original version, you'll like this one.
Breaking Glass (previously unreleased) A
I know Bowie performed this one, too. I had this weird, fleeting fantasy that maybe he somehow got the recording from the concert that I went to! ...But nah, it doesn't look like it. But anyway, this is another fantastic song. Again, they perform this to match with the previous songs, which means that it's far lusher than the original was allowed to be. The guitars are loose and liquidy, and Mike Garson gets to jam out a bit with his piano. Dorsey is right on cue with that famous bass-line from the original. ...Did I ever give that song its proper due for having an awesome bass-line?
China Girl A
He did sing this one at both concerts I've been to... and now here's physical evidence of how I was trying to describe his performances of these songs when I wrote those concert reviews. ...It sounds like he was trying to invent a different melody for it! I theorized that he was a little tired of singing it. But... well, it doesn't sound like that so much now that I'm listening to this in the live album. He comes off as passionate. Yeah, that's right. Just enough to be a showman and enough to show that he likes singing them. The band itself is really cooking, generating A LOT of steam. It's definitely different than the original, but it's just as danceable. (P.S. I heard him give a sort of tropical rendition of “Let's Dance” in Kansas City... Someone should have recorded that!!)
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