The day’s getting long and it’s time to wrap things up. Here, then, is the conclusion of my look back at David Bowie’s albums, and my favorite two songs from each.
After the release of Never Let Me Down, David Bowie spent a few years in the hard rock Tin Machine band, releasing two albums of material plus a “live” album. When that was played out and the band disbanded in 1992, Mr. Bowie released his first “new” solo album, Black Tie White Noise. As with many things David Bowie, it was another change in direction. While he had spend the past few years doing heavy metal, Black Tie White Noise presented softer, dance oriented music that bordered on electronica. My favorite track from that album is The Wedding Song.
Runner up is Nite Flights.
In 1995 David Bowie released 1. Outside. Done in collaboration with Brian Eno, the album was very long, taking up almost an entire CD (remember those?!) and was filled with so many different music styles. It was a concept album, a story involving the turn of the century and an “art crime”. It was thick, it was heavy, and it took a few listens for me to get it.
But when I did, I was hooked.
To me, 1. Outside is without a doubt Mr. Bowie’s greatest “modern” album. Most critics and audiences, alas, thought otherwise and the album didn’t do all that well. Too bad. To this day I think it may be one of the best musical releases of the 1990’s.
My favorite track on the album is the haunting re-working of Strangers When We Meet. The original version of the song appeared on Mr. Bowie’s Buddha of Suburbia soundtrack from 1993 (I was very tempted to include it in this list, but it is a soundtrack).
My next favorite track is I Have Not Been To Oxford Town, a variation of which wound up appearing in the film Starship Troopers.
When 1. Outside was about to be released, Mr. Bowie noted in interviews it was part of a trilogy (I believe) of albums, and that there was plenty of recorded work to be released. Mr. Bowie is nothing if not practical. The failure of 1. Outside meant a quick change of directions and no sequel albums would appear. Instead, Mr. Bowie followed the album with 1997’s electronica-centric Earthling. This is a very high energy dance album that is quite enjoyable if not as ambitious as 1. Outside. My favorite song on it is Dead Man Walking.
Second favorite is I’m Afraid of Americans.
After the high energy of Earthling, Mr. Bowie slowed things down quite a bit for 1999’s hours…. The album, like Scary Monsters before it, appeared to find Mr. Bowie in a reflective mood once again as songs made reference to earlier periods in his life. Alas, it was an album that while it had some pretty good songs, had a pretty bleak tone to it and was hard to build enthusiasm for. However, there are good songs within and, unlike Never Let Me Down, Mr. Bowie is obviously putting an effort into his work, even if the overall the product never really grabbed me.
My favorite song on the album is The Pretty Things Go To Hell (a direct reference to Oh! You Pretty Things from Hunky Dory).
Runner up: Thursday’s Child.
Released in 2002, Heathen had critics singing its praises and talking of the “return” of David Bowie. It did well in terms of sales and featured some good music. Like hours…, it was a generally mellow and introspective album. Alas, like hours… it was another work that didn’t connect with me as well as some other David Bowie albums.
My favorite song on the album wound up being his magnificent reworking of his 1969 song Conversation Piece, included on a bonus disc on the deluxe release of the album. Mr. Bowie really hits this song out of the ballpark, making it an absolute masterpiece.
Runner up: Slow Burn.
It’s hard to believe David Bowie’s last full album, Reality, was released in 2003, nearly a decade ago. The album was a decent effort, far more upbeat and “rocking” than the previous two albums. My favorite track on it is New Killer Star.
Runner up: Days.
Throughout his career, Mr. Bowie has produced roughly an album a year, but following the release of Reality and the subsequent tour, he’s slowed down considerably.
Perhaps it was to be expected. Mr. Bowie has faced open heart surgery for an acutely blocked artery and, given his age, perhaps has decided it was time to slow things down a bit. Nonetheless, there was word that he was working on a new album…in Berlin.
As a David Bowie fan(atic), I hope to have the album in my hands soon. Until then, Happy Birthday Mr. Bowie. Like many others, I’ve spend many pleasant hours listening to your music. I hope to do so for many more years to come.
Thank you. Thank you very much.