It seems every year we go through a “will they or won’t they?” renewal question regarding the TV show Fringe. Those who have read my previous comments regarding the show know that I generally like the series…sometimes quite a bit. Nonetheless, the show frustrates me at times for various reasons (I thought, for example, the start of this season dragged the whole “Where is Peter” concept a little too much). Further, I’ve noted that the show’s first season bears little resemblance to what/where the series eventually went, a sure fire sign of the networks rushing it to air before it was at least a little more fully thought through (Btw, I expect there to be evolutions of story concepts in all and any series. However, if you look at the Fringe’s evolution, you see things like the Fringe division tasked to “scientific” crimes/terrorism -the whole scientific terrorist angle pretty much disappeared after season one-, where the lead character has her boyfriend’s mind within hers, no hint at all that Walter and Olivia share some history, and Olivia’s sister and sister’s daughter, who were there a while with hints of an abusive ex-husband lurking in the bushes…all of which were eventually discarded).
Anyway, the renewal game has begun again, in public, as noted in this posting on Entertainment Weekly:
Reading between the lines, it strikes me Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly is starting the process of negotiating for the show’s next season. His statement is pretty simple: Allow us to purchase the show for less money and it will have another season. Don’t and the show is done.
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.
Album after album David Bowie managed to create new and wonderful works, yet despite the great changes in style and substance, he remained a force in an industry that sometimes shies away from experimentation…especially when an artist radically changes his or her sound.
Yet David Bowie kept making changes, and following his very successful Berlin Trilogy, he would release in 1980 what some (again!) consider his absolutely best work, Scary Monsters and Super Creeps. The album was more “commercial” in design than the previous Berlin albums. It was also reflective in, as it turns out, my two favorite songs on the album. While Fashion may be the song that received the most radio play from the album, my favorite track is Teenage Wildlife, a song about new and upcoming (young) artists. Terrific work.
My second favorite song is also reflective, in this case a look back by Mr. Bowie at his life via reference to his first hit song, Space Oddity. Ashes to Ashes follows Major Tom, who shares more than a casual similarity to David Bowie himself…
Just as there was a Berlin Trilogy, so too do I believe 1983’s Let’s Dance, 1984’s Tonight, and 1987’s Never Let Me Down were something of a trilogy as well. One could look at them as David Bowie’s “Pop” albums, or perhaps “New Wave” works. Alas, they were a trilogy that, unlike the Berlin Trilogy, wound up giving diminishing results.
But let’s start with the good: Let’s Dance is, to me and contrary to many other’s opinions, a great album. I happen to love its energy and bounce…David Bowie, after years of hard work, drugs, and torment (self-inflicted or not), sounded genuinely happy on this album. The music is so upbeat and positive and its hard not to smile while listening. My favorite song on the album is Modern Love.
My runner up favorite is Mr. Bowie’s reworking of Cat People (Putting Out Fire). I absolutely love the original version of the song from the Cat People movie, but this version is equally great, in my opinion.
Let’s Dance proved to be one of Mr. Bowie’s most successful releases, even managing to dislodge Michael Jackson’s Thriller from the charts…though briefly. But after so many years of working in the music industry and after the success of that album, it appeared Mr. Bowie was slowing down, at least creatively. Tonight, the follow up to Let’s Dance, was a decent album, but one that a critic at Rolling Stone magazine appropriately noted appeared to be a tennis “lob” rather than a smash. In other words, even while the critic liked the album, s/he felt Mr. Bowie wasn’t trying as hard with this album as he had with his others. There was an insinuation, alas, that Mr. Bowie was resting a bit on his laurels instead of pressing the envelope.
I believe they were right.
Nonetheless, the album delivered some great songs, including Loving the Alien, which had a seriously strange music video…
My runner up favorite from the album is Tonight, which features a great duet with Tina Turner.
There is a certain perverse irony to the fact that what many consider Mr. Bowie’s “worst” album is named Never Let Me Down. Yet that’s the fact’s ma’am. Released in 1987, it was the first album that I listened to of Mr. Bowie’s that I thought something was off. It appeared, to me, that Mr. Bowie was trying -too hard- to make another “hit” album. The songs weren’t terrible, per se, but the whole thing just seemed artificial, overly contrived.
So, yes, I would agree with those -including Mr. Bowie himself!- that feel this is the artist’s nadir.
Yet having said that, there are some pretty good songs within the album worth a listen. My favorite is Time Will Crawl.
Today being David Bowie’s 65th Birthday, might as well continue with my own personal list of “best of” songs from each of his albums. I’ve pointed out my favorite songs from his early years and the justifiably famous Glam Rock era. Now, the Soul & Berlin Trilogy…
Following the release of Diamond Dogs, David Bowie was clearly a man in transition. He announced the end of Ziggy Stardust in a concert (his announcement being so complete people could be forgiven for wondering if he was retiring from music altogether!), he jettisoned his band, and, in 1975, moved toward…soul. The result was Young Americans, another very successful release. My two favorite works on the album are probably the two “safest” picks I could make: The spectacular Young Americans and the John Lennon co-written Fame.
Things were going well for David Bowie. His music was successful and he took the lead role in critically well received The Man Who Fell To Earth, perhaps his single best movie. However, during this time Mr. Bowie was also becoming more and more dependent on drugs. His 1976 album Station To Station, considered one of his stronger overall efforts, nonetheless is an album that allegedly Mr. Bowie hardly remembers recording, so heavily was his drug use at the time.
Nonetheless, the album is spectacular. The title track is one of my favorites…
Once again, I find it hard to consider what my second favorite track on the album is. The album featured only 6 songs. Being forced to choose, I’ll go with Golden Years, the song that Mr. Bowie supposedly wrote intending to offer to…Elvis Presley!
Following Station to Station, David Bowie moved back to Europe and began the painful process of kicking his cocaine addiction. While there, he worked on and released a set of three albums, beginning with 1977’s Low, which were done in collaboration with Brian Eno. These three albums became known as Mr. Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, and there are those that consider them the three best albums Mr. Bowie ever created. My favorite track on Low is Sound and Vision.
Next favorite is Be My Wife.
The second album in the Berlin Trilogy is 1977’s Heroes. And I absolutely love the album’s title track, which Mr. Bowie used so movingly at the Concert For New York following the horrific events of 9/11.
Runner up favorite is V2 Schneider.
The final of the Berlin Trilogy albums is 1979’s Lodger. Another of those albums it’s very tough to single out two tracks as your favorite. At this moment and at this time, I’d have to pick Look Back In Anger as my favorite.
The next favorite track would be (again, very difficult choice!)…Red Sails.
I hope everyone who took advantage of the offer reads the material.
Those who didn’t and are interested, the eBook is available at the below link for only 0.99 cents. You can read almost the entire first story, Dreams Do Come True, if you click the link to look inside the book (all that’s missing is a few words at the tail end of the story).
Just a quick note to everyone interested: Shadows at Dawn, my short story collection, has been available for free from Amazon.com in the Kindle eBook format.
This offer, however, ends today, January the 6th.
Thus, if you have a Kindle or read books via your computer or mobile device, please take advantage of this offer. If you like what you read (and I hope everyone does!), please provide comments…I welcome them! Please click on the image below or link below to reach the Kindle download page:
Continuing my list, we move from David Bowie’s early albums to the ones that made him, justifiably, very famous. First up is the album many consider David Bowie’s masterpiece:
In 1972 David Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders of Mars. It was a concept album whose underlying story was the rise and eventual fall of a fictional music superstar. As many have noted, it could well have been David Bowie willing himself to superstardom. Focusing on this album, I’m presented with a genuine problem. Given I’m looking back at Mr. Bowie’s albums and taking one song I consider the “best” of the particular album and one that is a close runner up, with Ziggy Stardust there are just so many great songs. How to chose one as your favorite and one as your second favorite? To me, its far easier to pick the one song I think is my least favorite on the album (the cover of Ron Davies’It Ain’t Easy, while not a terrible song, is simply not as strong as the other songs on this album, IMHO).
Ok, enough quibbling. What is my favorite song on Ziggy Stardust? At this point in time, it may well be Lady Stardust.
There’s something magical about this song, which focuses on a star struck fan’s reaction to the Ziggy Stardust “show”. Yes, there are definite homosexual overtones, but idol worship has never been presented in such a startling, heartbreaking fashion.
My runner up? Again a very hard choice. And, again, at this time I’ll go with Rock and Roll Suicide.
Another very touching song. Despite its depressing sounding title, the song is uplifting, encouraging. A great, great conclusion to an equally great album.
Following the smash success of Ziggy Stardust, David Bowie’s followed it up with Aladdin Sane, an album more than one critic noted was “Ziggy Stardust goes to America”. While this album wasn’t quite as good from start to end as Ziggy Stardust, it is nonetheless one of my all time favorite Bowie albums. Two songs stick out. First, the incredible Panic In Detroit.
My runner up favorite is the album’s final song, the mesmerizing Lady Grinning Soul.
Pin Ups, an album composed entirely of covers of songs, proved to be the last full album David Bowie would do with guitarist Mick Ronson and the rest of the “Spiders From Mars”. There are many who consider this an inferior work, given that it is composed of covers and features absolutely no new David Bowie material. I’m on the fence with the album. I think there are some great tunes there, particularly Sorrow.
Runner up? How about a cover of Pink Floyd’s See Emily Play?
Having moved on from the “Spiders From Mars”, David Bowie decided his next album would be another rock “opera”, this one telling the story of George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. However, Mr. Orwell’s widow refused to allow his work be used, thus David Bowie had to switch gears and released, in 1973, what would be his “glam rock” swan song, Diamond Dogs. While there remained two songs that were obviously inspired by 1984, the album had enough other material, I suppose, to avoid a lawsuit. My favorite song on this album is one of David Bowie’s absolutely best rockers, a song that features Mr. Bowie himself on guitar! The song? Rebel Rebel.
I’m going to cheat with my second favorite track from this album. For this song was never a part of the original album’s release. In fact, this song languished in the vaults unheard until a special edition of Diamond Dogs was released on CD in 1990. But it is so damn good. Behold…the alternate version of Candidate.
Listening to BBC’s Inspirational David Bowie made me think back to my own feelings regarding David Bowie’s albums and career. In all the blog posts I’ve written, I’ve mentioned my favorite Bowie songs, but never really looked at his works album by album. As a mental exercise, I considered several albums and which song I considered the “best” song of said album and which would be the runner up for the best…again, in my opinion.
Given Mr. Bowie’s long career and many albums, this is a task that will require more than one post. A couple of rules, first: I’m focusing on the actual albums released under his name and ignoring the voluminous singles (including those released before his first “official” album release), live albums, duets, movie scores, and side projects. I may get to them eventually as there is plenty of good stuff there, but for now, the albums and two best songs (IMHO!) themselves.
First up, the three albums from his early years that lead up to the glam era…
Mr. Bowie’s first album is Space Oddity. Originally released in 1969, this album, in my opinion, isn’t one of Mr. Bowie’s stronger efforts. Nonetheless, far and away the best song on this album and a terrific piece is the song the album was named after, Space Oddity.
Runner up: The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud.
David Bowie’s follow up album, The Man Who Sold The World, remains one of my favorite works of his. The best song on that album, far and away, is The Man Who Sold The World.
Choosing a second great song from that album is a little harder, but I’d go with the very psychedelic/early metal Width of a Circle.
Which brings us to the last of the “early” albums, 1971’s Hunky Dory. Many consider this the first “real” David Bowie album (I tend to think The Man Who Sold The World is). There is little doubt, however, that between this album and the last David Bowie was building up his skills. While The Man Who Sold The World sounded like early metal, Hunky Dory was far lighter in tone and featured the hit single Changes. My favorite song on that album, however, has to be Life On Mars?.
The runner up is a tough one. There are several really great songs on this album. If I were pressed to note one above the others, I might just go for the Lou Reed-esq Queen Bitch.
Those who have frequented my blog know of my love for the works of one David Bowie.
Not so very surprisingly, a few other people have very positive impressions of the muscian/actor as well. BBC Radio 2 offers a great one hour or so long program on Mr. Bowie’s career in light of his 65th birthday (note the actual program will only be available for 5 more days, until Monday the 9th of January):