David Bowie – Station To Station: Deluxe Edition (Virgin Records)


David Bowie was a certified rock superstar when he released Station To Station in 1976. He was also a cocaine-addicted burnout dabbling in occultism and, by many reports, living on a diet of peppers and milk. Clearly he was falling victim to the pressures of stardom and a demanding schedule. Station To Station is a reflection of that chaos – a mix of rock, decadent funk and disco, theatrical overtures, and krautrock-inspired minimalism. The opening title track lasts no less than ten minutes, and introduces Bowie’s latest character, “The Thin White Duke”. “TVC15” and “Golden Years” are the pop songs; likable funk-rock fluff not terribly dissimilar to 1975’s mega-hit collaboration with John Lennon, “Fame”. “Stay” is weird disco schmaltz and “Wild Is The Wind” (a Johnny Mathis cover) and “Word On A Wing” are sentimental ballads. It’s an uneasy transitional point between Young Americans’ disco-funk, and the Berlin Trilogy that would begin the following year. However confused it sounds at times, it’s also far more interesting than the sum of its parts.

The 2010 reissue gives you the remastering and liner notes (by Cameron Crowe) you expect, and also adds two discs derived from an oft-bootlegged 1976 Nassau Collesium concert. Bowie and his touring band handle the Station To Station material well, but it’s hard for staunch fans of Ziggy-era Bowie to approve of the swishy disco arrangements given to “Suffragette City”, “Queen Bitch” and his cover of “Waiting For The Man”. There’s also DVD-Audio version of the album for all you audiophiles.

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David Bowie – Space Oddity: Deluxe Edition (Virgin Records)


Space Oddity (40th Anniversary Edition)

Although it wasn’t David Bowie’s first record (he’d released music as far back as 1964), Space Oddity was the first time he showed shades of greatness. Everyone knows the title track inside and out at this point; it’s a moving epic about the loneliness of space travel, rush-released to coincide with the first moon landing. Both a crass piece of opportunistic commercialism, and a musical masterpiece, it gave Bowie his first hit in the UK and even worked its way into the US Singles Chart at #124. Not much gets said about the rest of the album, which lacked the same commercial appeal and mostly sounds stuck in the 1960s (dig the “Hey Jude”-styled coda at the end of “Memory Of A Free Festival” or the Scott Walker croon of “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud”). The two exceptions are “Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed” which marries a Dylan-esque lyric to a stomping Bo Diddley beat, and the nine-and-a-half minute epic “Cygnet Committee”, in which Bowie expresses his disappointment in the hippie movement.

This new “deluxe” edition is Space Oddity’s third time on CD and they seem to have gotten it right this time – liner notes, period photos (nice perm!), remastered sound and, most importantly, a second disc of bonus material. Some of the bonus material has been in circulation since the Bowie catalog was released by Rykodisc in the 1990s, but it’s nice to hear it all cleaned up for the new millennium. There are eight previously unreleased songs, including two demos, some alternate mixes and stereo versions, a version of “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” recorded for the BBC, and “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola” an Italian version of “Space Oddity” with lyrics that weren’t just translated, but also completely changed. A nice companion piece for the original album.

Tracklisting:

Disc 1

1. Space Oddity

2. Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed

3. Letter To Hermione

4. Cygnet Committee

5. Janine

6. An Occasional Dream

7. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud

8. God Knows I’m Good

9. Memory Of A Free Festival

Disc 2
1. Space Oddity (demo)

2. An Occasional Dream (demo)
3. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (single B-side)
4. Let Me Sleep Beside You (BBC Radio session, D.L.T. Show)
5. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed (BBC Radio session, D.L.T. Show)
6. Janine (BBC Radio session, D.L.T. Show)

7. London Bye Ta-Ta (stereo version)
8. The Prettiest Star (stereo version)
9. Conversation Piece (stereo version)
10. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 1) (single A-side)
11. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 2) (single B-side)

12. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (alternate album mix)

13. Memory Of A Free Festival (alternate album mix)

14. London Bye Ta-Ta (alternate stereo mix)

15. Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola (full-length stereo version)

Bowie In Berlin by Thomas Jerome Seabrook (Jawbone Press)


Although Thomas Jerome Seabrook’s book covers Bowie’s “Berlin Trilogy” of albums  (Low, Heroes and Lodger), the author rightly expands his scope to include Bowie’s other artistic activities from the era, like acting in The Man Who Fell To Earth and Gigolo, and his collaborations with Iggy Pop. Plus, who can forget his hilariously uncomfortable duet with Bing Crosby on Bing’s 1977 Christmas Special? That’s here too. Perhaps Seabrook’s wisest move is placing Bowie’s time in Berlin in the context of the events that led up to it – Bowie and Iggy Pop were both on the destructive path of excess, with too much cocaine, strenuous touring schedules, and heavy pressure from labels and managers; and the duo headed to Berlin to get away from it all and recover. This was also a chance for a new, decidedly more “European” , musical direction influenced by German bands like Can, Neu!, Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream. They took that chance and, along with a host of willing collaborators (Brian Eno, Tony Visconti, Carlos Alomar and The Sales Brothers, among others), created five albums during this period (three for Bowie, and two for Pop) that were commercial flops but are now considered some of the best work they ever did. It’s all here, in a detailed rendering by Seabrook, who has done a tremendous job of researching his subjects and laying out the story in a fluid and insightful way. My only complaint is that occasionally too much time is spent on minor distractions, like the five pages spent on the plot of The Man Who Fell To Earth, but that complaint aside, this is an excellent book for Bowie fans old and new to get lost in.