AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #284 : DAVID BOWIE (LATER PERIOD)

A GUEST POSTING by MARK FRENCH

Well it wasn’t going to be a single disc across his full career was it.

To me and I’m sure/hope many of you, Bowie is GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), I am not smart enough to even begin to describe how brilliant, awesome, (and every other superlative you can think of) he is/was.

I wanted to focus on his later albums , which continued to show an artist never repeating himself and always exploring new. I’m not going to claim that any of them are individually as strong as the masterpieces of the 70s and early 80s, but I do believe they hide some individual tracks that are as strong as those of his earlier brilliance……

I was surprised by two things whilst putting this ICA together, firstly how ‘hard’ almost harsh most of these songs are and secondly what an amazing vocalist Bowie was, you always know it’s him but the range and scope is amazing

Hallo Spaceboy  (Outside, 1995)

I’m not a true Bowie fan, in that I haven’t bought every album as soon as it was released, there have been ebbs and flows, but it feels as though a ‘Space’ track has always brought me back onside, from Starman, Ashes to Ashes and this track. After the pop albums and Tin Machine – Hello Spaceboy, was fast and futuristic, at his best Bowie was always futuristic and was there ever a more Bowie line than ‘Do you like boys or girls? Its confusing these days’

I’m Afraid of Americans (Earthling, 1997)

‘Earthling’ was described as his ‘Drum & Bass’ album, I was obviously already middle-aged by this point as I had and have no idea what ‘Drum & bass’ sounds like. What I do know is this is a pulsating keyboards driven song.

Cactus (Heathen, 2002)

A cover of a Pixies song and according to Wikipedia all instruments are played by Bowie except bass and features his only recorded drum performance and of course the drums are to the forefront and do not sound out of time/place at all. Starting with just vocal and acoustic guitar before bursting into a full band sound, I had to look the lyrics up online to find out that the word ‘cement’ is used frequently, Bowie’s pronunciation is unusual.

Reality (Reality, 2003)

Probably my least favourite of the later albums, I was fortunate enough to see the subsequent tour at Birmingham NEC ( sadly his final tour), although I managed to put one of my daughter’s off Bowie for life, by going as it was on her birthday which she explained to me was not acceptable parental behaviour, over 15 years later it remains a topic of conversation. The song itself always reminds me of the Ziggy album – high praise.

Battle For Britain (The Letter) (Earthling, 1997)

More ‘Drum and Bass’, with a great piano solo from Mike Garson and some classic cockney vocals from Bowie.

Looking For Water (Reality, 2003)

Guitar(ist)s have always been crucial to Bowie’s music and this is a great example with the guitar leading the way from the start.

The Stars (Are Out Tonight) (The Next Day, 2013)

Following his health issues on The Reality tour, Bowie disappeared for 10 years, the assumption was that he had retired and was living in married bliss in New York. And then without any advance PR a single was realised – such was the shock it was a main item on the BBC news. The album was joyously received. It is very much a pop album and this track (released as a single with a wonderful video) was the pinnacle,

Girl Loves Me (Blackstar, 2016)

Blackstar as an album is very difficult, given that it was released the day before Bowie’s death and was recorded during his cancer treatment, to assess objectively or to listen to purely as a piece of music, in a similar manner to Joy Division’s Closer. It is certainly completely different from any other Bowie album, with nothing that resembles pop or rock music. It’s a ‘jazz’ album, and to be honest is the only ‘jazz’ album I own or am likely to. I have regularly returned to the album over the past few years but with the exception of this track and one other I struggle to enjoy it, there is just too much jazz for my personal taste. ‘Girl Loves Me’ unusually for Bowie seems to have no guitar and is propelled by almost only drums and bass but not in a ‘drum and bass’ manner.

Outside (Outside, 1995)

The Outside album was to me a true return to form if you ignore the short spoken word interludes, which is easily done today. Bowie’s vocal is beautiful, managing to be calming, soothing and yearning at the same time.

Lazarus (No Plan EP, 2017)

With it’s opening line of ‘Look Up Here I’m In Heaven’ there could be no other album closer and listening again to the lyrics with the soulful saxophone backing – wow it really is an incredible way to end.

MARK

12 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #284 : DAVID BOWIE (LATER PERIOD)

  1. Of course, any Bowie post is going to get a thumbs up from me and this is no exception. Really interesting selection of songs too. I’m so glad someone has chosen to focus on his later records, a period oft forgotten by the mainstream.

    Like all these ICAs, if I were to offer one up, it would probably contain some very different tracks, although Hallo Spaceboy and Girl Loves Me would probably feature (though I love the single version of Spaceboy featuring the Pet Shop Boys).

  2. Glad you enjoyed it, my abiding memory of the Spaceboy duet with the Pet Shop boys is of the Brits performance and Bowie’s stiletto heels can’t remember the performance just the shoes

  3. Terrific ICA. While Bowie’s later LPs aren’t comparable to the Ziggy/Duke/Berlin ones, they get better with age. Which probably means Bowie was always ahead of his time and it takes a while to catch up. I loved The Next Day and, although it’s sometimes sad to listen to, Blackstar. Now I’ll go back to Heathen which I hope I caught up to. Nice one, Mark.

  4. Hi Mark. There will be some who wonder how you came up with 10 songs, but I am not one of those people. Quite a few fans lost faith in the ’80s and into the ’90s and never came back. I hope your ICA will make some in that camp think about giving Heathen, Reality, the Next Day and Blackstar a chance. As JTFL says, no, not Ziggy/Duke/Berlin ones, but Bowie had redeemed himself.

    You saw Bowie on his last ever tour. Easy for me to say, but any flak you’re receiving from your family is worth it. I have all kinds of regret for not making the effort.

    Something else JTFL said got to me. It has been more than five years since his death, but I still listen with sadness… especially Blackstar and these later albums. No other death of a hero hit me as hard, but it’s long past time to listen with joy again. Well, maybe not Blackstar. That one was never listened to with what could be described as joy, but you get my point.

  5. The first three choices are fantastic. Bonus points for the LP version of “Hallo Spaceboy,” which is the only one as far as I’m concerned. None of these choices are bad but I can’t imagine how “Bring Me The Disco King” was neglected. I can [and have] listened to that track on repeat for hours. If I were compiling this period into a one-sided single, that would be the whole ICA. And I take it that this ICA was from 1995 onward, since there’s no material from ‘Buddha of Suburbia” or “Black Tie White Noise.” Wow, no “Dead Man Walking” or “Something In The Air” either. What would my track list for a late model ICA be? Let’s see.

    1. I Have Not Been To Oxford Town
    2. Dead Man Walking
    3. Something In The Air
    4. Cactus
    5. Slow Burn
    6.Bring Me The Disco King
    7. Dirty Boys
    8. Love Is Lost (Hello Steve Reich Mix By James Murphy For The DFA)
    9. ★
    10. I Can’t Give Everything Away

    Phew! That was a brutal exercise. Yeah, this seemed to be harder work for Bowie than his 70s. Especially as he had to traverse the problematic 80s like any other heritage artist. But when i get down to it, picking just ten tracks from those seven albums was difficult.

  6. Both ‘Dead Man Walking’ and ‘I Have Not Been To Oxford Town’ were in the final 15 just missing the cut, really appreciate all the comments and its good to know I’m not alone in my love of the later Bowie

  7. Great to see some love for the post Tin Machine albums. I think the musical tracks on “1.Outside” pretty much stand comparison with the early 70s.

    Interesting to see nothing from “hours”. I found it a real disappointment after the previous two albums – even the much-derided “Earthling”. Admittedly, the clattering drums can end up giving me a headache, but the songs are great.
    And at least Bowie was still trying out new ideas/ sounds at the incredibly ancient (or so it seemed at the time…sigh!).

    Maybe too obvious, but I’ll throw my love for “Hearts Filthy Lesson” as a song to add to the list. Too tricky to argue against your ten – too painful to lose so many great tracks.

  8. Good work Mark! It will inevitably be difficult to pick only 10 songs from such a long period, even if I personally feel he went from being years ahead of the rest of us to be contemporary and willing to try new things, even if he wasn’t first to it. I agree with PPM, the first 3 are superb choices – then I probably chose something else from Heathen (a favourite album), I’d concur again with PPM on Blackstar instead of Lazarus and I’d join DAM and vouch for Hearts Filthy Lesson. Still a very good ICA!

  9. Fantastic ICA, Mark, and great sequencing. I’d be hard pressed to just pick 10 from his 21st century albums! Reality was the first of your selected Bowie albums that I actually bought in the week of release, but I’ve since gone back and filled the gaps. I always find something new to love with each listen. The Next Day and Blackstar do evoke a sense of sadness and grief but also joy that Bowie delivered two brilliant albums to the end. Thanks for a fantastic post, Mark, I’ll be listening to later period Bowie for the rest of the week!

  10. Thanks Stanley, hadn’t heard this below it really does sound like a Air track with vocals by Bowie

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