Thursday, April 12, 2007

Ranking Bowie

Recently I came across posts on very different Forums (Mojo and Classic Horror) on the best albums by David Bowie. I was inspired by Tim Lucas listing his favorites from best to worst and thought I would give it a go. With my recent writings on LOW and BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA I thought it might be an interesting thing to attempt. I must admit I surprised myself with some of my choices. These just include Bowie's studio albums, I have not included any of the live albums, eps or compilations. I also decided not to include the Tin Machine records, which I like very much, because David has always insisted those were very much group records and here I am just focusing on his solo records.

In order from best to worst.

1. LOW: No surprise here for anyone who saw my previous posting on this album. It is my all time favorite album by anyone so it sits firmly at number one.
Favorite Track: BE MY WIFE

2. STATION TO STATION: One of his most remarkable and astonishingly inventive works. Not a false move on it and the fact that he doesn't even remember recording such a masterpiece makes it even all the more amazing.
Favorite Track: WORD ON A WING

3. ALADDIN SANE: Even more than ZIGGY STARDUST, Bowie's 'American' glam masterpiece shows him at the absolute top of his game. Chilling, awe inspiring, important...all of those things and more.

4. HEROES: The second of the 'Berlin' trilogy. Continues the LOW format for the most part. Visconti's production is majestic and the 'drop by' performances by Robert Fripp are still mind blowing to even the most jaded ear.
Favorite Track: HEROES

5. BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA: The first masterpiece from his resurgence. I wrote much on this album earlier in this blogs history. Heartfelt and genius recording.

6. ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS: Mick Ronson's soaring guitar work and orchestration on MOONAGE DAYDREAM alone would make this one of the great albums. Add on it's cultural impact and the fact that every song is near perfection and you've got still one of the most monumental rock albums ever released.

7. HOURS: A real personal favorite. Bowie delivers some of the purest songwriting of his career with the great Reeves Gabrels making his last stand on a Bowie record. Special thought to the lovely Holly Palmer, the best back up vocalist Bowie ever had.

8. SCARY MONSTERS: Fripp again returns on Bowie's last great album before his near ten year freeze.

9. 1. OUTSIDE: Still one of the most thrilling records I have ever bought. A mind bending and at times psychotic look into the mind of serial killer Nathan Addler. Eno produces one of Bowie's greatest sonic assaults.
Favorite Tracks: WE PRICK YOU

10. HUNKY DORY: Bowie's songwriting skills have never been so pure and sharp as on this record. THE BEWLAY BROTHERS remains one of the most haunting final tracks on any rock record.
Favorite Track: QUEEN BITCH

11. YOUNG AMERICANS: Bowie gets down in Philadelphia. A cocaine fueled, seductive soul masterpiece. Contains some of Bowie's most arresting vocals and the great Carlos Alomar has never been better.
Favorite Track: WIN

12. DIAMOND DOGS: With the Spiders gone Bowie creates much of this nightmarish album alone. His guitar work on this record is terribly underrated, as are the freakish cut-up lyrics he came up with it.
Favorite track: SWEET THING

13. EARTHLING: Bowie turns 50 and turns everything up to eleven. The album's real strength is in just how strong the songwriting is. A great companion is a series of acoustic radio recordings Bowie and Reeves played to promote this album showing just how strong, even stripped, the songs were.

14. LODGER: Bowie pulls back a bit from the chilly extremes of LOW and HEROES to create this frenetic and strangely haunting record. After this he would begin to 'move on'.
Favorite Track: LOOK BACK IN ANGER

15. MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD: Should be higher I know. Ronson becomes a legend on these tracks.
Favorite Track: AFTER ALL

16. HEATHEN: Bowie's answers LOW 20 years later with this return to the soundscapes of Tony Visconti. Striking, haunting stuff.
Favorite Track: SLIP AWAY

17. PIN UPS: Bowie pays tribute to the sixties British groups who inspired him so much. The final Spiders album is still a furious sounding spike that remains one of the great cover albums ever recorded.
Favorite Track: SEE EMILY PLAY

18. REALITY: Bowie's ode to New York after 9/11. Gabrel's is missed at this point but the songwriting is sharp and it's astounding that the man can still record something so cohesive and powerful sounding.

19. BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE: Bowie picks up the pieces and foreshadows the upcoming triple crown of masterpieces he is getting ready to record. Bit too smooth in spots but this remains a fine album.
Favorite Track: YOU'VE BEEN AROUND

20. SPACE ODDITY: Bumpy in spots but it has some remarkable moments, you can hear the rumbling of the revolution he was getting ready to spark in these grooves.
Favorite Track: SPACE ODDITY

21. LET'S DANCE: Something was going wrong, it is obvious now. Suddenly the incredibly prolific Bowie was having trouble coming up with a full album of new material. Vaughn's guitar work is fine, if buried. The production is beyond slick, it made him very rich and broke a lot of people's hearts. The singles are still astonishing though.
Favorite Track: CHINA GIRL

22. NEVER LET ME DOWN: Thought of by almost everyone, including himself, as Bowie's worst; actually it's not but soundwise it is still an overproduced mess. Sift through all of the muddy sound and guitar bombast and you will find Bowie for the first time since SCARY MONSTERS delivering an album of more than just seven or eight tracks. He was writing again but he knows he is in trouble...he should revisit a couple of these tracks though because there are a couple of very buried jewels here.
Favorite Track: TIME WILL CRAWL

23. DAVID BOWIE: First album with just a few hints of how great he would soon become.

24. TONIGHT: The absolute low point, a strange mixture of bad covers and uninspired originals. Only two tracks are noteworthy, the fun BLUE JEAN and haunting LOVING THE ALIEN which he revived on his REALITY tour.
Favorite Track: LOVING THE ALIEN

Bowie's career has been remarkably prolific, I must admit about halfway through this list I regretted starting it as it deserves much more detail than I had time to give it.
Bowie and his remarkable career will come up more on this blog in the future, hope this list was fun to look at for fans. To the uninitiated I stand by anything in the top 15 as a perfect starting point for your journey with the great thin white duke.

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