Wednesday, March 17, 2010

425. Changesone- David Bowie

Album: Changesone
Artist: David Bowie
Year: 1976
Genre: Pop.

  1. Space Oddity
  2. John, I’m Only Dancing
  3. Changes
  4. Ziggy Stardust
  5. Suffragette City
  6. The Jean Genie
  7. Diamond Dogs
  8. Rebel Rebel
  9. Young Americans
  10. Fame
  11. Golden Years
I put David Bowie in the same category as Bruce Springsteen in that he's an artist I respect and can understand people's devotion to but he does nothing for me. This album (and I'm choosing to review the original vinyl release, not any of the several CD reissues) collects his finest moments from his first, and most revered decade, so in theory it's his best work. But I just don't get it. I've got nothing against Bowie's voice (even though I struggle to take it seriously since Jermaine Clement did such an amazing impression in a Flight of the Conchords episode), he chooses talented musicians to play with him and he can definitely write a tune... so why don't I care?

I think it might have something to do with the image thing. Bowie's need to go through career phases during which he adopts different outfits and personas left me feeling cold. I've never understood why musicians need to have an image. You're a rock star- you sing into a microphone and girls want to shag you silly, there's your image right there. Anyone who needs to spend ages choosing which outfit to don is someone who is moving into fashion-model territory. I have to admire Angus Young who adopted an image in his early twenties and is still doing it in his sixties.

Bowie's reinventions are not just related to costume. He rejigs not just his style but also his voice which makes Changes sound like the work of several different men. Despite being presented in order, this album doesn't seem to show a gradual development from one phase to another (unlike Ones, the single disc Beatles compilation that charts their development) Bowie seems to reinvent himself without any reference to what's gone before. In order to be a huge Bowie fan you have to see something in the man himself rather than just his music because the only thing tying it together into a cohesive whole is the man behind the persona.

Most of the songs on this release were immediately familiar having all received fairly extensive radio play. They travel through the sci fi trippiness of Space Oddity, the glam of Ziggy Stardust, through the more conventional rock of Jean Genie and the punkish Rebel Rebel through to the jazzy swing of Young Americans and Fame. It's actually this last phase of his career that I think I respond most favourably to. Bowie really does have a great voice and to me Young Americans sounds like he's actually comfortable using it without the need to adopt affectations and dick about with it. It's American Soul which he sings without ever sounding anything other than English. It possibly helps that this is the period where Bowie let his love of the Beatles shine through: he covers Across the Universe, qoutes A Day in The Life in the title track and co-wrote Fame with John Lennon (although listening to it you wonder why it took one person to write let alone two). The final track on the album is Golden Years which is resoundingly awful and a bit of a tragic close to the disc.

Just like Springsteen there is more Bowie to come in this countdown so I will have more opportunities to experience what people see in him. The other releases are all albums and not compilations so will afford me the opportunity to examine Bowie in one phase of his career rather than hearing extracts jammed together. Before I close I should take the time to mention two Bowie releases which didn't make this list which is a pity because they're both really good. Pin Ups is his covers album which is a great listen and Let's Dance features a young Stevie Ray Vaughan, who would definitely be on the top 500 list if I was one of the voters.

Influenced by: The Beatles, soul, psychadelic drugs and a desire to reinvent.
Influenced: Madonna.

Highlight: Young Americans.
Lowlight: The Golden years.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Qoute:
I'm not usually a compulsive CD buyer, but I remember hearing a while back that David Bowie is the richest rock star in England (in contrast to Elton John, who's been playing his ass off for over 30 years and has a bankruptcy to show for it), so I just HAD to figure out what he'd done to warrant such wealth.

-What an odd reason to buy and album: This guy's rich, I wonder why?

So does Bowie deserve his fame or is he just an oddity taking up space? Let me know below.

1 comment:

  1. Some great songs here ,but as discussed with fellow agents we really should exclude greatest hits , compillations , some live albums etc.