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Pop/Rock - Released March 8, 2013 | Columbia

Distinctions 3F de Télérama - 5 étoiles Rock and Folk - 5/6 de Magic - Sélection du Mercury Prize
Say this for David Bowie: he has a flair for drama. This abiding love of the theatrical may not be as evident in the production of The Next Day as it is in its presentation, how Bowie sprung it upon the world early in 2013 following a decade of undeclared retirement. Reasons for Bowie's absence were many and few, perhaps related to a health scare in 2004, perhaps due to a creative dry spell, perhaps he simply didn't have songs to sing, or perhaps he had a lingering suspicion that by the time the new millennium was getting into full swing he was starting to be taken for granted. He had settled into a productive purple patch in the late '90s, a development that was roundly ignored by all except the devoted and the press, who didn't just give Hours, Heathen, and Reality a pass, they recognized them as a strong third act in a storied career. That same sentiment applies to The Next Day, an album recorded with largely the same team as Reality -- the same musicians and the same producer, his longtime lieutenant Tony Visconti -- and, appropriately, shares much of the same moody, meditative sound as its predecessor Heathen. What's different is the reception, which is appropriately breathless because Bowie has been gone so long we all know what we've missed. And The Next Day is designed to remind us all of why we've missed him, containing hints of the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust within what is largely an elegant, considered evocation of the Berlin Bowie so calculating it opens with a reworking of "Beauty & The Beast," and is housed in an artful desecration of the Heroes LP cover. Unlike his Berlin trilogy of the late '70s, The Next Day is rarely unsettling. Apart from the crawling closer "Heat" -- a quiet, shimmering, hallucination-channeling late-'70s Scott Walker -- the album has been systematically stripped of eeriness, trading discomfort for pleasure at every turn. And pleasure it does deliver, as nobody knows how to do classic Bowie like Bowie and Visconti, the two life-long collaborators sifting through their past, picking elements that relate to what Bowie is now: an elder statesman who made a conscious decision to leave innovation behind long ago. This persistent, well-manicured nostalgia could account for the startling warmth that exudes from The Next Day; even when a melody sighs with an air of resigned melancholia, as it does on "Where Are We Now?," it never delves into sadness, it stays afloat in a warm, soothing bath. That overwhelming familiarity is naturally quite appealing for anyone well-versed in Bowie lore, but The Next Day isn't a career capper; it lacks the ambition to be anything so grand. The Next Day neither enhances nor diminishes anything that came before, it's merely a sweet coda to a towering career. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released November 1, 2013 | Columbia

Hi-Res Distinctions Hi-Res Audio

Rock - Released June 30, 2008 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions Sélection Disques de l'année Les Inrocks
Recorded from Bowie's first live American broadcast, this October 20, 1972 concert is a good choice for those who found themselves left cold by the awkward soul and the absence of Mick Ronson on David Live. Coming on the heels of the release of Ziggy Stardust, Bowie is captured here at the height of his creative powers. He gives a nod to the influence of Lou Reed with a fine "Waiting For The Man," and the live renditions of "Jean Genie" and "Rock and Roll Suicide" surpass the studio versions, thanks in no small part to the inimitable Mick Ronson. "Life on Mars?" and other tunes off Hunky Dory can be a bit disappointing, though, without original keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who was now busy becoming a star with Yes. But this is only a minor qualm; the Spiders band is wonderfully aggressive, all the more because live performance was perhaps the true home for its glam theatrics. ~ Paul Collins

Rock - Released January 19, 1998 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
After summing up his maverick tendencies on Scary Monsters, David Bowie aimed for the mainstream with Let's Dance. Hiring Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers as a co-producer, Bowie created a stylish, synthesized post-disco dance music that was equally informed by classic soul and the emerging new romantic subgenre of new wave, which was ironically heavily inspired by Bowie himself. Let's Dance comes tearing out of the gate, propulsed by the skittering "Modern Love," the seductively menacing "China Girl," and the brittle funk of the title track. All three songs became international hits, and for good reason -- they're catchy, accessible pop songs that have just enough of an alien edge to make them distinctive. However, that careful balance is quickly thrown off by a succession of pleasant but unremarkable plastic soul workouts. "Cat People" and a cover of Metro's "Criminal World" are relatively strong songs, but the remainder of the album indicates that Bowie was entering a songwriting slump. However, the three hits were enough to make the album a massive hit, and their power hasn't diminished over the years, even if the rest of the record sounds like an artifact. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released January 8, 2016 | Columbia

Hi-Res Booklet Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Music
Rumors were rife: Definitive hibernation or even incurable disease - and then no - David Bowie made a blazing comeback in 2013 with the album The Next Day. Hardly time to fully digest this record and Ziggy is back already with the fascinating Blackstar, his 25th studio album published the day of his 69th birthday! 48 hours later, the shock is total as we learned of the death of the artist, carried away by a cancer after struggling against the disease for 18 months ... With Blackstar, once again we are tempted to say, Bowie surprises and amazes with a bold, and rather protean, experimental work (sometimes harking back to the likes of Station To Station/Low). A beautiful musical UFO that he designed with brilliant jazzmen in New York (including Maria Schneider and her orchestra but also guitarist Ben Monder and saxophonist Donny McCaslin) without forgetting the loyal Tony Visconti, ever behind the console to produce this beautiful black star. The star today is Bowie. Up there. Eternal and obviously immortal ... © CM/Qobuz

Pop - Released September 25, 2015 | Parlophone UK

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Pop - Released November 14, 2014 | Parlophone UK

Distinctions Pitchfork: Best New Reissue
Nothing Has Changed is a bit of a cheeky title for a career retrospective from an artist who is known as a chameleon, and this triple-disc compilation has other tricks up its sleeve. Chief among these is sequencing the SuperDeluxe 59-track set in reverse chronological order, so it opens with the brand-new, jazz-inflected "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" and concludes with David Bowie's debut single, "Liza Jane." On paper, this seems a bit like a stunt, but in actuality it's a sly way to revisit and recontextualize a career that has been compiled many, many times before. Previously, there have been single discs, double discs, and triple-disc boxes, but the largest of these was Sound + Vision, a box released in 1989, and the most recent was 2002's The Best of Bowie, which featured slightly different track listings in different territories but generally stopped in the late '90s. The two-CD version of Nothing Has Changed resembles this 2002 set -- there are absences, notably "John, I'm Only Dancing," "Diamond Dogs," and "TVC15," but they're not noticed among the parade of standards -- but it's easily overshadowed by the triple-disc SuperDeluxe set. This version of Nothing Has Changed touches upon nearly every phrase of Bowie's career, bypassing Tin Machine but finding space for early pre-"Space Oddity" singles that often don't make Bowie's comps, and naturally it samples from his fine Y2K records, plus his 2013 comeback The Next Day. This expansiveness alone would be noteworthy, but when it's combined with the reverse sequencing the compilation forces listeners to reconsider an artist whose legacy seemed so set in stone it appropriately was enshrined in museums. Obvious high-water marks are undersold -- there's not as much Ziggy as usual, nor as much Berlin -- so other eras can also enter the canon, whether it's the assured maturity of the new millennium or the appealing juvenilia of the '60s. The end result is something unexpected: a compilation that makes us hear an artist we know well in a whole new way. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Pop - Released June 4, 2012 | Parlophone UK

Hi-Res Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography

Rock - Released October 21, 2002 | Parlophone UK

David Bowie has switched labels so often his catalog is cluttered with hits compilations, all purporting to be definitive. Since he is one of the few major artists with no compunction against putting all his hits on one disc, they're all excellent, and 2002's Best of Bowie is no exception, no matter which country you live in (brief explanation: sensitive to the needs of fans in different markets, Bowie and EMI/Virgin tailored a different Best of Bowie for every country it was released in -- a collector's and cataloger's nightmare, but the basics apply for each variation). Yeah, there are great songs missing, and it loses a little focus toward the end, but all the big, big hits are here, in great sound and logical sequence. Bowie made more than his share of great albums, but if you just want the highlights, this is as good as Changesbowie in capturing them. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released May 25, 2007 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released December 29, 2006 | Parlophone UK

Baal was not one of Bertolt Brecht's most appealing visions. The tale of a dissolute itinerant wretch whose natural talent for composing amoral ditties was mere accompaniment to his life of debauchery, it was the saga, according to David Bowie, of the original Super Punk -- which is doubtless what attracted him to it, when he was offered the title role in a 1982 BBC TV play. Bowie perform five songs during the course of the play, each of which coupled Brecht's original lyric (as translated by John Willett) to a contemporary Dominic Muldowney arrangement. Recording in the same Hansa studios in Berlin where Brecht's own future partner, Kurt Weill, once worked, Bowie and producer Tony Visconti also borrowed Weill's favorite recording set-up -- a German theater band, one player per instrument, all arranged in a semi-circle. (Bowie would recreate this set-up for the video accompanying his next UK single, "Wild Is The Wind".") RCA originally intended releasing the Baal soundtrack as part of a new Bowie album -- the star's continued reluctance to record anything more than dilettante side bars, however, left them with no option but to pare their plans down to a single EP, released in Britain on the Friday before the play's March 2, 1982, transmission. The result was an uncompromising collection, considerably truer to Brecht than many outsiders expected, with its closest relatives within Bowie's own catalog being his occasional assaults on the Jacques Brel songbook -- early live favorites "Next" and "My Death," and the 1973 b-side "Amsterdam"." But even with that comparison, one is grasping; quite frankly, Baal served up a side of Bowie that he had often claimed existed, but which even his closest friends had seldom seen. ~ Dave Thompson

Rock - Released September 22, 2006 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released October 27, 1997 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released October 4, 2013 | Parlophone UK

In 1989, not all major artists had their catalog available on CD, and one of the most notable absences was David Bowie. When the format was in its infancy, RCA had issued several of his classics, but those pressings were notoriously awful and were pulled from the market in 1985 when Bowie acquired the rights to the recordings. Sharp businessman that he is, he took the catalog to market, and after an intense bidding war, he chose to reissue his classic work through Rykodisc, an independent CD-only label that had earned acclaim for its work with Frank Zappa's catalog. Instead of dumping all the discs on the market at once, the titles were slowly rolled out, beginning with a series-encompassing Sound + Vision, a three-CD/one-CD-ROM box set released to great fanfare in the fall of 1989. At the time, box sets were all the rage, following the template of Bob Dylan's Biograph -- an exhaustive career overview that offered all the basics, peppered with some revealing rarities. Upon its release, Sound + Vision was reviewed as if it belonged to this tradition, when it really inverted the formula, offering a series, not career, overview by showcasing alternate versions and rarities, along with album tracks, with a few familiar hits tossed in here and there to provide context. This was a tantalizing way to begin a reissue campaign, and it did receive gushing reviews -- the CD-era publication Rock & Roll Disc breathlessly claimed "Suffice to say that the sound quality will give your ears an orgasm" -- but once the reissue series completed and once Ryko lost the rights to the catalog, Sound + Vision looked more like a curiosity, an artifact of its time, than a major statement. Much of the problem stems from its design -- it was intended to show off the sound quality, which was a marked improvement over the RCA discs, and to show the depth and breadth of rarities within the vaults. It was not a career-capper; it was a teaser. It was enticing upon its release, and some of it remains so. There's a clutch of early rarities that lead off the set -- the original demo of "Space Oddity," alternate single versions of "The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud" and "The Prettiest Star" -- that are quite good, alternate takes on "John I'm Only Dancing" and "Rebel Rebel" that manage to be notably different without changing the feel, excellent outtakes from Diamond Dogs (a medley of "1984/Dodo"), Station to Station (a glittery, lush cover of Springsteen's "It's Hard to Be a Saint in the City"), and Young Americans (the superb "After Today," a disco-rock song that should have been on the album and is hands down the best rarity here). These suggested the great unearthed treasures that lay ahead, and they remain necessary additions to any serious Bowie collection, particularly because they never showed up on another disc. If they were placed in a better forum, they would function like the rarities on either Biograph or Eric Clapton's Crossroads -- rarities that helped fill in the details of an artist's story -- but since they're in a set that's intended to showcase what the Ryko series would do, not what Bowie had done, they're the main attraction instead of feeding into the greater narrative. And that narrative, while certainly capturing the sometimes bewildering twists and turns in Bowie's career, is an alternate-universe narrative, lacking defining songs, from "Starman" to "Golden Years," and presenting many familiar songs in odd, not particularly interesting variations (a live 1974 version of "Suffragette City," a German version of "Heroes," presented in a 1989 remix). Though it succeeds in conveying Bowie's ever-changing moods, it lacks the substance and sense of a great box set, which this surely could have been. Instead, it's an interesting artifact of the early days of CDs, right down to its overly elaborate packaging, and only those who want to relive that time, or need those rarities, will need this in their collection. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released January 1, 2010 | Decca

David Bowie's first ever LP -- the 1967 set that introduced the world to the likes of "Rubber Band" and "There Is a Happy Land" -- is an intriguing collection, as much in its own right as for the light it sheds on Bowie's future career. Nobody hearing "She's Got Medals," for instance, can fail to marvel at the sheer prescience displayed by a song about gender-bending. Even within Bowie's subsequent world of alligators, starmen, and astronettes, however, there are no parallels for the likes of "Please Mr. Gravedigger," with its storm-swept lament for a murdered little girl, or "Uncle Arthur," the archetypal mommy's boy, whose one stab at snapping the apron strings shatters when he realizes his new love cannot cook. There's also a frightening glimpse into future Bowie universes, served up by "We Are Hungry Men," a tale of a world in which food is so scarce that the people have resorted to cannibalism. Not all of the songs are such sharp observations of human frailties and failings, while the distinctly family-entertainment style arrangements make it clear that, whatever audience Bowie was aiming for, rock fans were not included among them. But songs like "Love You Till Tuesday" and "Maid of Bond Street" have a catchy irresistibility to them all the same, and though this material has been repackaged with such mind-numbing frequency as to seem all but irrelevant today, David Bowie still remains a remarkable piece of work. And it sounds less like anything else he's ever done than any subsequent record in his catalog. ~ Dave Thompson


David Bowie in the magazine
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