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Rock - Released June 1, 1967 | Universal Records


Classical - Released April 1, 1992 | RCA Victor


Pop - Released January 1, 1995 | Decca Music Group Ltd.

Yet another repackaging of David Bowie's late-'60s sides for English Decca's Deram label, presenting him as a kind of psychedelic-era pop/rock singer. The material is attractive in a somewhat derivative pop/rock vein -- curiously, Deram also had Cat Stevens signed at the time, as a pop/rock singer/songwriter, and Bowie's work here is remarkably similar to Stevens' music of the same era, at its best quirkily melodic with clever lyrical twists, such as "Let Me Sleep Beside You," and at its worst predictable soft rock. The songs are drawn from singles such as "Rubber Band" (think of an attempt at psychedelic Noël Coward) and "The Laughing Gnome," and LP sides like "Join the Gang." Some of it is too precious for words, but the best of it has endured across the decades, including "Sell Me a Coat," "Love You Till Tuesday," "London Boys," and the original version of "Space Oddity." ~ Bruce Eder

Rock - Released January 1, 1997 | Decca

In 1973, at the height of David Bowie's Ziggy-shaped excess, a small, smirking skeleton came creeping out of his closet, paused to adjust its merry pointy hat, then rocketed to number eight on the U.K. chart. It was, of course, "The Laughing Gnome," a reminder of his days directionlessly drifting through the '60s, and a cause for ribald amusement wherever it played. Today, of course, Bowie is no stranger to embarrassment...nor to "The Laughing Gnome." What, after all, was his role in the Labyrinthe movie but a twisted reprise of the Gnome's naughtier excesses, while his Earthling album even offered its own return to the same kind of basics, including the varispeed vocals that made the Gnome laugh. But Bowie still remains acutely aware of the nature of his musical roots. Initial intentions for this compilation included a second disc packed with outtakes and oddities; these plans were abandoned at Bowie's own request (the bootleg The Forgotten Songs of David Robert Jones celebrates his demands), and Anthology suffers accordingly. Of its 27 tracks, a mere handful can be missing from even a disinterested Bowie collection -- the Love You Till Tuesday soundtrack version of "Ching A Ling," and a handful of re-recordings made for 45 release. Everything else has now been repackaged so many times that even fresh remastering at first seems academic. And then you play the album. And then you play "The Laughing Gnome." Though Bowie plotted a similar course through the mundane backwaters of nostalgic Englishness as fired Ray Davies' best contemporary efforts, it's not difficult to understand why this work was doomed to commercial failure. He was, at this time, targeting most of his energy directly into the heart of the Hip Easy Listening Intelligentsia -- without pausing to wonder whether that crowd actually existed. Of course it didn't, and Bowie was doomed before he got started. Too twee for mainstream rock tastes, and way too heavy for the Anthony Newley crowd with which subsequent critics have most gleefully allied him, Bowie's subject matter was essentially little different to anything he has written about in the decades since then. If anything, in fact, it was even darker -- child abuse ("Little Bombardier"), cannibalism (the magnificently apocalyptic "We Are Hungry Men"), and infanticide ("Please, Mr. Gravedigger") vied with what might now be called the more characteristic themes of transvestism ("She's Got Medals") and sci-fi inflected utopia ("There Is a Happy Land"). Rearrange the songs a little and, thematically, "The London Boys" -- a tale of betrayed modishness that takes the Kinks' similarly themed "Big Black Smoke" to its inevitable, lonely conclusion -- would not have been out of place on Bowie's own Pin-Ups. The soaring, soulful "When I Live My Dream" could easily have lived with Young Americans, while the impulsive "Let Me Sleep Beside You" still demands a modern reprise. Elsewhere, "Ching A Ling" lent part of its melody line to the subsequent "Saviour Machine"; "Karma Man" was still appearing in Bowie's live set into the early '70s; and "Space Oddity," present here in early demo form, would of course become one of his most enduring hits ever. But in allying all this incipient brilliance to a distinctly MOR soundtrack of piano, strings, and orchestral arrangements, Bowie was shooting himself in the foot, and today, excellent liner notes and a topnotch remastering job do not disguise the sheer unconventionality of this material. Even now, with his subsequent reputation as a musical chameleon firmly a part of his legend, "Silly Boy Blue," "Maid of Bond Street," and "There Is a Happy Land" remain disconcerting members of his canon. At the time, they were positively alien, and even Bowie would take another five years before he learned to understand that. ~ Dave Thompson

Pop - Released June 9, 1997 | Decca Music Group Ltd.


Rock - Released January 1, 1995 | Deutsche Grammophon (DG)


Pop - Released June 11, 2002 | Iso - Columbia

Heathen marks a new beginning for David Bowie in some ways -- it's his first record since leaving Virgin, his first for Columbia Records, his first for his new label, ISO -- yet it's hardly a new musical direction. Like Hours, this finds Bowie sifting through the sounds of his past, completely at ease with his legacy, crafting a colorful, satisfying album that feels like a classic Bowie album. That's not to say that Heathen recalls any particular album or any era in specific, yet there's a deliberate attempt to recapture the atmosphere, the tone of his '70s work -- there's a reason that Bowie decided to reteam with Tony Visconti, the co-producer of some of his best records, for this album -- even if direct comparisons are hard to come by. Which is exactly what's so impressive about this album. Bowie and Visconti never shy away from electronic instrumentations or modern production -- if anything, they embrace it -- but it's woven into Bowie's sound subtly, never drawing attention to the drum loops, guitar synths, and washes of electronica. For that matter, guest spots by Dave Grohl and Pete Townshend (both on guitar) don't stand out either; they're merely added texture to this an album that's intricately layered, but always plays smoothly and alluringly. And, make no mistake, this is an alluring, welcoming, friendly album -- there are some moody moments, but Bowie takes Neil Young's eerie "I've Been Waiting for You" and Pixies' elusively brutal, creepy "Cactus" and turns them sweet, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. In the end, that's the key to Heathen -- the undercurrent of happiness, not in the lyrics, but in the making of music, a realization by Bowie and Visconti alike that they are perfect collaborators. Unlike their previous albums together, this doesn't boldly break new ground, but that's because, 22 years after their last collaboration, Scary Monsters, both Bowie and Visconti don't need to try as hard, so they just focus on the craft. The result is an understated, utterly satisfying record, his best since Scary Monsters, simply because he'd never sounded as assured and consistent since. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Film Soundtracks - Released March 24, 2003 | Parlophone UK


Alternative & Indie - Released September 16, 2003 | Iso - Columbia


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 October 27, 1997 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released August 4, 2003 | Parlophone UK

Black Tie White Noise was the beginning of David Bowie's return from the wilderness of post-Let's Dance, the first indication that he was regaining his creative spark. To say as much suggests that it's a bit of a lost classic, when it's rather a sporadically intriguing transitional album, finding Bowie balancing the commercial dance-rock of Let's Dance with artier inclinations from his Berlin period, all the while trying to draw on the past by working with former Spider from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson, collaborating with Let's Dance producer Nile Rodgers, and even covering inspiration Scott Walker's "Nite Flights." On top of that, the record was inspired by his recent marriage to supermodel Iman -- the record is bookended with "The Wedding" and "The Wedding Song" -- and then tied up and presented as a sophisticated modern urban soul record, one that draws from uptown soul (including, rather bafflingly, a duet with Al B. Sure!) and state-of-the-art dance-club techno, while adding splashy touches like solos from avant jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie and a nod to modern alt-rock via a nifty cover of Morrissey's "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday." That's a lot of stuff for one record to handle, so it shouldn't come as a great surprise that the album doesn't always work, but its stylish restlessness comes as a great relief, particularly when compared to the hermetically sealed previous solo Bowie record, 1987's Never Let Me Down. Black Tie White Noise displays greater musical ambition than any record he'd made since Scary Monsters, and while much of the record feels like unrealized ideas, there are songs where it all gels, like on the paranoid jumble of "Jump They Say," the aforementioned covers, the impassioned "You've Been Around," and the self-consciously smooth title track. Moments like these are the first in a long time to feel classically Bowie, and they point ahead toward the more interesting records he made in the second half of the '90s, but they are encased in a production that not only sounds dated years later, but sounded dated upon its release in the spring of 1993, two years into the thick of alternative rock. At that point, the club-centric, mainstream-courting Black Tie White Noise seemed as an anachronism during the guitar-heavy grunge-n-industrial glory days -- something Bowie tacitly acknowledged with its 1995 successor, Outside, which was every bit as gloomy as a Nine Inch Nails record -- but separated from the vagaries of fashion, it's an interesting first step in Bowie's creative revival. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released November 13, 1995 | Parlophone UK

On the basis of Tonight, it appears that David Bowie didn't have a clear idea of how to follow the platinum success of Let's Dance. Instead of breaking away from the stylized pop of "Let's Dance" and "China Girl," Bowie delivers another record in the same style. Apart from the single "Blue Jean," none of the material equals the songs on Let's Dance, but that doesn't stop Tonight from becoming another platinum success. Nevertheless, the record stands as one of the weakest albums Bowie ever recorded. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released November 13, 1995 | Parlophone UK

David Bowie broke away from the mainstream pop of Tonight with 1987's Never Let Me Down, turning out a jumbled mix of loud guitar rockers and art rock experiments like the failed "Glass Spider." While it's not as consistent as Tonight, it's far more interesting, with the John Lennon homage of the title track being one of his most underrated songs. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Rock - Released April 20, 1998 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released July 23, 2001 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released August 6, 2001 | Parlophone UK


Rock - Released September 22, 2006 | Parlophone UK


Pop - Released December 29, 2006 | Parlophone UK


Pop - 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


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