Thursday, January 19, 2012

Best of Bowie: 30 - 26

30. "Oh! You Pretty Things" (Hunky Dory - 1971) Are we really just seeing our first track from Hunky Dory? Don't you worry, there will be plenty more. What a way to start that trend! "Oh! You Pretty Things" is definitely one of Bowie's more curiously strange tracks. A beautiful piano bounce care of Rick Wakeman in a catchy, show-tuney style is countered by Bowie's strange musings on the occultism of Aleister Crowley and the philosophy of Nietzsche. Common themes lyrically for Bowie throughout the 70's, but juxtaposed with this style it's definitely strange--beguiling may be more fitting. That's how Bowie rolls. Taking strange lyrics and injecting them into a sunny pop song. It came as no surprise to find out that Peter Noone of Hermin's Hermits covered this song, with Bowie playing piano for him. Add that to the list of strange collaborations.

29. "Time" (Aladdin Sane -1973) One common thread in a lot of David Bowie tunes is the exceptional useage of the piano. Be it an appearance of Rick Wakeman on the last track or Bowie himself, piano is a crucial and all too important instrument in the sound of Bowie's music. Easily the best album for piano stand-outs, Aladdin Sane has two phenomenal tracks where the piano takes over. First on this list is "Time." Mike Garson's performance here is strident, vampy and bombastic. it fits the bill for the song, a paranoid tryst of "Quaaludes and red wine." For all of it's over the top sound, it never feels overdone. Personally, Aladdin Sane is the pinnacle of Bowie's glam rock sound, moreso than his beloved but misunderstood by me classic Diamond Dogs. It may be the help of Mike Garson throughout the record or just the sheer insanity of it all, but "Time" is one of those integral pieces on Aladdin Sane and in the Bowie canon at large.

28. "Slip Away" (Heathen -2002) - Bowie revisits space. Images of future worlds, dystopia and space are also among the common themes that Bowie keeps revisiting. Here it becomes more about nostalgia than being in the moment of the Space Age. The song is a tribute to the "Uncle Floyd Show" which he learned about through his good friend John Lennon. I do not personally know much of anything about the show, but what I do know is that this track is beautiful. It's a slow, sweeping anthem that builds in sound. Of his later career beyond his "golden years" in the 70's, this is the highest of high points for Bowie. Tony Levin's bass slinks in the background of yet another piano driven song and Bowie's vocals hit new heights even in the autumn of his career. Unfortunately, Heathen was not his final album. It was followed up by Reality which has a few decent moments but none that compare to the grandeur and beauty of "Slip Away."

27. "Stay" (Station to Station - 1975) The monumental album Station to Station is chock full of great cuts and only one song from that album didn't make this list... due to it being a cover. That said, "Stay" is one of Bowie's best melanges of a funky leftover riff from Young Americans and infuses it with some hard rock and paranoia typical of Bowie's late 70's output. This song is most notable for Carlos Alomar's soaring guitar workout. Throughout the tracks six minutes, Alomar strings together some funky riffing overlayed with searing guitar solos that swirl in and out around you. Bowie's desperation in the lyrics also stand out. His strung out desperation whilst stranded in L.A. for two years is conveyed both lyrically and through the strain heard through his vocal delivery. For as rockin' a song "Stay" is, it's also terribly dark, pointing toward the road that Bowie was going when he left the USA for Berlin the following year.

26. "Let's Dance" (Let's Dance - 1983) Ahh yes, the greatest of Bowie's 80's big hits. "Let's Dance" came out the year of my birth. It was a huge success for Bowie, although it would ultimately be the death kneel for his career for a few years (save for a few hits here and there, this album was essentially the end of Bowie's prolific career.) Notable on this track is the guitar work of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn who delivers a subtle and subdued yet ultimately memorable guitar riff. More so than even the song being great was the songs video, a tribute to the lost souls of Australia. If for no reason other than nostalgia and this being one of the very first Bowie songs I loved as a kid, this song also has a balls out, crazy album edit that sprawls for 7 minutes of pure dance hall beats and a horn section that goes all out jazz on your face. It's not just nostalgia, I take that back. This is one of those great songs from the 80's, far and away better than most of the songs released during that strange, drug addled and synthesizer heavy decade.

No comments: