By: Jason Smith ~Staff Writer~
David Bowie transcended every cliché in music prior to his existence.
Bowie constantly broke rules and rewrote new ones that many performers today are still copying. He is the template for how to be true to oneself. Bowie made the music he wanted on his terms, and his parting gift to all of us was the album Blackstar.
The Bowie Estate, with the help of his longtime collaborator Toni Viscotti, is now going through the periods of Bowie’s career and releasing remastered collections of all of his albums.
The first collection, Five Years, encapsulated the early folk music and the invention of Ziggy Stardust. The newest collection, Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976), ends Bowie’s glam incarnation and rolls into his “Plastic Soul” period.
There are such gems as “Rebel, Rebel,” “Fame” and “Golden Years.” The collection kicks off with Bowie’s last bit of glam with the album Diamond Dogs, then David Live, a worthwhile performance album, followed by the hidden gem of this whole collection.
Before he made Young Americans, Bowie made an alternate album called The Gouster. It is an unfinished and slightly different Young Americans and lacks the songs “Fame” and “Win.”
The Gouster has long been rumored to exist but was never released until now. Thanks to the magic of Viscotti, the alternate version of the album Young Americans is now here for our listening pleasure.
Tonally, it is sparser and more soulful. The song “It’s Gonna Be Me” really stands out on this album. It could be a church hymnal. Bowie’s soulful pleas are met with beautiful background vocals. This is a heartbreak song like no other. “Can You Hear Me” has a much humbler arrangement, too. The Gouster serves as a quieter template for what was to become Young Americans. The album closes with a very funky version of the song “Right.”
In comparison stands Young Americans, the next album in the collection. This is Bowie at the height of his “American period.” The bombastic album comes to life with a powerful saxophone riff as Bowie’s lyrics play on American ideals.
From the moment the background vocals come in on “All Night,” you sense the power of this record. “Fascination,” cowritten with Luther Vandross, is unlike anything I’ve ever heard.
The collection is rounded out with Station to Station, the last album he recorded before heading to Berlin to clean up. Much of this music was recorded at the height of Bowie’s reliance on pharmacology. There’s the original album and a special 2010 remix by Harry Maslin. Closing everything out is a collection of mixes of the aforementioned songs.
For longtime fans and maybe some new ones, this music is really a treasure to listen to. The music serves as a reminder that even 40 years ago, David Bowie was ahead of his time.
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