Music Discoveries: Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time 450-441

Last September, Rolling Stone magazine released their most recent list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, which includes a greater variety of artists and genres than previous lists. Looking through the list, there were many albums I’d never listened to before and a few I’d never even heard of. In fact, counting it up, I found that I’d only listened to 140 of the albums, although I’d heard songs from many more. So I’ve decided my project for 2021 is to listen to 10 albums each week and write up some thoughts about each one.

Previous Posts:

Artist: Paul and Linda McCartney
Year: 1971
Label: Apple
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Too Many People”

Thoughts: For the first time in this project, not only have I listened to the album before, but I’ve written about it on this blog. I’ve been consistent over the years in my dislike for the vast majority of Paul McCartney’s post-Beatles output. And the hit single from this album – “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” – is among his absolute worst work. But Paul and Linda were happy in their marriage and domestic life, so I can’t deny them that.

Artist: The White Stripes
Year: 2003
Label: V2/XL/Third Man
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:No
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Seven Nation Army”

Thoughts: The White Stripes are one of those bands that music critics just love to dote on. I’ve never really heard what it is that they think is so great about the band’s music. And Jack White comes across as more than a little creepy.  “Seven Nation Army” is, no doubt, a great rally song at sporting events (with a mesmerizing video, to boot) but nothing else stands out for me. This album is a collection of “back to basics” rock and roll.  But this has been done before and since, as well or better than The White Stripes, so I’m not sure why this album is singled out for recognition.

Artist: Otis Redding
Album: Dictionary of Soul
Year: 1966
Label: Volt
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: YES
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song)”
  • “Sweet Lorene”
  • “Try A Little Tenderness”
  • “You’re Still My Baby”
  • “Hawg For You”
  • But the whole damn album is great!

Thoughts: I’m a long time fan of Otis Redding, whom I consider one of the greatest vocalists of all time.  But I’ve mostly listened to compilations and box sets of his music and never listened to this album before, although I’m familiar with about half of it.  This was the last album released before Redding’s death, and features a good sampling of his trademark ballads and raveups.  But the album also shows that he can sing the Blues really well too.

Artist: Bad Bunny
Album: X 100pre
Year: 2018
Label: Rimas
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Not likely
Favorite Tracks:

  • “La Romana”
  • “Mia”

Thoughts: Here’s a fairly recent album from an artist, Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny, whose name has entered my consciousness despite my general ignorance of Latin trap and reggaeton.  In fact, it’s his debut album, which surprises me, because I thought I’d heard the name for longer. I appreciate that the album offers an eclectic mix of musical styles, tempos, and rhythms even as I know that this is not something I personally enjoy.

Artist: Alice Coltrane
Album: Journey in Satchidanada
Year: 1971
Label: Impulse!
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: No
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Journey in Satchidananda”
  • “Something About John Coltrane”
  • “Isis and Osiris”

Thoughts: I confess to never having heard about Alice Coltrane, and this album is a revelation. The music is a fusion of a experimental jazz and Indian classic music that draws upon her own spiritual journey and the work of her husband, John Coltrane, who died a few years earlier.  Alice Coltrane plays piano and harp, while Pharaoh Sanders provides the soprano saxophone and percussion. All of the tracks feature the Indian string instrument, the tanpura, except the final track which has the lute-like oud.

Artist: Yes
Album: Close to the Edge
Year: 1972
Label: Atlantic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: God forbid
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I’m on record for my dislike of 70s progressive rock. The excess, the pretentiousness, the boringness.  I was not looking forward to listening to Yes (although their 80s sellout hit, “Owner of a Lonely Heart,” slaps). But like a good do-bee, I listened to all three gratuitously long songs on this album.  My brain checked out a few

Artist: Fiona Apple
Album: Extraordinary Machine
Year: 2005
Label: Epic
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: Yes
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Extraordinary Machine”
  • “Get Him Back”
  • “O’ Sailor”
  • “Parting Gift”
  • “Not About Love”

Thoughts: The enthusiasm over the brilliant Fetch the Bolt Cutters last spring made me realize that I’d been missing out on Fiona Apple for all these years. The songs have a bouncy piano, confessional lyrics, and arrangements that make them sound like they’re for a Broadway show.  I like listening to Apple’s voice and regret denying myself of hearing it for so long.

Artist: David Bowie
AlbumScary Monsters
Year: 1980
Label: RCA
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: Yes
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Up the Hill Backwards”
  • “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)”
  • “Ashes to Ashes”
  • “Fashion”
  • “Kingdome Come”

Thoughts: Once again, we’ve reached an album that I’ve written about before. Bowie’s first album of the 80s sounds like a synthesis of everything he did during the 70s.  It was less experimental than previous albums, but it seemed to be a marker for the end of the era, while clearing the decks for the next.

Artist: The Weeknd
Album: Beauty Behind the Madness
Year: 2015
Label: XO
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?: No
Favorite Tracks: None
Thoughts: Seems appropriate that The Weeknd comes up in this list, fresh off his Super Bowl appearance (which I didn’t watch).  I’m only slightly familiar with his work, so I was surprised that the topics of every song seemed to be bragging/regretting doing lots of drugs and sex.  Musically, the mid-tempo R&B doesn’t appeal to me either. I didn’t think I knew any of the songs on this album but in fact, I did know the hit “Can’t Feel My Face.”

Artist: Britney Spears
Year: 2007
Label: Jive
Have I Listened to This Album Before?: No
Am I Familiar With This Artist/Songs from This Album?: Yes
Would I Listen to this Album Again?:
Favorite Tracks:

  • “Get Naked (I Got a Plan)”
  • “Toy Soldier”

Thoughts: Britney Spears was pretty much off my radar by 2007, and I never heard anything by hear after the “…Baby One More Time”/”Oops!… I Did It Again.”  Stylistically it’s aggressive electronic dance pop with angrier and hornier lyrics than Spears’ earlier work, reflecting her well-publicized personal troubles. At least now I know the origin of the meme “It’s Britney, bitch!” It feels a little exploitative listening to it now, knowing the abuse and mockery Spears has suffered, and how she continues to suffer under a conservatorship.

Running List of Albums I’d Listen to Again

  • 500. Arcade Fire, Funeral
  • 498. Suicide, Suicide
  • 497. Various Artists, The Indestructible Beat of Soweto
  • 494. The Ronettes, Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes
  • 489. A Christmas Gift for You from Phil Spector from Phil Spector and Various Artists, Back to Mono (1958-1969)
  • 487. Black Flag, Damaged
  • 485, Richard and Linda Thompson, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
  • 483, Muddy Waters, The Anthology
  • 482, The Pharcyde, Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde
  • 481, Belle and Sebastian, If You’re Feeling Sinister
  • 478, The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
  • 477, Howlin’ Wolf, Moanin’ in the Moonlight
  • 469, Manu Chao, Clandestino
  • 465, King Sunny Adé, The Best of the Classic Years
  • 464, The Isley Brothers, 3 + 3
  • 462, The Flying Burrito Brothers, The Gilded Palace of Sin
  • 459, Kid Cudi, Man on the Moon: The End of the Day
  • 457, Sinéad O’Connor, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
  • 456, Al Green, Greatest Hits
  • 455, Bo Diddley, Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
  • 453, Nine Inch Nails, Pretty Hate Machine
  • 452, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Anthology
  • 451, Roberta Flack, First Take
  • 448, Otis Redding, Dictionary of Soul
  • 446, Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidanada
  • 444, Fiona Apple, Extraordinary Machine
  • 443, David Bowie, Scary Monsters

Movie Review: Labyrinth (1986)

Welcome to Muppet Mondays! Over the next several Mondays I will be working my way through the various movies in the Muppets and Jim Henson oeuvre.

Title: Labyrinth
Release Date: June 27, 1986
Director: Jim Henson
Production Company: Henson Associates, Inc.| Lucasfilm Ltd.

Surprisingly, I’ve never watched this Jim Henson production before, despite the fact that it came out when I was 12, the ideal age to watch this movie. I remember hearing that the movie was a dud, and believed the criticism, although in later years I learned that Labyrinth became a cult classic.  There’s a lot of talent involved in this movie – Jim Henson as directory, George Lucas as producer, Monty Python’s Terry Jones as the main scriptwriter, and David Bowie lending his talents to his performance as Jareth the Goblin King and his music to the soundtrack.

One might expect something huge from this confluence of talents and be disappointed by the smaller film that ensued. If you take the film on its own though, it is a wonderfully imaginative story that draws up fantasy folklore with impressive visuals. Jennifer Connelly plays the fantasy-obsessed teenager Sarah who resents having to babysit her infant brother and asks the goblins to take him away.  When Jareth does in fact take Toby to his castle he allows Sarah 13 hours to solve a labyrinth to recover her brother. The resourceful Sarah uses her knowledge of fantasy tropes to find her way through with the help of the cowardly dwarf Hoggle (Brian Henson), the gentle giant Ludo (Ron Mueck), and the overly courageous fox Sir Didymus (performed by Dave Goelz and voiced by David Shaughnessy).

Compared with present day fantasy and adventure movies, there’s very little preamble before Sarah jumps into her adventure in the labyrinth, and a brief conclusion as well.  While more grounded in the real world than The Dark Crystal, the movie is wonderfully fantastic with impressive sets, puppetry, and animatronics. On the downside there’s some poor chroma key work in some scenes especially the one where the Fierys are dancing.  This film falls into the part of Bowie’s career when he was making over-produced, synth heavy pop, although the songs are better than his work on Tonight.

I’m so used to actors in their 20s playing teenagers that I’m impressed that Connelly was actually 16, because she seems older. She does a good job of portraying the age when one begins to put aside childish things for grownup responsibilities.  Although, as we learn, those childish things will always be there when we need them.

Rating: ****

Documentary Review: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1983) #AtoZChallenge

This is my entry for “Z” in the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Throughout April I will be watching and reviewing a documentary movie from A to Z. Previous “Z” documentaries I’ve reviewed include Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait and Zimbelism.

Title: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Release Date: December 23, 1983
Director: D. A. Pennebaker
Production Company: Miramax Films | MainMan | Bewlay Bros.

David Bowie finished off a world tour supporting The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars with this performance at London’s Hammersmith Odeon on July 3, 1973.  Pioneering D. A. Pennebaker and a small crew were on hand to film the show.  Cinematically, this film does not hold up to the likes of The Last Waltz or Stop Making Sense. Nevertheless, I appreciate the simplicity and the intimacy of this concert film.

Bowie is the focus of the film, whether he’s on stage or in his dressing room for a costume change.  It’s clear that he has a special connection with the audience, many of who are in Ziggy Stardust style makeup and costumes.  Assuming there are no overdubs in this film – and I don’t think there are – the band was on fire this night, especially Mark Ronson who has several excellent guitar solos.  Pianist Mike Garson lends a cocktail lounge jazz sound to several songs that works very well.  My only disappointment is that the band doesn’t perform “Starman” or “Life on Mars” in this set.

If you’re like me and weren’t alive to see what the big deal was regarding Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, this is a good way to found out.

Rating: ****

Book Reviews: On Bowie by Rob Sheffield

Author: Rob Sheffield
TitleOn Bowie
Narrator: Tristan Morris
Publication Info: New York, NY : Dey Street Books, [2016]

Previously Read By The Same Author:


The thing I like about Rob Sheffield’s music writing is that he eschews the distanced approach of music critics, and while he’s writing as a fan, he’s not writing a hagiography of his musical heroes.  Instead, Sheffield writes about how fans engage with music and the artists that create it.  This is particularly significant in Bowie’s case as Bowie himself was a fan who never hid his influences, collaborated with many of his favorite musicians, offered support to young up and coming artists, and even on his final album took some inspiration from the much younger artist Kendrick Lamar.  Bowie also engaged directly with his fans, treating them as special people, and encouraging their creativity.  The funny thing is that Sheffield presents Bowie fans as the outcasts of society whereas I came to Bowie later in my life because when I was young I never felt cool enough to listen to Bowie.  Regardless of how you come to Bowie, this is a great book with stories of his life and how he created his music.

Favorite Passages:

“Nobody enjoyed laughing at his humiliations more than he did.”

“That’s one of the things David Bowie came to show us — we go to music to hear ourselves change.”

Rating: ***1/2


2016 Year in Review: Favorite Albums

This is my second attempt at making an Albums of the Year least after my first try in 2014.  There aren’t any real surprises here as most of these albums are appearing on every other list, so I will have to seek out younger and more experimental musicians.  Nevertheless, here are my thoughts on five great albums from 2016.

Listed alphabetically by title, with links to my original reviews where possible.

David Bowie, Blackstar

Bowie’s final album, released days before his death, shows that he was an experimenter to the very last, incorporating jazz and electronic songs into richly textured songs about mortality.

Beyoncé, Lemonade

Confession: I never listened to anything by Beyoncé before this year.  But this album blew me away with it’s mix of genres and the blend of personal travails with the political aspirations of black women.  It seems appropriate that it comes 25 years after Nirvana’s Nevermind and The Beatle’s Revolver because each album created a new sound for its generation.

A Tribe Called Red, We Are the Halluci Nation

As the Water Protectors made their stand  against DAPL this year, it is appropriate that the Ottawa-based DJs of A Tribe Called Red released their most angry, political album yet.

The Avalanches, Wild Flowers

It wasn’t worth waiting 16 years, but it’s still a wild mix of sounds that feels like a back alley journey through American music.

Leonard Cohen, You Want it Darker

Another farewell album recorded by an artist in his dying days that shows that the power of creativity can persist into old age.

For an entirely different list of albums I’ve never heard before (but really want to now), check out this list on the Speed of Things by my friend Erik.

What are your favorite albums of the year?





Song of the Week: “Life on Mars?” by Sophia Anne Caruso

Just when you thought there was already enough David Bowie content on this blog, today’s Song of the Week comes from the recently released cast recording of the David Bowie musical, Lazarus.  Sophia Anne Caruso’s interpretation of “Life on Mars?” is the perfect Bowie and the musical theater.  I can’t stop listening to it.

Take a gander and see if you think the same.


Music Discoveries: David Bowie, 1988-2016

The 1980s saw a low point in David Bowie’s creative output. He was not alone, as many of the great artists of the sixties and seventies released a lot of dreck in the 1980s. Many of them never recovered, while others regained relevancy only as nostalgia acts, touring on their old hits and/or recording new songs that sound a whole lot like their old songs. Always one to be different, in 1990 Bowie staged his Sound & Vision Tour where he symbolically “retired” much of his back catalog of hit songs (although some of the songs returned for later tours). Incidentally, my sister had a cassette of the Changesbowie greatest hits compilation from the same year, which was my first exposure to most of Bowie’s hit songs.

Around the same time, Bowie formed a new band Tin Machine with Reeves Gabrels, Tony Sales, and Hunt Sales (my favorite tidbit is that the latter two are sons of children’s tv host Soupy Sales). Bowie made an effort to make sure that he was part of a democratic band encouraging interviewers to talk with the other band members and not just him. The hard rock sound was reminiscent of blues rock from the sixties and seventies (including Bowie’s work on The Man Who Sold the World) as well as contemporary alternative rock music that would soon become known as grunge. Rejuvenated by his experience with Tin Machine, Bowie had a creative revival and over the course of 25 years experimented with electronic music (both house and drum & bass), theatrical concept albums, video game soundtracks, jazz, and art rock, and set a standard for a rock star to age gracefully without compromise.

While Bowie will be most remembered for his work from around 1969 to 1981, I think his 1990s and 2000s work is also worth revisiting.

AlbumTin Machine
Release Date: 22 May 1989
Favorite Tracks: “Heaven’s in Here,” “Tin Machine,” “Crack City,” and “Bus Stop”
Thoughts:  I kind of wish I’d given this album a try when it first came out as it would’ve slotted in well with other bands I was listening to at the time such as Living Colour and The Smithereens, as well as blues rock from the 60s and 70s.  Better late than never.  While the music here can be bland at times, it holds up much better than Bowie’s mid-80s work.
Rating: ***

AlbumTin Machine II
Release Date: 2 September 1991
Favorite Tracks: “You Belong in Rock n’ Roll,”  “Stateside,”  “Shopping for Girls,” and “Goodbye Mr. Ed”
Thoughts: Still blues rock with a hard edge (especially “Stateside”) but a sound that fits in with the alternative rock of the era.  I think the first Tin Machine II album was more consistent, but my favorite tracks stand out more on this album.
Rating: ***

AlbumBlack Tie White Noise
Release Date: 5 April 1993
Favorite Tracks: “You’ve Been Around,”  “Jump They Say,”  “Pallas Athena,” and “Miracle Goodnight”
Thoughts: There’s a lot going on this album.  Bowie is celebrating his wedding to Iman. He is reunited with producer Nile Rodgers and guitarist Mick Ronson.  And he’s exploring blending house music with sax-heavy soul music.  Some tracks have a cheezy synth-sound, but overall this may be the most danceable David Bowie album.  This is another one I wish I checked out at the time it was released because I probably would’ve liked it.
Rating: ***

Album1. Outside
Release Date: 25 September 1995[
Favorite Tracks: “A Small Plot of Land,” “Hallo Spaceboy,”  “I Have Not Been to Oxford Town,” “No Control”
Thoughts: Bowie once again dips into a well of previous successes, reuniting with producer Brian Eno and creating a concept album on dystopian themes not unlike Diamond Dogs. The result is a theatrical collection of industrial tracks.  The album is lengthy and dark in tone, so I can’t imagine wanting to put it on often, but that does not detract from the artistry of it.
Rating: ***

Release Date: 3 February 1997
Favorite Tracks: “Little Wonder,” “Battle for Britain (The Letter),” “Telling Lies,”  and “I’m Afraid of Americans”
Thoughts: David Bowie continues to experiment with contemporary music styles, this time blending drum and bass with his brand of rock and roll.  “I’m Afraid of Americans” is the only 1990s song I believe I’ve heard before, and it’s not even the best one on the album.
Rating: ***1/2

Release Date:  21 September 1999
Favorite Tracks: The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell
Thoughts: With Bowie, expect the unexpected.  What’s unexpected here is that this album originated with the music for a computer game soundtrack.  What’s unfortunate is that much of it is mellow, “easy listening” material which is a bit too reminiscent of his 1980s nadir (but with better production). “The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell” is the standout track, but I think it would’ve been just run-of-the-mill on previous 1990s albums.

Release Date: 11 June 2002
Favorite Tracks: “Slip Away” and  “Heathen (The Rays)”
Thoughts: This album kind of strikes me as what if the guy who recorded Let’s Dance grew older and decided to record a more serious album. There’s nothing wrong with the that, it’s just odd considering all the other incarnations of Bowie in-between.  The instrumentation on the album is lush, but musically it still has too much of an easy-listening vibe.
Rating: **

Release Date: 16 September 2003
Favorite Tracks: “New Killer Star,”  “Pablo Picasso,”  “Try Some, Buy Some,” and “Reality”
Thoughts: This is a partner album for Heathens, although with more of a post-punk vibe, a harder rock & roll edge, and more consistency from song to song.  Bowie gets abstractly political and throws in a couple of covers.
Rating: **1/2

AlbumThe Next Day
Release Date:  8 March 2013
Favorite Tracks: “Where Are We Now?” and “You Feel So Lonely You Could Die”
Thoughts: After a ten-year absence from releasing studio recordings, Bowie surprised fans with a new album. The Next Day is a straight-forward rocker of an album that both builds on Bowie’s past and show’s his continued interest in innovation. This another album where I haven’t singled out many favorite tracks but I do like the overall tone and flow of the complete album.
Rating: ***

Release Date: 8 January 2016
Favorite Tracks: “Blackstar,” “Lazarus,” “Girl Loves Me,”  and “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
Thoughts: For the first and only time, I listened to a David Bowie recording at the time it was released.  I remember being blown away by the title song when it came out in November 2015, and impressed that Bowie was doing such innovative work so late in his career.  And then Bowie died just two days after the album was released in January.  It’s clear that Bowie’s mortality informed the lyrics and that this album was a farewell.  But Bowie also left on a creative peak, incorporating experimental jazz and electronic music in his own inimitable way.
Rating: *****

Five unexpected things that I learned about Bowie through listening to all of his studio albums:

  • That he likes to do lots of cover songs.  I’d always thought he was the type of artist who only recorded his own songs.
  • That he’s a major collaborator.  I knew about Bowie’s work with Queen and Bing Crosby, but all through his career he worked with an enormous number of talented artists.
  • That he likes to rework, re-record, and reissue songs, often over long periods of time.
  • That most of his 80s work is so unlistenable, but that so much of his work from 1989 onward that I never heard before is rather remarkable.
  • That listening to all the studio albums just scratches the surface of the work Bowie produced since he has so many non-album recordings, soundtracks, remixes, live recordings, and collaborations with other artists, not to mention his work in music videos and films.

 On that last note, I could extend this Bowie discovery series indefinitely.  But, for now I will call this an end, and when Music Discoveries returns I will be revisiting the music of The Replacements.

Music Discoveries: David Bowie, 1975-1987

This second post in the Music Discovery series covers a dozen years and nine David Bowie albums.  It follows Bowie as he says goodbye to Glam Rock and Ziggy Stardust and takes on American soul, German electronic music, atmospheric art music, and finally pop superstardom.  The first six albums come out with regularity about a year apart, but by the 1980s, Bowie’s musical output drops considerably with only three albums in 8 years.  Sadly, the quality of that music also falls off a cliff, and it’s hard to believe it’s the same artists.  Bowie himself would refer to it as his “Phil Collins period.”

Despite only three albums, Bowie remained busy in the 1980s with major world tours and collaborations with other artists.  Some, like with Queen, were transcendent while other’s, like with Mick Jagger, were embarrassing.  Bowie also kept busy acting in films like The Man Who Fell to Earth, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, and Labyrinth (I need to have a David Bowie movie marathon and watch all of these).  I didn’t include his movie soundtrack work so there is more musical output there.  Bowie’s film experience also translated to music video and he helped make an art of the medium.  I remember the 20-minute movie/video for “Blue Jean” being a huge deal on MTV at the time, although his “Ashes to Ashes” video stands up more over time.

So here is it all, the weird and wonderful and sometimes cringe-worthy middle career of David Bowie.

AlbumYoung Americans
Release Date: 7 March 1975
Favorite Tracks: “Young Americans,” “Fame,”  “John, I’m Only Dancing (Again),” and “Who Can I Be Now?”
Thoughts: Bowie transitions into a 70s soul & funk style for this album.  To help out he collaborates with Luther Vandross, but also works with John Lennon on a couple of tracks.  I found the sound of this album a refreshing change at first, although it all starts to blend together after a while.  The cover of “Across the Universe” seemed particularly uninspired since a Philly soul take on that song seems so promising.  The two hit singles from this album, and surprisingly the bonus tracks added in later editions stand out for me.
Rating: ***

AlbumStation to Station
Release Date: 23 January 1976
Favorite Tracks:  “Golden Years” and “TVC 15”
Thoughts: The album continues the r&b sound of it’s predecessor, with a darker mood, and the addition of electronic instrumentation that prefigures the post-punk/New Wave sound by about five years.  Apparently Bowie was completely coked-out in recording this album and channeling the numb-to-emotion persona of the Thin White Duke.  I know this album is well-regarded so I hope Bowie fans won’t judge me too much for it not resonating well with me.  Still, a definite musical achievement.
Rating:  ***

Release Date: 14 January 1977
Favorite Tracks: “Be My Wife,” “”A New Career in a New Town,” “Warszawa,” and “Subterraneans”
Thoughts: Bowie escaped a cocaine-riddled life in Los Angeles and moved to Berlin, working with Brian Eno on the first of what would become known as the Berlin Trilogy albums. Stylistically, Bowie moves on from American funk & soul to German electronic and avant guarde music.  The entire second half of the album is mostly instrumental and atmospheric music, something I really like although I imagine it was a shock to rock & roll fans in 1977.  I’d never heard any of this album before so it was a pleasant surprise to hear Bowie innovating in yet another musical style.
Rating: ***1/2 (I’d give the B-side a full ****)

Release Date: 14 October 1977
Favorite Tracks: “Beauty and the Beast,” “‘Heroes’,”  “Sense of Doubt,”  and “Neukoln”
Thoughts: Bowie and Eno’s experiments with electronic and atmospheric music continue with this album trying and succeeding to incorporate those sounds into pop songs with lyrics.  There’s still a segment of three consecutive instrumental, atmospheric tracks near the end of the album.  As a result, the album feels all over the place musically, but delightfully so.  This very much feels like the groundwork for 1980s New Wave music.
Rating: ***1/2

Release Date: 18 May 1979
Favorite Tracks: “DJ” and “Boys Keep Swinging”
Thoughts: Bowie builds on the experimental sounds of the previous two albums in a collection of songs with much more pop sensibility.  To this is added an element of world music on several tracks.  The effect is kind of a Bowie take on Talking Heads.
Rating: **1/2

AlbumScary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Release Date: 12 September 1980
Favorite Tracks:  “Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps),” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Fashion,” and “Because Your Young”
Thoughts:  The album is a culmination (and perhaps a purging) of all the musical sounds of the seventies, as well as a preview of what’s to come in the eighties.  There’s very little of the experimentation of recent albums, just straight forward rock in a New Wave vein.
Rating: ***

AlbumLet’s Dance
Release Date: 14 April 1983
Favorite Tracks: “Modern Love” and  “Let’s Dance”
Thoughts: Bowie dives into 1980s mainstream success with this collection of danceable soul/funk tracks.  He plays no instruments, but his voice is joined by Stevie Ray Vaughn, and Nile Rogers produces ready made hits.  While “Modern Love” and “Let’s Dance” are a couple of the great songs of the 1980s overall, the rest of the album is kind of a bland morass.
Rating: *1/2

Release Date: 1 September 1984
Favorite Tracks: “Blue Jean”
Thoughts: An attempt to follow up on the commercial success of Let’s Dance, this album is basically a collection of covers packaged around the one good song “Blue Jean.”  The rest of the album is almost unlistenable and it’s hard to believe it was created by the same person who made the previous 15 albums.
Rating: 1/2 *

Album: Never Let Me Down
Release Date: 27 April 1987
Favorite Tracks: none
Thoughts: I want to be more generous with this album, because it sounds like there may be some good songs under the awful 80s production, and Bowie made the effort to write a new set of songs with a rock band.  But it still isn’t much fun to listen to this.
Rating: *

Next week: Bowie returns to innovating music setting an example for other rock and roll elder statesmen right up until his death in 2016.

Music Discoveries: David Bowie, 1967-1974

Although I only began posting “Music Discoveries” a few months ago, I came up with the idea a few years back inspired by the fact that I needed to listen to more David Bowie. True confession: I have not always appreciated David Bowie’s music. I first became aware of Bowie as a child perhaps during his most commercially accessible period when he had hits like “Modern Love,” “Jazzing for Bluejean,” and a strange duet with Mick Jagger covering “Dancing in the Streets.” I remember my sister and I seeing a tv spot about Ziggy Stardust and marveling about how Bowie was really strange long ago (it was only about 10 years, but it seemed like lifetimes). Of course, it’s a credit to Bowie’s influence in that he made many of the New Wave/postpunk musicians of the early 1980s seem not so “weird” to begin with. Over the years I knew people who were devotees of Bowie but while I enjoyed a handful of songs I never paid much attention. The tipping point oddly enough came from watching the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in 2012 where at one point they played Bowie’s song “Starman.” It was a song I was not familiar with and for some reason it resonated me and lead to me reevaluating my indifference to Bowie. And so, after all this time, I’m going to listen to David Bowie’s recordings from beginning to end.

Album: David Bowie
Date: 1 June 1967
Thoughts: This early recording is more of a curiosity of what Bowie sounded like in his earliest recordings than something  I’d want to put on to listen to for fun.  It’s baroque pop with that music hall style that was briefly popular in English rock music circa 1966-1968, with Bowie crooning out a few tunes.  The lyrics are slice of life with just a bit of weird (which means they were probably a lot weird in ’67).
Rating: **

Album: David Bowie (a.k.a. Man of Words/Man of Music, a.k.a. Space Oddity)
Date:14 November 1969
Favorite Tracks: “Space Oddity” and “Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed”
Thoughts: Bowie reinvents himself for the first time with his second debut album.  “Space Oddity” is a classic opening track, but not representative of the album as a whole.  Music roams around genres from the gentle folk and cabaret of his earlier album to electric folk rock and blues and orchestrated, theatrical pieces.  The latter include “Cygnet Committee” and “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” which seem to point to where Bowie is going in his later work, but also feel bloated and directionless.
Rating: **1/2

Album: The Man Who Sold the World
Date: 4 November 1970
Favorite Tracks: “The Man Who Sold the World”
Thoughts:  Bowie builds on the folk and cabaret styles of previous recordings and adds the edge of a psychedelic blues rock sound.  While I didn’t single out many tracks, I have to note that the quality is consistent from top to bottom, and I expect this is the first of many great Bowie albums.
Rating: ****

Album: Hunky Dory
Date: 17 December 1971
Favorite Tracks: “Changes,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” and “Life on Mars?”
Thoughts: Everything that came before culminates in Hunky Dory.  I want to say this is the first album with the real David Bowie sound, but that’s nonsensical since his sound is forever changing.  Nevertheless, a classic.
Rating: ****1/2

Album: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Date: 16 June 1972
Favorite Tracks: “Five Years,” “Starman,” “Lady Stardust,” “Ziggy Stardust”
Thoughts: The concept album offers a lot to chew on regarding  aliens, fictional rock stars, and impeding doom.  Musically it’s a compilation of rock and roll styles bridging rockabilly to punk rock.  Another classic.
Rating: ****

Album: Aladdin Sane
Date: 13 April 1973
Favorite Tracks:  “Panic in Detroit,” “Let’s Spend the Night Together,” and “The Jean Genie.”
Thoughts: First, I love the pun in the title.  Second, I was surprised that I was not familiar with really any of the songs from this “classic period” album except for “The Jean Genie,” and it was nice to come to it “fresh.”  It reminds me of The Man Who Sold the World for having a hard rock edge (a Rolling Stones’ influence that includes a Stones’ cover) with Ziggy Stardust’s free movement among rock and roll genres, and theatricality one comes to expect of a David Bowie album.
Rating: ***1/2

Album: Pin Ups
Date: 19 October 1973
Favorite Tracks: “Friday on My Mind” and  “Where Have All the Good Times Gone”
Thoughts: Another revelation to me is David Bowie as an interpreter of other people’s music, but here is an album entirely of cover songs.  The collection of rock and roll tracks from the mid-60s betrays a nostalgic side of Bowie previously seen in his songs about Andy Warhol and Bob Dylan,  as well as his cover of “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”  The presentation is interesting as the songs run together sounding a bit like a garage band concert recording.
Rating: **1/2

Album: Diamond Dogs
Date: 24 May 1974
Favorite Tracks: “Diamond Dogs,” “Rebel, Rebel,”
Thoughts: Dystopian visions and gritty guitars mark this album that draws on George Orwell and the Rolling Stones and presages the transition from glam to punk. Brilliant, but also difficult to listen to.

Next week:  the rest of ’70s and all of the ’80s with David Bowie.

Song of the Week: “Lazarus” by David Bowie

No doubt you’ve read the many tributes to David Bowie after his death this week at the age of 69.

“Lazarus” is the video Bowie made to support the release of what appears to be his final album Blackstar.  The video and lyrics are full of premonition of his impending death, and may well be his planned farewell to us all.