One of my favorite musical artists is David Bowie. I have made lists before of albums that changed my life lists of my songs about summer and many more lists including my last list of the Top songs of all time. But nowhere on those lists is David Bowie, so how can he be one of my personal favorites but not list a song? Because to me his albums are what he is about and while he may not have been a factor in my lists,since he now has a new album coming out in March, it is time to do one of just his material. It was not an easy decision to rank an artists work but I have done it and I am sure there will be many disagreements among fans as to the listing of the top 10 but here goes.
The Outside Albums: By the outside albums I am referring to the many albums of the Thin White Duke that I do not have on my top 10 Bowie Albums of all time. My top 5 albums of his were fairly simple but coming up with the bottom 5 proved to be a bit of a battle as at least 10 albums battled for the bottom 5. Not making the list were such albums as Space Oddity, Station to Station, Lodger and Scary Monsters, all good albums with redeeming quality’s but failing to make my list.
So here are my choices for The Bowie Files.
10). Pin Ups(1973)..The Duke’s 7th Album contained no original Bowie Material as he chose to record songs that influenced him from the mid 60’s London Era. He Covered songs by the Pretty Things, The Who,Pink Floyd,Them and The Who among others and was able to make those songs his own. Especially good is his version of the Pretty Things”Don’t Bring me Down”. This album is one the few that most people would not have on a top 10 list but to me his attempts at recreating an era in music was a success.
9)Heroes(1977)..Part of his Berlin Trilogy(the other releases being Low and Lodger) this is often considered to be the best of the 3 and is memorable to me as it is the album that both Brian Eno and Robert Fripp performed on. It is a bit of a more Dark and Moody album with a few Instrumentals on it but on the whole is a very good listen, especially on a cold winters night. And the song Heroes is one of his best a classic story of two lovers who meet at the Berlin Wall.
8).The Man who Sold The World(1970)..Besides being that album that gave Nirvana one of its biggest hits any album that can reference Nietzsche, H.P. Lovecraft and the Vietnam War can’t be all that bad.It is also the first album that brought together the band that would be the backing group for the Ziggy Stardust Album and most likely his first real Rock and Roll Album, and some critics feel that this is the album that started Glam Rock(Try telling that to the New York Dolls). Obviously the Man who Sold the World is the best known song off the album but 2 other tracks rank up there with his best work, “The Width of a Circle” and “All the Madmen”.
7 ). Hunky Dory(1971)..His 4th album and the one whose cover was influenced by Marlene Dietrich. it contained tributes to Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol and the velvet Underground but also let his fans know that changes were in store for them as the Song “Changes” detailed,(Strange fascination, fascinating me / Changes are taking the pace I’m going through”,Look out, you rock ‘n’ rollers). It also contained “Quicksand” and “Oh,You Pretty things” along with the autobiographical song”The Bewlay Brothers”. Rolling Stone magazine wrote”Hunky Dory not only represents Bowie’s most engaging album musically, but also finds him once more writing literally enough to let the listener examine his ideas comfortably, without having to withstand a barrage of seemingly impregnable verbiage before getting at an idea” Not bad for an album that Bowie himself considers the album to be one of the most important in his career.
6). Let’s Dance(1983)..what can you say about an album that contains an artists top selling singles and 3 top 5 songs according to the charts. The title track “Let’s Dance” along with ‘China Girl” and “Modern Love” all went to #2 on the charts with “Let’s Dance” actually hitting #1 for a brief period, and it is to this day the biggest selling album of Bowie career. And any album that used Guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan becomes a necessary listen to me.
5). Low(1977)..Another one of his Berlin Trilogy albums this was fascinating to me because of the electronic influence of Kraftwerk and contains many painful themed songs as it was written after Bowie’s battle with cocaine use, and once again Brian Eno was heavily involved in this album while producer Tony Visconti worked wonders creating an atmosphere that is very eerie but simple. The song “A new career in a new Town” pretty well sums up the albums theme. One of those albums that is hard to like at first but grows on you.
4). Young Americans(1975)..As a fan of soul music this album jumped at me when I first heard it, this was the album that showcased Bowie fascination with the late 60’s and 70’s Soul Sound that was all over the radio then. Bowie is quoted describing the album as “the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey”. This album has contributions from Luthor Vandross and members of Sly and the Family stone,while John Lennon also appears on two songs””Across the Universe” and “Fame”. The song ‘Young Americans” is still one of my personal favorite songs of Bowies.
3) Aladdin Sane(1973)..Not a weak song on the album, with ”Jean Genie” and “Drive-In Saturday” becoming the hits off the album. It reached #17 in the charts which was up to that point his most successful album. It was a little more rough and tumble sound than his earlier “Ziggy Stardust” album and as such has always divided critics and fans alike, some think it was great while others called the album “oddly unsatisfying, considerably less than the sum of the parts”. For me though it is still an album worth listening to. While the album contains two of my favorite Bowie songs “Watch That Man” and “Jean genie” it also contains two songs that I feel are two of his weakest songs, “Cracked Actor” and “The prettiest Star”.
2) Diamond Dogs(1974)..George Orwell and David Bowie,was there ever a better musical concept? Diamond Dogs is Bowie’s apocalyptic view of things and he drags us along in a 38 minute long musical journey that starts from the opening statement “Future legend” until the closing “Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family”. This album hit #1 in Canada and unlike most of his albums requires you to listen from start to finish to understand what it is all about. Visions of urban chaos, scavenging children and nihilistic lovers sounds like a bleak listen but somehow he manages to keep our attention by slipping in songs that pack a punch,like “1984” and “Rebel Rebel”. This album also was the end of his glam rock stage and some feel was the early prototype for punk rock bands to come. To me it is still sounds as fresh today as it did back then.
1) The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust(1972).. As i wrote in an earlier article this is the album that got me started on my Bowie fixation and to this day it and Diamond Dogs are the two albums of his that i still listen to on a regular basis. Like Diamond Dogs this is a concept album,but this one is about a fictional Rock star named Ziggy Stardust who is the reincarnation of an alien and contains two of his most fascinating songs, ‘Lady Stardust” and the very painful “Rock and Roll Suicide”. You could go through this album song by song and not find one that doesn’t stand out in it’s own way, “Five years” let’s ,us know that we have just 5 years to live and from there the album takes us on a whirlwind of emotion as we become part of Ziggy’s life up until it all ends with “Rock and Roll Suicide” something that happens to many tortured stars. The cover was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail in Britain for a set of “Classic Album Cover” postage stamps issued in January 2010. As for his inspiration for Ziggy? Well according to Bowie it was a cross between British Rock Singer Vince Taylor and The Legendary Stardust Cowboy an innovator of the Genre known as Rockabilly. The album though today considered a classic only reached # 75 in the North American Album Charts, today though Rolling stone magazine rates it as the 6th greatest album of all time.
So there you have it my top Bowie Albums of all time, you have yours I have mine. So who do I do next? Maybe Elton?