Friday, February 12, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: "Heroes"

Released on October 14, 1977 by RCA Records, “Heroes” is the second part of David Bowie’s landmark trilogy of albums made in collaboration with Brian Eno that was produced with Tony Visconti as it was made entirely in the then-West Berlin Hansa Studio near the Berlin Wall. Featuring contributions from recurring collaborators in Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, and George Murray as well as guitar work from King Crimson founder Robert Fripp. The album is a continued exploration into the world of electronic music and textures with one half of the album devoted to unconventional song structures with electronic accompaniments and the second half devoted almost entirely to ambient-inspired electronic instrumentals.

The album’s title track is definitely the most famous track on the album as it is this smooth, mid-tempo track that is driven by Robert Fripp’s wailing guitar that is given some flourishing treatments by the song’s co-writer Brian Eno. With Bowie’s haunting yet reflective vocals, the song is definitely one of his signature tunes as it is filled with amazing imagery as well as what was happening in the 1970s in the era of the Cold War. Cuts like Beauty and the Beast and Joe the Lion are these upbeat tracks as the former is this very bopping rhythm courtesy of bassist George Murray and drummer Dennis Davis as well as warbling textures driven by Eno’s synthesizers that play into Bowie‘s strange and abstract lyrics. In the latter, the song is a track driven largely by the guitars of Fripp and Carlos Alomar with Bowie singing some very direct lyrics.

Two other songs in the album’s first half in Sons of the Silent Age and Blackout has Bowie once again bringing traditional song structure to new musical presentations such as the former with its mixture smooth synthesizers and Bowie’s saxophone playing as it has these very eerie lyrics of withdrawal. The latter is an upbeat track that features a mixture of wailing guitar and synthesizer textures with a bopping rhythm as it has these very dark lyrics that Bowie sings in a maniacal fashion. Another song that is the closing track of the album The Secret Life of Arabia as it is this mid-tempo track that has Bowie bringing an element of fantasy as well as worldly lyrics that is driven by its slow and steady rhythm along with instrumentation courtesy of the song’s co-writers in Eno and Alomar.

The album’s second half would largely consist of instrumentals ranging from electronic-based cuts to elements of avant-garde and world music. V-2 Schneider is this very offbeat instrumental that is a mixture of warbling synthesizers with slow and mechanical rhythms with Bowie only singing the song’s title which is a tribute of sorts to Kraftwerk member Florian Schneider. Sense of Doubt is this eerie piece where it has Bowie play this brooding piano riff with Eno then coming in with some synthesizer flourishes as it goes back and forth. The other two instrumentals that was co-written with Eno in the Japanese-inspired Moss Garden that has Bowie playing discordant melodies on the koto with Eno providing ambient textues in the background while Neukoln is this ambient piece that is filled with warbling sounds from Eno’s synthesizers and other keyboard melodies that would be followed by Bowie’s wailing saxophones and Fripp’s haunting guitar work.

The 1991 Rykodisc reissue features two bonus tracks as one of them is a remix of Joe the Lion as it features louder beats and broader vocals. The other is an instrumental recorded sporadically from 1976 to 1979 called Abdulmajid as it is this mixture of ambient and low-key drum machine beats provided by Eno as the track’s co-writer as it is one of Bowie’s finest rarities that can be heard in the 2001 All Saints compilation.

“Heroes” is a phenomenal album from David Bowie. While it’s a more accessible album than its predecessor, it’s also album that is very challenging as it continues to explore the world of electronic music. Even in a context of rock as it see how the two genres can emerge as one thanks in part to the work of Bowie’s collaborators including producer Tony Visconti, Brian Eno, and Robert Fripp. In the end, “Heroes” is a sensational album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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