Wednesday, February 24, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: 'hours...'

Released on September 21, 1999 by Virgin Records, ‘hours…’ is the twenty-first album by David Bowie that marks a major shift in his musical direction from the world of electronic music and a return to straight-forward rock with elements of folk. Produced with Reeves Gabrels, the albums marks Bowie’s final collaboration with Gabrels following a decade of albums that included two albums they did as part of Tin Machine. Featuring contributions from collaborators in Mark Plati and drummer Sterling Campbell, the album would also feature contributions from a young lyricist in Alex Grant who won a contest from Bowie’s website for one of the songs on the album.

The album’s leading single Thursday’s Child along with the two other singles in the album in Seven and Survive are all ballads as Thursday’s Child is a more mid-tempo ballad with soothing synthesizers, Sterling Campbell’s steady drums, and Bowie’s somber vocals that are reflective about loss and memory that features backing vocals by Holly Palmer as it is one of his finest singles. Survive is a more folk-based ballad as it includes some bopping drums and Bowie’s calm vocals as it features lyrics that are dream-like as it includes a fantastic guitar solo from Gabrels. Seven is another folk-based ballad in a slower temple that also has lyrics that are reflective as it has references to Bowie’s family as it includes a sliding solo from Gabrels and an ambient keyboard in the background.

The track Something in the Air is one of Bowie’s darkest songs with its presentation of smooth but warbling electronics, a tapping beat, and Bowie’s raspy vocal as it features evocative and dreamy lyrics that includes Gabrels’ wailing guitar solos. If I’m Dreaming My Life is a track that starts off slow but would up its tempo for something mid-tempo with its bopping rhythm, melodic keyboards, and Gabrels’ driving guitar textures with Bowie singing in a soothing vocal to lyrics of ambiguity and wonderment. The track What’s Really Happening that features lyrics by contest winner Alex Grant is this mid-tempo rocker led by Gabrels’ wailing guitar slides, Bowie’s eerie vocals, bopping rhythm with Mike Levesque’s drum fills, and some dark lyrics. The album’s second single in the fast-paced rocker The Pretty Things are Going to Hell is a full-on blast of rock with its hard-hitting drums, blazing guitars, and Bowie’s snarling vocals as it play into some very dark and chilling lyrics.

New Angels of Promise is a mid-tempo that recalls some of Bowie’s work in the late 70s in terms of his vocal performance as well as some of the musical presentation in its swirling synthesizers, slow but steady drums by Campbell, wailing guitars, and some haunting vocals as it is killer album cut. Brilliant Adventure is this Asian-inspired instrumental that features a lot of Japanese-inspired instruments in its string and percussions with some ambient-textures that once again recalls Bowie’s work in the late 70s. The album closer The Dreamers is a mid-tempo cut with some time signatures in its rhythm as it starts off slow and then into a more steady, bopping rhythm with some funk-based guitars from Gabrels as well as some warbling vocals that bears elements of very eerie lyrics.

The 2005 deluxe edition of the album features a second disc filled with remixes, B-sides, alternate takes, and bonus tracks from different editions of the album. Three of these remixes appear in the 1999 video game Omikron: The Nomad Soul as it includes a slower version of Thursday’s Child, a soul-based version of New Angels of Promise with some additional keyboards, and a longer version of The Dreamers that features an added intro with its beats and keyboards. The rock remix of Thursday’s Child includes some droning bass in the background as well as additional guitar flourishes in the background as well as some additional textures into Bowie’s vocals. A remix of Something in the Air for the 2000 film American Psycho features some additional piano flourishes from Mike Garson as it’s a more eerie version of the song. Marius de Vries’ remix of Survive features some piano flourishes by Garson as well as some more warbling mixes on the guitars and drums.

The song Seven appears in a demo version as well as three different remixes where the demo version is amazing as it’s just a twelve-string guitar, a drum machine, and Gabrels’ sliding guitar proving that the demos can be just as good as the original. Marius de Vries’ remix of the song is a more upbeat tone with some bopping rhythms, swirling keyboards, and added guitar flourishes as it is includes some multi-track vocal mixes to give the song something richer. Beck contributes two remixes of the song as the first one features elements of slow and pulsating beats, soothing synthesizer flourishes, and soul based keyboards while the second one is a wilder version with warbling synthesizers, crashing pianos, bopping live drums, hand claps, and noisier guitars.

There’s three versions of The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell in a single edit of the song as well as two other versions from the 1999 film Stigmata as it’s first version features additional synthesizer flourishes and a different vocal mix while the second version replaces the original drums with more pulsating electronic beats and synthesizers for an industrial-rave version. From the Japanese edition of the album is a bonus track in We All Go Through is this mid-tempo track with elements of electric-folk guitars, soothing synthesizers, and different vocal pitches from Bowie that play into somber lyrics that would feature a melodic-swooning guitar solo from Gabrels.

The three B-sides for the singles in Thursday’s Child and The Pretty Things Are Going to Hell in 1917, We Shall Go to Town, and No One Calls. 1917 is this bopping, mid-tempo instrumental with funk-based rhythms, swirling synthesizers, driving guitar riffs, and Bowie’s distorted vocals while We Shall Go to Town is this eerie track filled with slow but warbling rhythms and brooding vocals from Bowie that is accompanied by eerie synthesizers as well as these dark lyrics. No One Calls is this slow yet bopping electronic piece that include these string-like synthesizers and some low-key industrial beats where Bowie sings in a dreamy vocal style that displays a sense of detachment in the song’s lyrics.

‘hours…’ is a remarkable album from David Bowie that showcases his fondness for electronic music while returning to more organic instrumentation into his music. While it isn’t as consistent in comparison to the other albums he did in the 1990s, it is still a strong album that showcases a continuing evolution into the music Bowie was making in the 20th Century. In the end, ‘hours…’ is a marvelous 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 - "Heroes" - 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 - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust & 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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