Saturday, February 20, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Black Tie White Noise

Released on April 5, 1993 by Savage Records, Black Tie White Noise marks the first full-length solo recording of new material by David Bowie in six years as he had devoting his time doing other projects including the band Tin Machine and overseeing a series of reissue of his catalog. Produced with Nile Rodgers in their first collaboration since Let’s Dance, the album is a mixture of soul, rock, electronic, house music, and jazz music that expresses not just a renewed love for music for Bowie but also be inspired in his relationship with Somalian supermodel Iman whom he married on April 24, 1992. Featuring contributions from old collaborators in Mick Ronson, Reeves Gabrels, and Mike Garson as well as contributions from R&B singer Al B. Sure! and jazz trumpeter Lester Bowie (no relations). The album is widely considered to be a return-to-form for Bowie following a very polarizing period of music he made during the mid and late 80s.

The album opens and closes with a track called The Wedding as the opener is an instrumental that opens with chiming bells that is followed by slow, throbbing bass lines, soothing instrumentals, bopping beats, and Bowie’s wailing saxophone which is the highlight of the track as it has something that sound very emotive in its playing. The closing track has Bowie singing as it plays into soft yet expressive lyrics of love as both versions end with the words “angel of mine”. The instrumental Pallas Antheas is another track that has Bowie expressing his own feel of love as it has these repeated words of “God is on top of it” to a collage of pulsating beats from drummer Sterling Campbell, swirling synthesizers, and Bowie’s vocals in the background as he include these swooning saxophones that is followed by Lester Bowie‘s trumpet. A cover of Tahra’s Don’t Let Me Down & Down is this smooth, R&B-based ballad that play into the theme of love where Bowie’s vocals are top-notches as it expresses devotion as he is supported by a steady rhythm, cool synthesizers, somber backing vocals, and a swooning trumpet by Lester Bowie.

The song You’ve Been Around is this upbeat track that fuses electronic textures, house beats, soulful vocals, and jazz where it has a lot that is happening but with a sense of cohesion where Bowie sings lyrics that display a change in mood as the song features low-key guitar textures from its co-writer Reeves Gabrels and some blaring trumpets by Lester Bowie. The instrumental Looking for Lester is a track that fuses house beats, funk, and jazz with Bowie providing saxophones as he plays along with Lester Bowie’s trumpets, funky guitar riffs from co-writer Nile Rodgers, and some flourishing pianos from Mike Garson as it’s this killer instrumental that showcases Bowie being a musician and playing with top-notch players.

The album’s title track is a mid-tempo mixture of funk and jazz that features Rodgers’ funky guitar riffs, Lester Bowie’s blaring trumpets, and vocal exchanges between Bowie and Al B. Sure! where both men sing dark yet engaging lyrics of terror and decay that relates to the 1992 Los Angeles riots with commentary about identity while taking shots at conformity and bland sentimentality. The album’s first single Jump They Say is this upbeat mixture of jazz and electronic music with its pulsating beats, soothing synthesizers, Lester Bowie’s wailing trumpets, and somber saxophone as it’s one of Bowie’s rare songs that is abstract but also introspective. Especially in the lyrics as it plays into loss which relates to Bowie’s older half-brother Terry who had committed suicide in early 1985. Miracle Goodnight is this mixture of house, electronic, and funk as Bowie sings exotic and playful lyrics that expresses Bowie’s feelings of love as it also has some offbeat breaks where Bowie speaks in spoken word as it features these swirling synthesizer textures as it is one of Bowie’s finest love songs.

The album features three more different cover songs that play into the many moods of the album. Two of which features contributions from his former Spiders from Mars guitarist Mick Ronson in their first recorded collaboration in twenty years. The first is a funk-inspired cover of Cream’s I Feel Free that features a bopping, upbeat rhythm with Bowie singing some strange lyrics while he plays some wailing saxophones that would include a fiery solo from Ronson. The other track that features Ronson on guitar is a cover of Morrissey’s I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday from the 1992 album Your Arsenal that Ronson produced. The song is presented in ballad where Bowie is accompanied by backing vocalists into the song as it features a guitar solo from Wild T. Springer in this mixture of rock and gospel as it includes one of Bowie’s best vocal performances. A cover of the Walker Brothers’ Nite Flights in its throbbing, upbeat electronic setting is a highlight as it’s a song that includes some exotic imagery in its lyrics as well as some very haunting yet calm vocals by Bowie with funky guitar textures from Rodgers in the background.

The 2003 10th Anniversary Edition of the album features a second disc filled with an array of alternate versions, non-LP tracks, and remixes. Among the non-LP tracks include the song Real Cool World from the 1992 film soundtrack for Cool World as it is this electronic-based track with pulsating house rhythms and synthesizers with some guitars and Bowie’s laid-back yet rapturous vocals that include some playful lyrics. From different bonus track editions of the album in its initial release is the song Lucy Can’t Dance as it’s another electronic-based track with bopping rhythms, driving bass lines, and some warbling synthesizers as Bowie sings in a high-pitch vocal style that is this amazing song that is also playful yet abstract. An alternate version of Don’t Let Me Down & Down has Bowie singing the song in Indonesian as it’s an indication of Bowie’s brilliance as a vocalist and how he can interpret a song in different languages.

The rest of the second disc of remixes as there’s three different remixes of Jump They Say as a rock mix features live drums and blazing guitar solos which don’t seem necessary as it takes away from some of the jazz elements of the song though it’s not entirely bad. The twelve-inch remix by the Brothers in Rhythm is definitely a rave remix with its layers of synthesizers and pulsating of electronic textures while the third remix by Leftfield is presented in a dub form that is filled with wavy synthesizer warbles and thumping beats that add to something that is for the world of rave culture. The two remixes in the album’s title track as a U.S. radio mix by 3rd Floor as it given a more R&B feel with its keyboards and urban beats while a remix by Nile Rodgers is more driven by jazz as it emphasizes many of its jazz elements in the brass with some soul-based keyboards in the background.

A remix of Miracle Goodnight plays up its house rhythms while taking its beats in order to emphasize on Bowie’s vocals with some warbling synthesizers in the background. Two remixes by Jack Dangers of Meat Beat Manifesto come in the form of a twelve-inch remix of You’ve Been Around and a version of Pallas Antheas where the former features an array of pulsating breaking beats with driving bass and jazz flairs while the latter also has pulsating house beats but with an equal emphasis on its jazz presentation. The remix of Nite Flights by the trance music duo Moodswings as it is this largely electronic track with waves of synthesizer flourishes and pulsating beats as it takes minutes for Bowie’s vocals to kick in.

Black Tie White Noise is a phenomenal album from David Bowie that has him feeling reinvigorated as well as forge ahead with new territory. Thanks in part to his group of collaborators including Mick Ronson in one of his final recorded contributions, the album is adventurous but also very accessible where it manages to bend genres and do a lot. In the end, Black Tie White Noise 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 - "Heroes" - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders of 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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