Friday, February 26, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Heathen

Released on June 11, 2002 by ISO/Columbia Records, Heathen is the twenty-second studio album by David Bowie that marks a reunion between himself and longtime producer Tony Visconti since 1982’s Baal EP as it is an album that has Bowie returning to the world of art rock. Produced by Bowie and Visconti, the album would feature contributions from collaborators Carlos Alomar, Mark Plati, and Sterling Campbell as well as guest contributions from violinist Lisa Germano, Pete Townshend of the Who, and Dave Grohl from Nirvana/the Foo Fighters. The album has Bowie playing elder statesman while proving he still had a lot more to say when many of his contemporaries coast on their past glories.

The album opener Sunday is this eerie, mid-tempo track that include a few flourishes in the electronic textures and guitars by Carlos Alomar as Bowie sings in a haunting vocal filled with gloomy lyrics of a world that is later followed by mid-tempo and walloping drums by Matt Chamberlin. The sense of gloom also occurs in its closer Heathen (The Rays) as it features very stark lyrics of 9/11 imagery with as it is led by these ambient-based lyrics and rhythmic tom-tom beats that add to the eerie tone of the song. Tracks like A Better Future and the ballad Slip Away do play into that sense of conflict between gloom and hope though the former is this up-tempo track of sorts with its melodic keyboards and bopping beats while the latter is one of Bowie’s haunting songs with its mixture of ambient-like keyboards and Bowie’s eerie vocals where he also brings in the toy-keyboard in the stylophone.

Songs like Afraid and Slow Burn are rocked-based songs as the former is an upbeat track with driving guitars, pummeling beats, and Bowie’s wailing vocals as it features these powerful lyrics. The latter is a mid-tempo song that features wailing guitar solos by Pete Townshend with Bowie singing some very haunting yet gripping lyrics as it is one of Bowie’s best cuts. I Would Be Your Slave is a somber mid-tempo piece with bopping rhythms and Bowie singing in a calm yet intoxicating vocal to an ambient synthesizer background as it is this unique declaration of love. Everyone Says ‘Hi’ is another mid-tempo song that is sort of a ballad as it includes bits of Absolute Beginners while it has these dream-like lyrics and a unique synthesizer riff that drives the song.

5:15 The Angels Have Gone is this song with a unique presentation where it’s a ballad but it has these slow, walloping beats and melodic guitar textures as it has Bowie singing these somber yet despair-laden lyrics as the song’s tempo does pick-up a bit for its chorus. The album also features three covers as it includes a rock-based cover of the Pixies’ Cactus as it starts off with Bowie singing Black Francis’ abstract lyrics on a 12-string acoustic as it then becomes this full-on rock track. Neil Young’s I’ve Been Waiting for You features driving guitar riffs by Dave Grohl as it is this mid-tempo cut on the album as it is a rocker with Bowie singing Young’s gripping vocals. The final cover on the album in I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spacecraft by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy as it is this upbeat, electronic-based track with surreal lyrics, pulsating electronic beats, and a soothing synthesizer.

The 2007 Japanese 2-disc edition of the album features not just bonus tracks from a deluxe edition of the album as well as from its initial Japanese release in 2002 but also a slew of B-sides, rarities, and remixes. Among them are two remixes of songs from the album as a remix of Sunday by Moby as it‘s largely an ambient-based remix with is smooth synthesizers as well as a more throbbing rhythm to accompany Bowie‘s vocals that also includes a violin solo. Air’s remix of A Better Future includes some warbling vocal distortions, flourishing pianos, and a soothing ambient background as it’s one of the finest remixes from the French electronic duo. From the 2002 limited edition bonus disc album aside from the remixes include 1979 remake of Panic in Detroit that appeared in the 1992 Rykodisc reissue of Scary Monsters and a 2001 remake of the song Conversation Piece as it is a track that has Bowie adding some strings and a slower rhythm to the song as he sings in a lower vocal range.

The six other tracks in the album aren’t just B-sides to singles but four of them are actually remakes of older songs Bowie wrote back in the 1960s and early 1970s. The other two in Wood Jackson and Safe as the former is this mid-tempo track with folk-based guitar, swooning electrics, a bopping rhythm, and Bowie‘s dreamy vocals to these somber lyrics. The latter is this wailing, mid-tempo rocker with soaring string arrangements, a steady rhythm, and Bowie’s mesmerizing vocals as he sings very eerie lyrics that play into this sense of despair and fear. The remakes of Baby Loves That Way, When the Boys Come Marching Home, You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving, and a major rarity in a song called Shadow Man are songs, along with Conversation Piece, would be part of an unreleased album called Toy that was later leaked on the Internet in 2011.

When the Boys Come Marching Home is a somber ballad that has Bowie sing in a haunting tone to melancholic lyrics with a thumping beat and a groove-based texture with string arrangements while Baby Loves That Way is a playful rock track that is given a mid-tempo piece that is old-school rock n’ roll with its riffs and very innocent lyrics about love. You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving is this bopping, mid-tempo track as it includes some driving guitars, Mike Garson’s melodic piano, and Bowie’s cool vocals as it play into the world of rock n’ roll while featuring some walloping drumming from Sterling Campbell and wailing guitars from Earl Slick. The ballad Shadow Man is this somber song filled with melancholic lyrics sung by Bowie as he’s accompanied by Garson’s piano, soothing synthesizers, dreamy string arrangements, and wailing guitars as it is probably one of the Bowie’s finest gems that need to be discovered.

Heathen is a phenomenal album from David Bowie. The album isn’t just a fascinating return to neo-classic Bowie but also has him creating music that feels fresh and vital thanks in part to his collaborators as well as co-producer Tony Visconti who is able to provide some new things to the music. In the end, Heathen is an incredible 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 - ‘Hours…’ - 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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