Wednesday, February 10, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Station to Station

Released on January 23, 1976 by RCA Records, Station to Station is the tenth studio release from David Bowie as it would mark another period of transition for the artist. Having explored soul music in his previous album Young Americans, the album has Bowie moving from soul music to the growing new wave of music that was emerging in Europe. Most notably the electronic music of the German group Kraftwerk who would be a key influence for Bowie in the next few years. Produced with Harry Maslin, the record would be the first album to feature bassist George Murray as he, drummer Dennis Davis, and guitarist Carlos Almoar would be part of Bowie’s rhythm section for the next few years as the record also features recurring collaborator Earl Slick as well as E Street Band pianist Roy Bittan.

While it’s an album that only features six tracks, it is an album that is quite adventurous but also dark as its opening title track is considered one of the finest pieces of recording Bowie has ever made. In this new persona as the Thin White Duke who is this European that desires to return to the continent as he’s been stuck in America as the album opens with the sound of a train and then this long and sustained guitar note from Earl Slick. It is followed slowly by other instruments with picking notes by Carlos Alomar and this steady yet eerie rhythm that goes on for a few minutes until Bowie sings with these very dark lyrics as the song’s tempo changes into something more upbeat and sinister that is added by Roy Bittan’s piano to play into this man’s desire to wanting to come back to Europe. The album’s lead single Golden Years and Stay are tracks that definitely owe to the world of funk and soul music. The former is a song that is a love song of sorts that was originally written for Elvis Presley as it features these funky guitar licks by Alomar and a bopping rhythm as it is one of Bowie’s great singles.

The latter is this fast and driving track that features these powerful guitars from Alomar and Slick as the latter would provide some amazing solos while being followed by George Murray’s funky bass lines and the rollicking drum fills of Dennis Davis. Also aided by Warren Peace’s backing vocals and percussion work, the song has Bowie being very direct in his vocal delivery while providing some lyrics of ambiguity and disappointment. The track TVC 15 is a track with some unique tempo changes driven by Bittan’s playful piano and some driving yet bopping rhythms where Bowie sings very strange lyrics of surrealism. The track also features some intense musicianship between the band that Bowie is playing with as it helps the track be so engaging.

The album would feature two ballads as the first in Word on a Wing as it is a highlight that features these somber yet haunting lyrics where it features one of Bowie’s best vocal performances. Backed by slow yet steady rhythm and some soothing guitars, it is a cut that also feature some melodic piano flourishes by Roy Bittan. The album closer and only cover in the album is Wild is the Wind that was first recorded by Johnny Mathis and later made famous by Nina Simone. The ballad features what some consider to be Bowie’s best work as a vocalist as he just sells every sense of anguish and torment in the lyrics as the musicianship by the band just adds to the beauty of the song.

The 2010 Special Edition of the album doesn’t just featured the album remastered by co-producer Harry Maslin but also a two-disc live album of Bowie’s live concert from the Nassau Coliseum on March 23, 1976. Aided by the team of Alomar, Davis, and Murray as his rhythm section, the live band would include Stacey Heydon on lead guitar and future-Yes keyboardist Tony Kaye. Featuring 2/3s of the album as well as material from past albums and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man. It is one of the finest live recordings captured where many of the songs are faithful to the original and is more stripped down thanks to the fact that Bowie is aided by a five-piece band that is just two guitars, keyboards, a bass, and drums. Cuts like Stay, Suffragette City, Rebel Rebel, Diamond Dogs, Queen Bitch, TVC 15, Changes, and The Jean Genie show that amazing musicianship between the band and how Bowie was willing to share the spotlight with his musicians.

Ballads like Word on a Wing, Life on Mars?, and a slowed-down version of Five Years definitely show Bowie’s power as a vocalist. Even as the band would do some unique arrangements to the song while I’m Waiting for the Man is a standout in its mixture of funk and rock with some piano flourishes from Kaye. While Life on Mars? was only performed partially as an intro of sorts for Five Years, it is an example of what Bowie and his band to make the songs sound fresh. Another standout cut on the live album is Panic in Detroit that is just as powerful as an extended version of the track, that is a digital bonus track, features an extended drum solo by Davis that is just incredible as it also includes solos from Alomar, Heydon, Kaye, and Murray which gives the musicians an excuse to go all out where Bowie gives them props.

Station to Station is a spectacular album from David Bowie. Not only is it one of his best albums but it’s also a real musician’s musician’s album. Thanks in part to the group of people who played on the album as well as the amazing production that captures every note on the album and making those songs very important no matter how fucked up they were during the recording. In the end, Station to Station is just 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 - 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…’ - 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