Monday, February 29, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: *

Released on January 8, 2016 on what would be his 69th and final birthday by ISO/Columbia Records, * (Blackstar) is the twenty-fifth and final album by David Bowie. Produced with Tony Visconti, the album is a mixture of rock, electronic music, and jazz as it features re-recordings of two songs made a couple of years before for a retrospective album plus five new songs with much of the album’s lyrical content reveling into the concept of mortality, chaos, and the sense of the unknown. Featuring an array of session musicians from the world of jazz as well as contributions from James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem, the album marks as a fitting swan song to one of the greatest artists that had ever lived.

The album’s first single and opening track is its title track as it is this near-ten minute suite as it is this mixture of smooth, pulsating beats that sounds like a mixture of electronic and jazz-based beats with soothing synthesizers and lush guitar melodies that accompanies Bowie’s vocals. With its jazz-based saxophones and unique tempo changes, the song is like this chaotic blend of genres where it has a sci-fi feel but also with these haunting yet evocative lyrics with Bowie singing in different vocal ranges. The first of two songs that were remade for the album comes in the song Sue (Or In a Season of Crime) as the jazz elements of the song are stripped down for a more brutal, melodic-driven rocker with its droning guitars, pulsating beats, and soft saxophones where Bowie sings in a haunting yet raspy vocal that is filled with very dark lyrics that feels like a twisted noir film.

The remake of Tis a Pity She Was a Whore is given more discordant textures of jazz, rock, and electronic music with its jazz-based pianos and saxophones that includes some unique drum fills with its different time signatures and soothing synthesizers in the background. Even as Bowie sings lyrics that are dark that is filled with some unique imagery as it is one of his finest songs. The album’s second and final single in Lazarus does relate to the Biblical figure in some aspects as it is a song about death and coming to terms with it. Playing guitar on the track and singing in a calm yet somber vocal tone with a steady mid-tempo beat, the song also includes some jazz elements with its saxophones that add that sense of an end coming as it is one of Bowie’s great achievements.

Girl Loves Me is a mid-tempo song that has Bowie singing in different slang languages with this steady yet pummeling beat and discordant guitar melodies as the song is one of Bowie’s meanest. Especially in its lyrics as it is one of Bowie’s more confrontational into this mix of post-punk, electronic beats, and smooth jazz arrangements. Dollar Days is a song that is somber in its lyrics filled with ideas of death as it features some unique time signatures and tempo changes with its mixture of rock and jazz as Bowie sings in a very melancholic lyrics. Especially as it relates to knowing that things and experiences will never happen again. The album closer in I Can’t Give Everything Away is a mid-tempo mixture of rock, ambient-based electronics, and jazz that has Bowie on a harmonica as well as some poignant yet imaginative lyrics that serves as a fond farewell. With its soaring trumpet and a wailing guitar solo, the song is definitely one of Bowie’s most touching song as well as a fitting swan song.

* is an outstanding album from David Bowie but more importantly, it’s a grand statement of an artist who says goodbye to everyone. As a piece of art, it is unlike anything nor will it ever be duplicated while it also manages to be an album that has a lot happening but also showcase the work of an artist going out with a bang. Especially as it’s made by a man who has no equal as it serves as a fitting artistic statement in the best way possible. In the end, * is a glorious 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…’ - 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


  1. Brilliant review of the album. You've made me want to listen to it all over again. Lazarus is such a potent rich with depth and honesty.

    1. Of the albums I had to listen to and revisit, this was the one I was dreading the most but I did it and had a cry afterwards. I don't think I'm ready to re-watch the "Lazarus" video as I get too sad right now as I'm now bummed by the passing of George Martin.