1.Beauty And The Beast
2.Joe The Lion
4.Sons Of The Silent Age
7.Sense Of Doubt
10.The Secret Life Of Arabia
First of all, a special thanks to my mate Dave for suggesting I listen to this album, before I crack on with my ‘Top 100 of all time’ project I thought it would be fun to cut my teeth with a few requests from friends.
So I just want to say that I have never listened to this album so I didn’t know what to expect as I put it on my headphones and set off out of my door this morning to go to work.
First impressions are that it is a very different David Bowie than what I had listened to before, I have listened to the likes of ‘Hunky Dory’ and ‘…Ziggy Stardust…’ many times and I have enjoyed them all. This album however sounds a lot more experimental, electronic and ambient than these.
The album was released in 1977, when punk was starting to emerge as a real mainstream force with the likes of Sex Pistols and The Clash emerging onto the music scene. This album was probably an antidote to this sound, not that I am saying punk doesn’t have it’s merits of course. I am a big fan of The Clash and many of the bands I love were heavily influenced by the sound that emerged at this time.
The album seems to be split into two halves, the first half being vocally lead songs that feel very personal lyrically and deal with themes such as alcoholism. The lyrics feel that he was reflecting exactly how he felt at the time, the songs Bowie sings do not feel premeditated at all and sound very off the cuff.
The second half however has a lot of moody instrumentals, where the album cover where Bowie looks like some kind of mad magician really represents the music well, I really loved the crazy saxophone parts and the very eastern feeling that this half has in places. ‘Sense of Doubt’ certainly exudes a real feeling of dread, and it made me feel very uneasy especially when walking through a particularly gloomy, overcast part of Derby with it’s decaying terraced houses and depressed looking people stomping off to work.
This part of the album also sounded like a soundtrack to a ‘Labyrinth’ prequel in which Bowie wrote the soundtrack and gave the best bad acting performance these eyes have ever seen.
All in all, it is a very dark album, which matches the Cold War environment within post war Berlin where it was recorded. The album evokes images of the wall with it’s guards marching up and down purveying the bomb hit scene which surrounds them.
The stand out track is of course the famous title track which is a soaring masterpiece which has not lost it’s effect of making the listener feel like they are ten feet tall, despite being covered by countless lesser respected artists such as one year’s X Factor contestants horrific, laboured effort.
To conclude, this is an album I would definitely listen to again, it is evidence that David Bowie truly deserves his place amongst the heroes of music (sorry, pun intended!).