David Bowie – Blackstar (2016): Review

blackstar

Produced by David Bowie and Tony Visconti
Label – ISO,RCA,Columbia,Sony

There’s some validity in viewing David Bowie’s final statement as a personal eulogy to a lifetime of being an artistic outsider. “Blackstar” returns him to the genre defying performance that has been sadly absent from more recent recordings. Musically it’s more adventurous, lyrically it’s restless, vulnerable and most importantly reflective. Retaining the services of producer Tony Visconti is of vast importance, and his understanding of Bowie’s compositional eccentricities results in some stunning arrangements. The use of top session musicians, guitarist Ben Monder, keyboardist Jason Lindner and particularly jazz saxophonist Donny McCaslin provide the necessary abstract exploration that’s vital to each individual song, and although nothing clocks in at less than four minutes, there’s never a feeling that anything out stays its welcome. Indeed, the longest tracks are the most memorable, including the thrilling title track, where the singer’s mild obsessions with isolationism play out over a sprawling backdrop of funereal gloom.

bowie

It’s all a fitting finale, a classy definition of an outstanding composer and performer who will of course continue to influence long beyond his exit. However, as a lasting statement it will never be remembered alongside his outstanding recordings from the 1970s. For me, a perfect instant memory will be the lyrics to “Starman”, which, in light of his passing seem to take on a visceral personal meaning.

He will be missed…

“There’s a Starman, waiting in the sky,
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
‘Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile”

7/10

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6 responses to “David Bowie – Blackstar (2016): Review

  1. I’d be intrigued to hear your take on “Let’s Dance” Geoff. Creative re-birth or selling out? I love it personally!

  2. I like it a lot too Josh! I know many Bowie fans disregard it because of its “pop” tendencies but I always think that he made that album DELIBERATELY to prove that he could write and conquer the charts. And it worked. He tried to follow it up on “Tonight” but he needn’t have bothered. One album was ample and it still stands up to scrutiny with his other works IMO.

  3. Bowie struggled to hit the heights of his 70’s output throughout the late 80’s, all of the 90’s, and I felt his disappearance into the shadow of the new century reflected his acceptance of elder statesman status, and that his muse had left him.

    When he rose from the ashes, pun intended, the new album left me underwhelmed as brouhaha abounded ” his best since (insert your favourite album).

    So, when I read about the new direction signposted jazz, I half expected a Jazz Odessy fiasco.

    How wrong. A magnificent record strong enough to rate with Low, Scary monsters and Tonight as his best work.

    Happy that he leaves on top of his game? Of course. But I wonder what he might give us next if he lived….

    I sincerely hope they don’t scrape his barrel and stain his memory with half baked half finished demos sketches riffs and outtakes and preserve the legend for ever.

    Bye bye David.

    10/10

    • I agree Kenny. There’s nothing worse than compilations of demo’s, half songs and live performances. He left us with a fitting eulogy, let’s leave it at that. Let sleeping (Diamond) dogs lie. Thanks for your tribute

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