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.
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”