David Bowie


Columbia Records

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  Finally, David Bowie has done it. For his past several releases he's been attempting to mix the future and the past with mixed results. On Heathen, he's found the right mix. By throwing in cool covers like the Pixies' "Cactus" with intriguing new originals such as "5:15 The Angels Have Gone," Bowie has released the record that people have waited years to hear. Perhaps his most bristling and embracing work since 1980's "Scary Monsters and Super Creeps," this is a relaxed Bowie in a chaotic world. "Slow Burn" features lead guitar work from Pete Townshend and this song revels in the detachment that made "Ashes To Ashes" so imminently memorable. On the other side of this coin, "Everyone Says Hi" is soft, friendly and could have come from the Labyrinth Soundtrack back in the '80s. Unlike his last few albums, there's a more organic feel to Heathen. Less reliance on programming and more of a band vibe help the material to shine. While the darkness of the human condition still permeates the songs, it's also okay to smile in the face of this cold darkness. Maybe it's our only defense. That seems apparent when the warmth of nostalgia wraps around the beautiful, wistful "Slip Away." Reflecting the piano grandeur of "Aladdin Sane" while pining for lost bits of brightness, this is Bowie at his most masterful. Pair this with the guitar dominated verses of "Afraid" that are swept away by a majestic, yet subtle string section during the choruses and you already have a collection of songs well worth its price. While there are rays of light that cut through the dust kicked up by raiding Bowie's collection of alter egos for a unified identity, the clouds blot the sun again for the closing title track. Even with the resign that's so obvious in the lyric, buzzing T. Rex glam guitar licks and a bubbly beat confuse the listener's sense of relativity as synths swell around like thunderheads amassed for 180 degrees of the horizon. Heathen is a summer day full of sun showers. The storm roars in, the clouds break, the sun comes out while it's still pouring, then the birds sing and the thunder chases them away again. All of that is in the final song. The rest of the record covers the spectrum of colors in the rainbow that follows the storm. This is a must have Bowie album. We haven't had one of those in a while. Get it.

 (Chris McKay/concertshots.com)