Bowie Albums Ranked

Waking up on January 11th to the unexpected loss of David Bowie was the saddest thing I’ve experienced in a while. The impact that he and his music had on my life is something that’s very hard to express. The night he passed away, before the news broke, I was reading a Billboard article ranking all of Bowie’s albums, and I thought I’d make my own list. I had no idea at all that my hero was most likely already dead at that point. I went to bed with Mr. Bowie fully on my mind, his complete catalog buzzing around my brain, and woke up the next morning to discover that he was gone. It was staggering.

Here’s the list that I put together along with some thoughts on each album. Keep in mind that there are NO bad Bowie albums! Just because I rank something low on the list doesn’t mean I don’t love the album, it just means that I think there are others better than it.

I’d love to hear your feedback and what you think the greatest Bowie albums are! And even which of my rankings you think are completely wrong! Leave a comment!


Continue reading

BOWIE Tribute Concert – 1/21 Athens, GA

The Bowie Tribute concert last night in Athens was amazing. Perfect. Cathartic. Needed. Brilliant. All those things. The band put this show together in two weeks – rehearsed, booked a venue, advertised. And the crowd that showed up was completely amazing, such an interesting mix of people all there for the love of Bowie. The band was really great, especially the lead guitarist who did a ripping solo at the end of “China Girl” (I wish I’d recorded that!!). The show was basically a greatest hits concert, and it was pretty incredible to hear all the ways that Bowie impacted popular music. The crowd ate it up! There was one big staging surprise, and that was a trapeze artist dressed as Major Tom during “Space Oddity”. It was really quite beautiful.

Videos:

“China Girl”

“Space Oddity”

“Modern Love”

“Magic Dance”

“Suffragette City”

 

Here’s the full set list for the night:

Starman
Moonage Daydream
Hang on to Yourself
Space Oddity
Changes
The Jean Genie
Soul Love
Golden Years
China Girl
Modern Love
All the Young Dudes
Rebel Rebel
Dance Magic Dance
Fame
Let’s Dance
Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide

Encore:
Ziggy Stardust
Suffragette City
Heroes 

 

LIVE AID @ 30 – Top 10

30 years ago today I was glued to the TV and Radio. Since I couldn’t be in either Philadelphia or London, watching Live Aid as it happened on television was as close as I could get. I have incredibly vivid memories of that day, some of them reinforced (30 years is a long time!) by the release of a DVD set in 2004. I watched (or listened to, as I was forced to run a 2-hour errand for a friend) the entire thing, start to finish. It was in incredible day that produced some amazing music. Here’s my Top 10 performances:

10. THE HOOTERS
At the time, the Hooters were just emerging on the scene. As they were from Philly, so they were a natural fit to kick off the Philly show (even though the announcer in this clip says they’re in London). They played two songs, but only one of them can be found on YouTube currently. Neither song was included on the official DVD.

Full Set:
“And We Danced”
“All You Zombies”


9. TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS
An American staple. Good, straight-forward American rock. Nothing fancy, but always solid. Don’t have a video of the full set, so I’m including his opener, “American Girl,” only because the cheeky monkey flips a bird at the camera in the first chorus.

Full Set:
“American Girl”
“The Waiting”
“Rebels”
“Refugee”


8. PATTI LABELLE
At the time, I remember wondering why the hell Patti Labelle was placed in the running order where she was, with all the big “headline” acts. But she gives a powerful performance on both original songs and a couple of covers. Ms. Patti is one of the greatest singers on the planet. Plus, if nothing else, her amazing hair would earn her a spot on my list. Here she is singing the absolute living shit out of Dylan’s “Forever Young.” At the end, she walks around the stage with no mic and you can still hear her. That’s power.

Full Set:
“New Attitude”
“Imagine”
“Forever Young”
“Stir it Up”
“Over the Rainbow”
“Why Can’t I Get It Over”


7. THE WHO
The street punks are now the responsible adults. But they still know how to rock like crazy. The second half of the London show was living legend followed by living legend. It must have been an amazing thing to experience. Here’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again”, the seminal classic, complete with a fuck up by Roger Daltrey. But other than, its a fantastic performance. And for the record, if I looked like Roger Daltrey, I would never wear clothes.

Full Set:
“My Generation” / “Pinball Wizard”
Love Reign O’er Me”
“Won’t Get Fooled Again”


6. LED ZEPPELIN
The Zeppelin dudes didn’t want their performance to be included on the official DVD release because they felt it was “subpar.” And it is. But subpar Zeppelin is still pretty damn good. And an opportunity like this doesn’t happen very often. It should be celebrated when it does happen.

Full Set:
“Rock and Roll”
“Whole Lotta Love”
“Stairway to Heaven”


5. JUDAS PRIEST
A powerhouse band that gave a powerhouse performance. Here’s their complete set culled from different sources (based on the difference in sound quality). Priest gave the American stage a sorely needed shot of heavy metal. This clip is the complete set and starts with an interview with Halford.

Full Set:
“Living After Midnight”
“Green Manalishi”
“You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”


4. ERIC CLAPTON
I have to admit that I’m not a Clapton fan. I know a lot of his music, of course, and like some songs more than others, but I can pretty much take or leave him. However, he blew me away at Live Aid. Amazing performance. Three really well selected songs, each performed by a master of his craft and a great band.

Full Set:
“White Room”
“She’s Waiting”
“Layla”


3. ELTON JOHN
Elton’s show was amazing. The first song, “I’m Still Standing,” was marred by mic feedback, but after that, it was close to perfect. Because of delays in the running order, Wham! gave up their performance slot so that Elton could do his full show. But Elton invited the Wham! guys to sit in with him on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down.” There doesn’t seem to be a complete performance on YouTube, so I picked “Rocket Man” because its my favorite version of that song ever.

Full Set:
“I’m Still Standing”
“Bennie and the Jets”
“Rocket Man”
“Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart” (with Kiki Dee)
“Don’t Let the Sun Go Down” (with Wham!)
“Can I Get a Witness”


2. DAVID BOWIE
“We can be heroes, just for one day.” That song and that performance sum up the entire Live Aid day. Bowie is in perfect voice in this show with a great (and very quickly assembled) backing band, playing the perfect setlist. The end of “Heroes”, with the crowd clapping along, gives me chills every time. This is, by far, my favorite performance of “Heroes.”

Full Set:
“TVC15”
“Rebel Rebel”
“Modern Love”
“Heroes”


1. QUEEN
Really, there’s nothing else that can claim the top spot. Queen was absolutely on fire. The crowd’s reaction before they even sang a note showed that *this* was the act that everyone was waiting for, and the band didn’t disappoint. Brian May said that when the audience did the clap-along in “Radio Ga Ga” it took the band completely by surprise, as it had never happened before. And then the ovation at the end was like a volcanic eruption. It’s absolutely amazing to watch.

Full Set:
“Bohemian Rhapsody” / “Radio Ga Ga”
“Hammer to Fall”
“Crazy Little Thing Called Love”
“We Will Rock You” / “We Are the Champions”

The Albums That Shaped Me: LET’S DANCE

albums-heroesDAVID BOWIE: “HEROES” / LET’S DANCE 
Year of Release: 1977 / 1983
Year it Came Into My Life: 1983

“Beauty and the Beast”
“Joe the Lion”
“‘Heroes'”
“Sons of the Silent Age”
“Blackout”
albums-letsdance“V-2 Schneider”
“Sense of Doubt”
“Moss Garden”
“Neukoln”
“The Secret Life of Arabia”

“Modern Love”
“China Girl”
“Let’s Dance”
“Without You”
“Ricochet”
“Criminal World”
“Cat People”
“Shake It”

By the time Let’s Dance came out, I was more than ready to surrender to the Thin White Duke. I had a friend who was a big Bowie nut who played “Heroes” a lot, as well as BOWIECHANGESONEPlus, there were the songs that were perennially on the radio. I was starting to become familiar with, and even fascinated by, some of Bowie’s weirder songs, like “Beauty and the Beast”. I think I was really starting to be a Bowie fan around ’82, so Let’s Dance was kind of like someone struggling to open a ketchup bottle and then handing it to someone else, who pops it off easily, saying, “oh, you loosened it up for me.” Same here. After coming to terms with some of Bowie’s more challenging catalog, there was no way that the breezy, accessible pop of Let’s Dance could fail to seal the deal.

Actually, it wasn’t necessarily the album that sucked me in for good – it was the concert video of the Seriously Moonlight Tour which did it. Shown on HBO, I watched it over and over and over, memorizing every song, getting introduced to a lot more of his back catalog, hearing songs like “Breaking Glass”, “Sorrow” and “Cracked Actor” for the first time, and recognizing songs like “Golden Years”  and remembering hearing it on the radio back in ’75/’76. This concert was for the most part a career-spanning introduction to the magic of Bowie, and I ate it up.

Once I had consumed that concert video, I began a rampage of Bowie purchases, snapping up all the old albums I could. I will admit that some of them were hard to swallow, as the production is kind of iffy, especially things like Scary Monsters. There were many instances where I would take to only a couple of tracks per album and not connect at all with the rest of it. For the most part I eventually grew to love every album. There’s still one, though, that I only like two songs on and don’t ever listen to the rest of it.

I just re-watched this concert last week with my buddy Josh, and found that I still love it, and that there are some songs that I like this version of more than any other, like “Young Americans”, “Scary Monsters”, “Cat People”, “Fashion” and the opening song, “Look Back in Anger”. I remember about five years ago going to a Bowie tribute night at a local bar, where a bunch of local bands (and a couple not-local) each played two or three songs. Most of them played hits, but a few strayed into some lesser-known material. The first band that played kicked off the show with “Look Back in Anger”, which thrilled me to no end, and I sang and danced along. Afterward, the singer came up to me and thanked me, saying that he was the only one in the band that wanted to do that song, the other guys thought no one would know it and their opening song would tank.

My love of Bowie led me to discover a lot of other great artists, most notably Kate Bush, who will get her own mention a couple of entries from now. I’ve stayed a loyal Bowie fan over the decades, loving his 80s, 90s and 00s work just as much as his earlier stuff. Reality was a superb album, and I thought that was the last we’d ever hear from him until 10 years later, he dropped a whole new album, The Next Dayout of the blue, and it has some stellar material on it, like the title track, “Dirty Boys”, “Love is Lost”, “Valentine’s Day”, “I’d Rather Be High” and “Set the World on Fire”. I look forward to hearing and seeing whatever else Bowie has in store for his fans.