Features

Saturday Deluxe / 9 Jan 2016

bowie

David laughs as Jimmy King points out he’s forgotten his socks

Bowie’s Birthday

Many happy returns to David Bowie who was 69 yesterday. He’s looking great – even if I do miss his old teeth – and seems to be enjoying life as a recording artist who does no promotional work at all, save for making those spooky vids…

It turns out that he was not only born on the same day as Elvis Presley but also Blade Runner‘s Nexus-6 replicant Roy Batty, whose ‘incept date’ was 8 January 2016. You know there’s always going to be a space/sci-fi connection when Bowie’s around! It’s quite apt actually, because despite Batty’s travels and his liking for C-beams, during a colourful life I’m sure ‘Dame’ David has seen (and done) things Batty “wouldn’t believe”.

Anyway, the new album ★ (Blackstar) is of course out, and while I’ll reserve full judgement for now, it sounds very promising indeed. Although you have to say, all this talk of it being ‘jazzy’ was a bit of a red herring. It’s not. The remake of Sue is far LESS jazzy than the original; Lazarus has a lovely poppy, floaty quality and I still think the sweet, middle bit of Blackstar sounds like one of Bowie’s contributions from the Labyrinth soundtrack (which I like).

Also, maybe it’s me, but does anyone else think they’ve overplayed the ‘it’s-weird-and-experimental’ card? Dollar Days for example, is lovely, but it’s breezy arrangement features acoustic guitar, drums, piano, soulful sax and some beautiful vocals. It’s not exactly Black Out or African Night Flight.

I’m pleased it’s short, I’ve always liked a short album. Station to Station was six tracks, Let’s Dance, eight. It’s a cliché, I know, but less is normally more. I doubt this would be better with 14 tracks plus two bonus tracks on Target exclusive.

Finally, someone tell me why I didn’t pre-order the transparent vinyl? I think I was put off by all that ‘lithograph’ bollocks on the official Bowie site. Oh well, the standard vinyl is well-presented with the die-cut sleeve, even if the £24 price-tag for a seven-track album is rather high.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on ★, so do leave a comment.

Watch the video to Lazarus


jackson_michael_dont_stop_til_you_get_enough_single

Don’t stop until you get enough bonus content

What’s going on with the newly announced reissue of Michael Jackson‘s Off The Wall? The re-release pairs just the album with a new Spike Lee documentary, and, er, that’s it!

Spike Lee is a great filmmaker (I love Clockers in particular) but Sony didn’t think the Bad documentary warranted a place on the Bad 25 reissue, whereas with Off The Wall that’s ALL we’re getting! The fact is, the documentary is likely to be shown on TV soon enough (Amy, the 2015 Amy Winehouse doc was on UK telly last night) so are we really going to spend £15-20 on this reissue to get content that will be free after a short while?

A reissue that offers close to nothing of interest is surely destined to fail but Sony are pressing ahead regardless. Also, goodwill is eroded, because if in 2019 they do decide to go the super deluxe route for the 40th anniversary of Off The Wall, consumers and music fans who do buy this 2016 release will rightly feel a bit miffed.

Somewhere along the line the strategy must have changed. There was definitely a plan for a big reissue because a promo film was created (here). For whatever reason, that has been scrapped, but maybe Sony were contractually obliged to release the Spike Lee doc and were therefore put in a position where they had to do something. An almost grudging frills-free release is logical in that context, although it’s still a bit misguided.

Is it naive to hope for some generosity of spirit? In my opinion, with reissues it makes such a difference when you can tell some proper thought has been put into it. A fan’s perspective, if you like. Blu-ray has a massive capacity for audio and video content – at the very least, a hi-res stereo version of the album should have been added to that element as an incentive to purchase. It’s as if they don’t want this to sell.

Fifteen years on from the 2001 special edition, which featured nine bonus tracks, we appear to be going backwards. The press release for the new edition also offered no details at all on remastering or which version of the album is being used, which again shows that the label appear not to understand who they are marketing to. Poor show.

Read more about the Off The Wall reissue here.

You might also like…

59 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 9 Jan 2016

  1. Tony Pye says:

    I’ve bought most of Bowies records but haven’t heard this one yet. I’ve been put off by the description ‘jazzy’ so I’ll wait till I hear it before buying. He doesn’t need the money as much as me

    • Rick says:

      It is not ‘jazzy’ on any level at all in my opinion so don’t let that influence you. If it has been described as jazzy then somebody does not know what that word means.

  2. Olivier Sales says:

    I love David Bowie and I love Blackstar very much!!! He’s constantly proving to us the genius he is.

  3. Michael Bird says:

    Went to my local Barnes and Noble yesterday to pick up my transparent vinyl and they had sold their single copy. The store called two other large stores in the Columbus, Ohio area and they had received two copies among them (and one didn’t get any). Supply is next to non-existent at the moment. I couldn’t even find the standard CD at Target. I think the physical media must not have made it to the pressing plant until very late in order to curb the leak. Which is stupid because I purchased the transparent vinyl from the website, went home and pulled the album down in lossless FLAC by torrent.

  4. Mel Hall says:

    I decided to purchase the vinyl of this on impulse and thought it would be a good one to add to my collection. Thought I wouldn’t like it on hearing a couple of the tracks only once but I definitely think it’s a grower. My favourite track so far – Girl Loves Me.

  5. BritinDetroit says:

    Played it and a gigantic….I dunno.

  6. Tim Barton says:

    I’m going to say Blackstar is simply amazing! Lazarus is superb, and-yes-the ‘jazzy experimental’ tag is a bit misleading. If anything, I’d say it owes a bit to Scott Walker’s work from the last couple of decades, and that’s no bad thing; I know Bowie’s a Scott champion, so it’s fitting. So, yes, Blackstar is very good indeed!

  7. Tim Barton says:

    As for this Off The Wall ripoff, Sony ought to be ashamed. I’ve got the Japanese paper sleeve with the bonus tracks and a remaster that will do until somebody at the label sorts this mess out. It could have been so impressive. The album is one of MJ’s best, and deserves better than this approach.

  8. Gary Thompson says:

    I listened to it 3 times yesterday – twice on Spotify & once after I’d bought the vinyl edition in Belfast HMV (incidentally £19.99, probably the best price I’ve seen anywhere). It is a grower (all good albums are, they reveal their quality slowly, all the better to embed in your consciousness). I agree the ‘jazz’ info was misleading, it just sounds like a (very) good rock band with some jazz flavourings.

    • Paul English says:

      The LP is almost twice the price of the CD (and it’s not even a double). How times have changed.

    • Alan Fenwick says:

      @Gary,

      I picked it up from Amazon Italy, worked out at around £16 delivered, I’m Surprised there wasn’t more people jumped on that as it was that price pretty much from when the links were posted on this site several months back (and the cheapest by far)

      The price initially was around €19 euro then it dropped to around €17 euro plus shipping.

  9. baward says:

    My favourite track so far is ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’, one of Bowie’s finest melodies in a very long list. The album as a whole reminds me of tracks off ‘Low’, ‘Lodger’ and ‘Scary Monsters’, but at the same time any of his “easy”, commercial stuff. Ideal listening in my book.

  10. RJSWinchester says:

    I think the lead single was a bit of a curveball that led the media to believe that this was going to be some sort of Avant garde abstract jazz odyssey. It’s a lot more commercial than that but also less mainstream than The Next Day. I think the single Blackstar is the best song on it and one of the best things he’s done in a long, long time. Not a classic Bowie album but a very good one nonetheless and it’s good to see an artist fast approaching 70 challenging both himself and his fans.

  11. Darren Briscoe says:

    BOWIE Blackstar. …..phenomenal! Not one “filler” track and gets better with each listen..sorry no time to comment further as I have to listen to it again!

  12. paul says:

    to be played at maximum volume through a pair of headphones to really appreciate how wonderful it is

  13. James says:

    Bought the CD and the regular vinyl and ordered the clear vinyl from the Bowie site (it is on its way). Three listens through the album and I love it. A friend asked me to describe it and I came up with “Imagine an album born of ‘Black Tie White Noise’ and ‘Outside’ and then raised by ‘Earthling'”. It is not far removed from things he has done in the past and I would not call anything he has done as “jazzy” and anyone who thinks this album is jazzy should probably listen to more jazz. It is a very “Bowie album” with enough avant-garde for those who like that side of him, and enough more mainstream for those who like that.

    • Bruce Nicholson says:

      I’m too puzzled by the media take on Blackstar as being ‘jazz’ orientated. I don’t hear that myself – I think its lazy journalism. Yes, there are irregular jazz style drumming, but is more the drum’n’bass feel of Earthling than any jazz I would associate it with, and yes it does have wild saxophone and horns (?) but again its not what I would call jazz – I remember hearing/seeing something very similar when Lou Reed toured his Metal Machine Music band a few years back. Definitely not jazz.

      There are also some lazy journalists pulling out the old favourite that its his best album since Scary Monsters. Personally, I find it really hard to say which last album it is better than (in terms of ‘best album since…’) , but it is certainly better than his last three or four, but that’s not to say those albums are not good or have merits.

      The album itself is wonderful and is a very strong statement from an artist who could really rest on his laurels and not release anything at all. That he is still pushing is great. The song Blackstar is the stand out of the album, though I am really enjoying Tis A PIty She’s A Whore and I Can’t Give Away Everything.

      James – you mention you have the ordinary vinyl and clear vinyl. I got the vinyl from Amazon which is in a black sleeve, with the star cut out the front, the vinyl in a clear PVC folder, but is black vinyl. This seems to match the clear vinyl description on the Bowie website but I can’t be sure. What are the differences? Is the normal version you have in a white cover as the CD?

      • James says:

        Hi Bruce,
        Your description of the black vinyl is exactly the same as the black vinyl I purchased from my local HMV here in Canada. The clear vinyl has not yet arrived from the Bowie Store, but when it does I will compare the two.

  14. Max says:

    I think it’s a great album that grows with time… to listen again and again!

  15. Salamander says:

    Downloaded the album from HD-tracks in 24/96. It sounds fantastic and as far as the music goes, I rate it among Bowie’s best late-career albums; Heathen comes to mind. Yet, there is some 70’s Roxy Music progginess (rather than the ‘jazz’ mooted) to this album that is very pleasant. I also ordered the clear vinyl directly from the Bowie site, it’s on its way. Amazed to see that on eBay some offers for the clear vinyl are already starting from $124,-, going up to $200,- for the ones with litho.

  16. Dean says:

    I mentioned in the other thread that it’s not “Jazzy”.

    As to the length – I’ve not heard any of the additional five tracks that were recorded during the sessions, so can’t say whether the album would be improved or not – but good music is good music be it 40 minutes or an hour. With Bowie, I’d wager more is indeed better.

    I think two things are going on. 1) They kept this initial release to around the 40 minute mark because of the limitations of Vinyl. 2) They’re simply going to wait three months or so and release an improved edition with the videos and extra tracks as they did with The Next Day. The extra tracks on The Next Day got very good reviews.

    I was also disappointed to hear that the title track of the new album was actually two minutes longer, but was cut to meet a timing requirement at Apple (who don’t post singles longer than 10 minutes). I can’t see how the artists original intention could not be better……

  17. Graham Yapp says:

    After a couple of listens.i must say I reckon it’s a excellent album,Bowie’s vocals seem much better on this one than ‘The Next Day’

  18. Jason H says:

    I bought the clear vinyl at my local Barnes & Noble. I made a point of getting there when it opened & good job i did because i left with the one and only copy. .

  19. fredpostman says:

    I have listened to ‘Blackstar’ a few times now,and must admit i do prefer the 2104 versions of ‘Sue’ and ‘Tis’,because the new versions sound too frantic,though the whole album is consistently good,with Mr Visconti’s great little production touches that i have always loved.It’s brevity in these modern times is also to be applauded,though i’m sure a deluxe version will arrive….

  20. Ian Ryder says:

    I am LOVIN’ the Bowie album. Simply brilliant. The title track is one of my most favourite Bowie songs ever. If anyone’s interested I have written a review on my own low rent blog @ http://thamesdeltaworldservice.blogspot.co.uk/2016/01/david-bowie-blackstar-tdws-review.html. I agree in places the wierd/experimental card is overplayed. Not overplayed though is the quality card. Superb album.

  21. Paul Murphy says:

    Purely on a too-much-time-on-my-hands level, Blackstar, at 41.13, is longer than any Bowie album from Man Who Sold up to Never Let Me Down with the exception of Hunky and Scary [Never Let Me Down – now there’s an album that should be shorter for sure]. I was actually hoping for a ‘jazzy’ album, a format that Mr B’s penchant for free-formed lyric-making would seem perfect for. Like Paul says, judgement is best deferred – some Bowie albums are ‘growers’, some are heard with loyalty first and judgement second [never forget, Tin Machine garnered some very good reviews when first out of the blocks], but on the first few listens, its sounding promising.
    Sidetracking back to liking ’em short, it can go either way. Dylan’s Under The Red Sky would be better missing 3 or 4 tracks [and being released as a CD single!], but what would one leave off Blonde On Blonde? Everybody seems to agree that the White Album would be a masterwork single album, but nobody can agree on which tracks should make it up. Never Mind The Bollocks only clocks in at 38 minutes even in its 12-track incarnation, but Kiss This includes the whole thing and assorted A and B-Sides too without outstaying its welcome [although my cartlidges beg to differ these days]. For fans of short needle time, the new Elvis box is the place to head – the 60 CDs in it would condense on to about 25 [Roustabout and Flaming Star, at just 20 minutes each, making the NBC-TV Special at 44.27 seem like a box set!].

    • Dean says:

      Most of the albums you mentioned were originally released on Vinyl, and were therefore put together to accommodate the limitations of Vinyl. Whether one likes individual songs is neither here nor there really. The ideal length of an album is whatever the artist intended. With an edit to a song to accommodate Apple, and five tracks held back when the album as released has two re-recordings, suggests more was intended, but left out for the inevitable SD, imo.

      Still, without having heard those five tracks……………

  22. Ben B says:

    I’ve not really been too bothered by a Bowie album since Scary Monsters but Blackstar is phenomenal. It really is an exceptional record. Even the sax sounds great, and I HATE saxophones. Its modern, left-field, and brave but totally accessible. He’s destroyed the competition.

  23. Edward Bates says:

    A slight aside, January 8th is also the birthday of Graham Chapman who penned the utterly brilliant Medical Love Song.

  24. trash says:

    My 10p worth:

    1 – After three listens I think it is very good.
    Only one track does not grab me which is ‘Dollar Days’ – not bad but not great. Overall better than The Next Day (to my mind).

    2 – Jazz musicians does not automatically mean ‘Jazz’.
    As others have noted – this is not Bowie goes Jazz (BTWN had much more Jazz styling I think).

    3 – Brevity is good.
    The album does not overstay it’s welcome. I find many albums way too long these days – I’d rather have a short album of top quality songs than a long album padded out with duffers. Indeed removing four tracks from TND would have made it a much stronger album.

    4 – Yes I am sure there will be a deluxe edition but I don’t think that negates the original release.
    As an aside, Supposedly (according to the various interviews I have read) Bowie produced demos for a lot of the tracks so it would be nice to hear those (although I don’t believe he has much of a record of airing his demos…).

    5 – Could do without the spot varnished text in the booklet.
    Looks great but makes it quite difficult to read. Overall the design works well and is better then TND. I wonder if the lack of a Bowie image on the cover is also to do with his age?

    6 – Still can’t stand the videos…
    Probably just me but I find them very creepy (the whole ‘buttons for eyes’ thing…. urrrggh! :-)

    7 – Listen to it on headphones at least once.
    Lisening on headphones really allows you to appreciate all the little sonic touches that Visconti puts into his productions. There is are a lot of details in the mix that are really add to the overall feel.

  25. Highlander says:

    I’ve listened on headphones two times in a row and I think this new album is spectacular. Bowie and Tony have hit it out of the park. However, I think it may have been mastered to loudly. I’ve had to turn the volume down a bit due to ear fatigue. Anyone else notice this?

    I wish they would’ve included the earlier jazzy versions too as bonus tracks. But, they’ll probably release another version to sell fairly soon.
    Cheers to Bowie on a fine new album!!

  26. colin says:

    7 Tracks is a pretty shabby offering. More like an EP. Look out for a deluxe edition towards Christmas 2016 with a ‘normal’ amount of tracks on it. We had 2 cd’s delivered to the retail outlet I work at on release day and not surprisingly they are still on the shelf unsold. Typical offering from an artists who know whatever he releases will sell, mostly to die-hard fans only. He has many of those as he has being going so long. He hasn’t released anything decent for ages. Yes ive heard enough of it to know it’s Awful tripe, give up and retire Mr B. No more please.

  27. SteveW says:

    Love it! To me the vibe is somewhere between Black Tie / White Noise and the aforementioned stationtostation. It is more accessable and poppy than Next Day and people were misled (probably deliberately!) by the original versions of Sue and Tis a Pity – I’m still unsure whether the album versions are better maybe just different.

    I know it’s a bit greedy but has anyone heard whether there will be a deluxe version with extra tracks at any point? I know with Next Day it took about a year….

  28. Nav says:

    Blackstar is a superb grower, apart from ‘Tis a Pity’, which I can’t get into at all. Really pleased that ‘Tis’ and ‘Sue’ are not the same recordings as those released in 2014.
    I may have overdone the purchasing of this album, have the transparent vinyl on order (dispatch currently delayed), the die-cut vinyl, which comes with an MP3 download, iTunes purchase, CD and the 24/96khz download from HDTRACKS website.

    • Rick says:

      Do you not like money? Why download on iTunes when you have the MP3 download or could rip the CD in a better format or why buy either of those when you have the HD tracks?

      I can see somebody wanting the different vinyl for artistic reasons and the CD for portability but triple dipping on digital files of lessening quality seems ridiculous.

      • Nav says:

        Hi Rick,

        iTunes gave me quick access to Blackstar and Lazarus, plus the Blackstar video. Wasn’t aware that MP3 came with the vinyl as it wasn’t advertised. The CD purchase was to get the best possible sound that I was aware available to purchase. The HD tracks were only advertised and made available on Friday. Overkill indeed overall. I wish vinyl purchases would come with HD files by default as standard.

        Hope Bowie starts selling archival concerts like Springsteen as HD files. Would love to have an official copy of one of the numerous gigs I’ve seen him at over the years.

    • Ruben says:

      I would say so !

      I heard it for the 1st time today on Amazon prime and very much liked it. Not jazzy in the least, just very experimental, and recognizably Bowie. Not as mainstream as Next Day, but that’s a + as I see it. Based on his history, I’d bet an expanded version will be released, but not earlier than 9 or so months.
      Regarding the complaints this is too short, let’s remember that at 41 minutes, it is still longer than Ziggy, Revolver, Airplane, etc.
      More is not necessarily better; to wit: the Stones’ A Bigger Bang

  29. Dejan says:

    I am really sorry but “Blackstar” just doesn’t cut it. If I would get this CD for free I wouldn’t take it anyway. Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose.
    I am sorry but this one goes to the recycle bin.
    Happy belayed birthday for a living legend. But let this one get lost in the production somehow.

  30. Erick says:

    I’m bummed that there’s no 5.1 Blu-ray release for “Blackstar” along with the usual physical and digital suspects…I would have liked to hear the horns and electronics tussle together on a broader surround canvas.

  31. Mikko Suhonen says:

    RIP.

  32. RICHARD says:

    OOOOH SO SAD REST IN PEACE .. MY HERO DAVID DIED TODAY

  33. Andrew Mogford says:

    Tragically, Bowe has just died of cancer. I didn’t even know he had it :( dreadful loss to the music world :( RIP David

  34. Felix says:

    What a great musician he was. I will miss you, David!

  35. patjoller says:

    I guess the album takes a new meaning now…. Can’t believe this!!!!!

  36. Steve says:

    RIP Starman

  37. Christian Fex says:

    David BOWIE R.I.P.

  38. Cal says:

    R.I.P David Bowie, 18 months on and your battle with cancer ended today.

    May you fill heaven with your fantastic music.

    Thankyou for filling my childhood with fantastic music.

    R.I.P

  39. Joeri Buhrer Tavanier says:

    RIP David Bowie. Very sad.

  40. Matthias Hafemann says:

    What a great record! I love every second of it…Bowie’s bold and far from being on the save side with this one!
    It saddens me to hear that he passed away this morning! What a loss for the rock music world!!!

  41. wolf says:

    Very sad to announce that David Bowie actually died two days after the release of Blackstar :-(. Just read it a minute ago. Thank you David for so many years of inspiring music!

  42. Willy says:

    This astonishing album is now his swansong…… “Blackstar”…… now it all makes sense. RIP to a brilliant, brilliant man. May God’s love be with you, David. Funking genius xxx

  43. trash says:

    Can’t believe he has died…

    One of those people you figure would be around forever always pushing the boundaries!

    RIP Mr Bowie

  44. Sean says:

    Think you’d better amend your Bowie comments :(

  45. CJ Feeney says:

    What a shock to hear the news. Obvious now why he did little publicity, and the photo at the head of this column is a great way for him to sign off a life in the public eye.

  46. Colin Muller says:

    Blackstar is definitely a very good album and a beautiful swansong from an amazing artist.
    I didn’t want to listen to any of it before the date of release, as I was a bit afrait to be disappointed. Last Friday I heard the first minute of Blackstar on the radio and I immediatly thought it was a great record !
    Side A is really fantastic ! I also like side B, especially “Dollar Days”. I think that 40 minutes is fine : to me it makes this record stronger and more coherent. It has a good balance between very melodic tunes and more experimental touches.
    A last & final milestone in Bowie’s rich discography !

  47. trash says:

    So according to an article in the NME today there are five unreleased pieces from the Blackstar sessions which should surface sometime this year.
    That Deluxe edition is looking more and more probable…

    I hope a second Five Years collection surfaces soon too..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>