40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Music - Night And Day
The first of a trio of albums that David Bowie co-produced with Tony Visconti at Conny Plank's Hansa Studios by the Wall in Berlin, Low (originally titled New Music - Night And Day) represented probably the most radical change of colour that the chameleon that was Bowie had so far affected. Their relatively poor sales at the time of release were instrumental in Bowie...
Published on 17 Mar 2006 by Lozarithm
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars David Bowie Low
I have this as an LP and it was nice hearing it again but there are too many instrumentals on the album.
Published 23 months ago by MR R W HARRISON
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40 of 42 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars New Music - Night And Day,
The first of a trio of albums that David Bowie co-produced with Tony Visconti at Conny Plank's Hansa Studios by the Wall in Berlin, Low (originally titled New Music - Night And Day) represented probably the most radical change of colour that the chameleon that was Bowie had so far affected. Their relatively poor sales at the time of release were instrumental in Bowie and RCA parting company (though all three reached the UK album top five), but have served only to enhance Bowie's standing over the decades.
Bowie has described the album as one that was extremely important to him and which had an influence on English music thereafter through its ambience and drum sounds. All three albums (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger) featured the involvement of Brian Eno, whose presence is clearly audible throughout, though on Low he is working to Bowie's brief rather than in true collaboration and has only one shared composer credit on the album, Warszawa.
Work on the album began in France at the Chateau d'Hérouville in June 1976, where Bowie was working with Iggy Pop in preparation for his album, and both albums feature the two of them with Ricky Gardiner and Carlos Alomar on guitars. Low therefore also belongs to a second trilogy, alongside The Idiot and Lust For Life, its sequel.
Bowie and Iggy relocated in 1976 to Berlin, to live and work and to kick their cocaine habits - a bizarre strategy which against all odds seemed to work. The resultant Low is an album of two distinct sides, an aspect that the CD format slightly unravels. The first side consists of half a dozen bursts of song featuring the augmented full band from his previous tour, albeit treated by Eno, sandwiched between two instrumentals, and including the two singles Sound And Vision (with the vocal doo-doo-doos of Mary Hopkin Visconti) and Be My Wife. Bowie had evidently been soaking up the German music scene and their are echoes of Faust, Neu!, Can and others.
If the lyrics on side one were minimal, having more or less discarded narrative, on the second side they were banished altogether for a startling eerie and wordless, largely instrumental handful of atmospheric longer textural tone poems, of which Warszawa is the centre-piece. They possibly comprise Bowie's strongest album side. Though sounding initially dark and sinister because of the (then) unfamiliarity of the sounds, they are intended to be glowing and spiritual, a positive source of regeneration and optimism, that grew out of his impressions of the Eastern bloc, though it was to be another duo-decade before the Wall was to go. Weeping Wall, despite its title, was originally intended for the soundtrack of the film The Man Who Fell To Earth, and the album cover is a still from that film, depicting Bowie as Newton, in profile (Low profile).
The composer Philip Glass used two of the pieces from side 2, Subterraneans and Warszawa, along with the unreleased composition Some Are from the same sessions, to create in 1993 his "Low" Symphony - From The Music Of David Bowie And Brian Eno.
20 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Let's pull down the blinds and ****'em all" - Bowie,
By A Customer
David Bowie was a superstar of the Seventies, his appeal kept fresh as he kept with the times, his well-known glam rock era to his success in America with soul music. His hippy orientated early days to his celebrated Berlin trilogy of albums. In 1977 Bowie kicked cocaine addiction in the cocaine capital of Europe; he also released one of the foremost albums in post-war music that helped change the face of European mainstream...
Low is the first of the set from the Berlin trilogy, which included also the LPs "Heroes", and Lodger, which also received lesser acclaim. Low was a relative commercial failure producing one surprise-hit single, Sound And Vision.
After an alienating period in Los Angeles in 1976 (during the soul LP, Station to Station) with cocaine binges and the disintegration of his marriage, Bowie looked for the coldness and isolation of Berlin and lived in semi-recluse for three years. This is heard in the album that (with help from producer Brian Eno) echoes the surroundings and his feelings well.
While the first half of the album is consecutive in catchy songs and is quite easy on the ear Side B is a collection of avant-garde gloomy instrumentals which contains Bowie with an almost opera voice chanting over simple notes played on state of the art synthesisers.
Highlights on the first side are the revealing Be My Wife that exhibits much of his situation and his dissatisfaction which America: I've lived all over the world; I've left every place. It goes someway to express the despair in his defunct relationship with Angie Barnett. Breaking Glass and Sound And Vision portrait remoteness "pale blinds drawn all day, nothing to do, nothing to say" from the latter. Low also contains, good spirits over confusion in What In The World and the bleak but enthralling Always Crashing In The Same Car.
While more of side A would have been more than satisfactory, David Bowie had to go further there was no question. With Berlin and Eno, Bowie had the influence to do just that.
The last five tracks submerge the listener into enchanting instrumentals, breathing the artist's desolation and detachment with monumental originality and maturity in a tense wall of sound. Warzawa, Subterraneans and Art Decade are the best examples here with moody synthesisers holding most of the tune with the occasional howling saxophone or well-placed xylophone put in for good effect.
What Bowie crafted on Low has over time been greatly admired. He has indebted a crop of imitators that followed in the early Eighties, such as Gary Numan, New Order and Talking Heads. He wrote his perhaps most original album, overcame his addiction to drugs and proved us yet again of his talent.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowie and Eno's first outing.,
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Low is the first part of the unequalled Berlin Trilogy, recorded by Bowie when he was in Berlin. In my mind Low is the collaboration of two of the best prog-rock artists of the 70s- David Bowie and Brian Eno. Low shows a return to rock (from the blue eyed soul of the thin white duke) for Bowie. Bowie made a masterpiece in his attempt to wean himself of cocaine.
First is the vibrant Speed of Life, an instrumental it may be but don't let that put you off. The repetitive (twice over) rhythm is a classic feature of Eno's music, but is also a lot more far reaching because of Bowie's input.
Then comes Breaking Glass. This tiny little song is about a man breaking up with his girlfriend. Its irresistible rhythm (you know, you just have to tap your fingers on the table) is evidence of Bowie's songwriting collaboration with Dennis Davis (drums) and George Murray (bass).
What In The World is a bit of a letdown for the album, it hasn't aged well. The Pac-Man like noise throughout the song is quite annoying. The song's subject, a little girl with grey eyes, is thought to be part of Bowie's character (is it the same girl that features in 1971's Life on Mars?)
Then is Sound and Vision. Through many remixes and covers this timeless piece is still at its best in the original version. It is meant to be about Bowie's drug-using-hazy-forgotten what happened yesterday period.
Always Crashing In The Same Car has a slow style that makes t seem as though time has stopped. It is about another of Bowie drug induced dreams.
Next is Be My Wife. It is thought to be a last cry out to his estranged partner Angela Bowie. He apparently played it over the phone to her before recording and, briefly, the pair were together again (of course not in the same place as she lived in Zurich).
A New Career in a New Town is similar to Speed of life in the way that it is a lively opener. As you can probably guess from the title, it is about Bowie's fresh start in Berlin.
Then is Warszawa. Inspired by a Polish choir, this lengthy piece was co-written with Brian Eno. It is good music to play at a funeral.
Art Decade and Weeping Wall are fairly similar. Art Decade is about the atmosphere in West Berlin during the cold war and Weeping wall is about the misery of the Berlin Wall. Weeping wall's melody is based on a twisted version of Scarbourgh Fair.
Subterraneans deserves a paragraph all on its own. It is by far the best piece. It is about the atmosphere in East Berlin. Its tune is catchy (well kind of) and the lyrics are inspiring (if nonsensical). It is the type of music I could eat (not literally).
Low is the best sound I have ever heard. A great starter to a great trilogy!
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The European canon is here...,
The Thin White One was a bit confused & not having the best of times in the mid to late 1970s- addictions, diabolism, dead Playboy models, slipping with ease into the role of an alien, Nazi-salutes, cocaine...it was all getting a bit much? 1976's 'Station to Station' (my personal favourite) saw Bowie look back to Europe, the title track whirring with noises closer to Krautrock.Bowie left America & with accomplices Tony Visconti (co-producer), Iggy Pop (who Bowie would tryout his new sound with on the classic LPs 'The Idiot' & 'Lust for Life') & Brian Eno he recorded this key album.'Low' is considered the first part in the so-called Berlin-trilogy, though the attentive are aware it was partly recorded at the Chateau d'Herouville in France where Mr Eno was apparently harassed by the ghost of a dead composer!
Bowie & Eno employed those oblique strategies, taking the approach the latter had employed as a solo artist and collaborating with Cluster & Harmonia. Bowie himself was enamoured with all things Kraut, attempting to get members of Neu! involved (he was turned down) and nodding to other key West German acts like Can, Faust & Kraftwerk (whose 'Trans Europe Express' namechecked Bowie & Pop). Having said that, such key Bowie-associated musicians as Carlos Alomar, Dennis Davis, George Murray, Ricky'The Passenger'Gardener & Roy Young also contribute. It seems like the tight alien plastic soul collective are there to nail Bowie & Eno's avant-directions to the wall.(I'm sure Hugo Wilcken's 331/3 book on 'Low' will be of interest...)
'Low' was reported to have been initially rejected by RCA, while Bowie's initial plan to blend the vocal/intrumental tracks more was nixed- the first half ('Speed of Life' apart) finds vocal-songs, as the latter half showcases the instrumental side of things. A performance of 'Low' alongside 'Heathen' a few years ago appeared to put 'Low' back in the order Bowie originally intended (...any chance of a release Dave?).
'Speed of Life' is a pulsing instrumental that sets the tone for the album, leading into the classic 'Breaking Glass' co-written with Davis & Murray - certainly the missing link between Can & Chic! Eno's cortex-melting waves of synths are perfect colliding with the funk as Bowie looks back with horror at his time in LA as he embraced the Occult:"...don't look at the carpet/I drew something awful on it/See..." 'What in the World' speeds things up, a rapid pop song with Iggy on backing vocals - the "Deep in your room, so deep in your room" feeling akin to the sybaritic "Blue, blue electric blue/That's the colour of my room" of 'Sound+Vision' - Bowie a bit lost in the scheme of things (...the turning point could be 1979's 'Fantastic Voyage'?).'Sound And Vision' is an absolute joy, as ever, benefiting from Eno and Mary Hopkin's (Mrs Visconti) backing vocals and one of Bowie's perfect popsongs.
The first half becomes darkest with 'Always Crashing in the Same Car', which has the feel of J.G. Ballard's 'Crash', sort of plastic soul after 'Autobahn' - setting the tone for such later joys as 'Pull Up to the Bumper', 'Warm Leatherette', 'Cars', 'Little Red Corvette' & 'The Art of Driving.' As with material on 'Young Americans' & 'Station...' Bowie is dripping with soul and passion here, the "Jasmine..." line and the aching guitar of Alomar is one of the great moments in the Thin White One's canon. The vocal-section concludes with the charming 'Be My Wife', the predecessor of 'Heathen's 'I Would Be Your Slave' and the place where Bowie trys out his Mockney vocals (contrast to uber 80s hit 'Modern Love' & its opening vocal). The "sometimes you get so lonely..." line seems to encapsulate the album - as bleak as it is, Bowie isn't wallowing and is kind of looking for a way out - more an 'On the Beach' than a 'Berlin'...
While some may gripe that Bowie wasn't doing what more cult European acts were, the second side disproves that notion. Bowie may have been influenced by European acts, but he took that Euro-electronic thing somewhere entirely new. The five instrumentals that conclude 'Low' stand up as a key moment in the history of electronica, setting the tone for the years that followed. Their influence can be found in New Order-Joy Division (whose name post Stiff Kittens was Warsaw after the track here), Ultravox!, Tubeway Army, Japan ('Burning Bridges'), Y.M.O., Throbbing Gristle (the instrumentals on '20 Jazz Funk Greats' a definite relative), Associates, B.E.F., Visage, Magazine (Dave Formula's keyboard work on 'Secondhand Daylight' definitely!), Simple Minds ('Empires & Dance'), the Eno/Talking Heads collaborations (notably 'Fear of Music'), Cabaret Voltaire ('Voice of America/Three Mantras' advanced on these climes), Spandau Ballet, 'Kid A'-Radiohead, Vangelis ('Blade Runner'), Soft Cell (Mr Almond nodded to it a few years ago), Devo, Depeche Mode, Suede's 'Introducing the Band', Blur ('He Thought of Cars', 'Yuki & Hiro','13'), Moby, John Foxx, Nine Inch Nails, Madonna, Fennesz, Sylvian/Czukay, Simian, Sakamoto, Pete Shelley's 80's solo albums, Yello, Leftfield, PIL's 'Radio 4' etc etc. 'Warszawa' is also familiar as alongside German single 'Helden' and tracks from "Heroes" & 'Lodger' it appeared on the soundtrack to the bleak 'Christiane F- We the Children from Zoo Station' (some of these instrumentals have a parallel existence on the excellent instrumental only compilation 'All Saints'). & a major tribute to 'Low' not mentioned thus far is Philip Glass' 'Low Symphony', one of the great cover versions and proof that pop-music (...if this is what pop music is...) can belong in the classical world if required...
'Low' is a key album.
32 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a superb album from two art-rock legends!,
By A Customer
way back in '77, david bowie decided to skip the punk battlefield altogether and relocate to the decadent city of berlin, taking smack-buddy iggy pop with him. the wacky duo had two things in mind: getting off the junk, and wrenching an album or two out of their drug-ravaged corpses. after producing and generally helping out on pop's first (and very good) solo album 'the idiot', bowie teamed up with legendary funny-noise-effects man brian eno to create 'low', the first album in his 'berlin' trilogy.
the album is basically spilt into two halves (side one and two, if it were vinyl); the first half consists of tracks with vocals. these are all three-minute blasts of germanic pop perfection, with interestingly textured, melodic arrangements that camouflage the often bleak and dark lyrics- but i'll come back to that later. iggy pops up (no pun intended) on vocals for 'what in the world'. the classic 'sound and vision' is here as well, with it's great guitar hook. while listening to this album, it really struck me that bowie's backing band are really quite good, especially carlos alomar on the guitar. the short, punchy and strangely desperate 'breaking glass' is great as well. side one is book-ended by two bouncy, poppy instrumentals with great hooks and melodies, 'speed of life' and 'a new career in a new town'.
side two is the instrumental side, consisting of four tracks that run together for about twenty minutes as one gloomy, bleak and incredibly atmospheric suite of music: 'warszawa' (and no, i don't know how to say it either), 'art decade', 'weeping wall' and 'subterraneans'. the sound reminds me of german electro-wizards kraftwerk. when i read in a review that half of 'low' was instrumental, i was a bit put off, thinking i'd be bored after about three minutes. but the amazing thing is, there's never a dull second here.
i'd just like to have a brief moan about something, though; brian eno was probably responsible for the majority of 'low', and definitely responsible for the entire second side, yet david bowie manages to fob him off: read the booklet- 'all songs by david bowie'. not very fair. eno must feel a bit cheated. that's the only thing i don't like about bowie; he picks some great sidemen (robert fripp, eno, mick ronson, etc) who obviously have major songwriting input, then hardly gives 'em any credit.
getting back to the lyrics, 'low' contains some of bowie's most personal thoughts and feelings, generated by his state of mind at the time: cocaine was ruining him, and he'd just split from his wife, angie. the reason why I didn't mention 'always crashing in the same car' and 'be my wife' from side one earlier is because even though the arrangements are very good and really suit the mood, it's the lyrics that really hit hard. even the titles seem desperate and dead-end- 'always crashing in the same car'. the first two lines of 'be my wife' are "sometimes you get so lonely/ sometimes you get nowhere".
thanks to wondrous 21st century technology, 'low' has been digitally remastered and three previously unreleased bonus tracks from that period have been added. 'some are' is pretty unremarkable, I think, but the creepy, churning instrumental track 'all saints' fits in perfectly and carries on the atmosphere of the whole album very well. there's a new, longer version of 'sound and vision', remixed especially for the cd re-release that's every bit as good as the original.
i can't compare 'low' to any of bowie's other works- this is my first bowie cd- but i am told by the more informed that it ranks as one of his best. certainly, as a stand-alone album, it's very, very good. it really does capture the gloomy, bleak, morbid decadedence of a post-war berlin and is very atmospheric. i'd recommend it to bowie virgins and veterans alike, as well as anyone into early kraftwerk, can or sixties/seventies kraut-rock. if you liked iggy's 'the idiot' (and if you didn't, you should do!), which i mentioned right at the start of this review, 'low' is a good buy. and that works vice-versa.
overall, one of the most scary, dark, atmospheric and bleak records to come out of the seventies. well done bowie AND eno AND the backing band! five stars *****.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Godlike,
I bought this album, basically, because of the critical acclaim it recieves. I was expecting it to be completely awful, as most things which recieve this amount of acclaim are. To say I was pleasantly suprised would be a massive understatement. It is, as a fan of electronic music mainly, the only rock album I listen to regularly, and one of my favourite electronic albums. The fact that it can have two sides that can almost immaculately sum up two completely different genres is unbelieveable, and as a piece of sound art, it's still startling today. Mind you, it's worth the 12 quid just to check out Brian Eno's megamaniaical credits (David Bowie is credited with 'pre-arranged percussion' - like a monkey who's been taught to play drums, whilst Brian Eno is credited with 'synthetics' - like he invented the concept of synthetic instruments). Overall, this album is a complete wonder, a beautiful example of sonic engineering, melodic, and dark without being angsty or melodramatic
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars withdrawal, depession, excellence,
By A Customer
Station To Station showed the shift but Low typed the change in big bold letters. this was the sound of depression filtered through Eno's minimalist sensibilities. for me it remains the greatest record of all time but it's not only for complete depressives either..there is a palpable sense of joy at discovering new things - could the Bowie of 'Diamond Dogs' have made something as immediate and visceral as 'Be My Wife'? of course not but still that's missing the point, all of Bowie's 1970's albums's are essential in one way or another and to work out your mental foibles on an international stage means genius..if only Syd Barrett was afforded the same opportunity..but Bowie himself admits that Barrett is a great influence so let's not split hairs. 'Low' - a classic record, for me only bettered with regards to Bowie's 70's output by 'Lodger' but as i said let's not split hairs.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great! Buy It Or Lose Out! Simple!,
Well what can I say!? A masterpiece. This is the first "Bowie" album I bought after being introduced to this amazing individual through the also stunning "Platinum Collection". Bowie had always been experimental with his music, but this, this was and still is, something else. It breaks down into five brilliant songs and six superb pieces of music and every one of these tracks is timeless. We have the immortal "Sound & Vision", in my opinion, one of the best songs anywhere ever. I could listen to this song an endless amount of times, it truly is an aural delight.
The manic mish-mash of guitar and piano on "Be My Wife" is brilliant and adds to the pleasure of this wonderful track. Bowie sings 'Sometimes You Get So Lonely' and a real sense of emotion is added in an unusual way. A perfect track.
The 1min 52secs oddity that is "Breaking Glass" is always welcome and is just so strange it's great!
"Always Crashing In The Same Car' is a slow paced song and yet another perfect track on this album. Vocally, Bowie sounds really great on this track too.
Now if we move to the pieces of music. This is how to experiment people!. All of the tracks sound very 'Alien' in their sound. They still sound modern and innovative now, nearly thirty years on, so I can't even start to imagine what they would of sounded like all those years ago. I find "Weeping Wall" and "Art Decade" kind of frightening in some ways but a total pleasure. While the real treats for me are "Warszawa" and "Subterraneans" with their odd spouts of vocal gibberish off of "Bowie" in various places, I mean this is really good stuff!! If you just shut your eys and listen it really will take you somewhere else.
So I would say that this is probably my most listened to album in recent times. While not being as accessible as the likes of "Hunky Dory" or the dance filled fetish that is "Lets Dance", you really can't go wrong here. As a first "Bowie" album, It is a challenging listen and you may not grasp the concept straight away, but if you give it a couple of listens, you will have no option but to give in to the effortless charm of this LP!
Please go and buy this album and indulge in not only one of the best albums ever, but possibly, this genius' finest moment!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowie's Best,
This album demonstrates Bowie's best abilities as a songwriter, a musician and a trendsetter. Bowie (along with Eno) seemingly predict where the music scene is heading years before it actually does, with a concoction of sythn and guitar laced tracks ranging from brillient songs to beautiful instramentals. Bowie experiments, but it doesn't get out of hand like other albums have, and it leads to what is his most rewarding album, at least of the late 70's. Musically this album dwarfs anything Bowie has done since and, although he had bigger comercial successes,in my opinion is better than the highly critically aclaimed "Heroes" which "Low" preceded. The stand out track is "Sound And Vision", but every track is excellent, especially the daunting, lethargic instramentals.
This is a definate for Bowie fans, and for anyone truley into music. Get "Low" in your collection now!
26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Classic, Nothing But.,
How you could describe Bowie's Low album in such few words as this space demands is difficult. But for such an album, it has to be done.
I had certain reservations when I heard Low for the first time. It has no predecessor in his catalogue - even Station To Station with its ice-cold lyrics seems tame.
However, subsequent listenings gave me the chance to re-assess my criticisms and praise. To wit: This is a wonderful album. That is the conclusion - the rest of this review is just filler to make you buy this perfect capture of the late 1970s and latter-era Bowie (latter as in before he went average and normal - the '80s period).
All of the first 'side' (CDs don't allow the luxury/relief/averageness of such limitations) is classic, an aural joy (even if the subject matter - Be My Wife, Always Crashing In The Same Car etc. sounds like it isn't). It promotes Bowie at his most pure, un-diluted and resonant. The second side DOES sound like filler the first time you hear it, but subsequent listenings reveal much of Bowie, producer Tony Visconti and 'sound engineer' Brian Eno at their height. It reminds me of the late seventies - and gives the listener a direct soundline from Kraftwerk to Joy Division - certain praise.
Low is an amazing album - not for the glam-rock that characterised Bowie's early albums or the later radio-friendly dirge (comparatively) - but for the amazing aural dynamics that the listener is treated to. At heart, it is an intelligent album. David treats the listener with respect.
Buy this, and, in time, love this. A discerning listener would demand nothing less.
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