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Heaven - not Heathen,
This review is from: Heathen (Audio CD)
If this review section were limited to just three words about each item, I would use the following to describe this new Bowie effort: Just simply breathtaking.
I was hesitant. Like the other reviewers, the cliche of "the best thing since Scary Monsters" and a "real return to form" initially made me run for the hills screaming out for Bowie to become the cult hero that he was in the 90s, though the chart hits deserted him.
I honestly believed it would be something of a stylistic progression of 'hours...' and having heard the first single release, Slow Burn, I expected a wholly different listening experience. That track oozes remnants of Scary Monsters tracks Teenage Wildlife and Because You're Young, most notable with respect to the latter in Pete Townshend's guest appearance on guitar.
However, each and every track is, in itself, a masterpiece. Believe me, you may need to listen to it twice to appreciate it all, but Heathen really does deliver the best album since Scary Monsters. No, seriously!
Sunday, the first track, is a Bowie re-write of much of the style, content and vocal tones of his recent version of Nature Boy from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. Yet, it's A Better Future, Everyone Says 'Hi' and all three cover versions that really engage.
As ever, the debut single from this album is the weaker track from it, but on repeated listening, it does grow on you, even if the first verse's lack of rhyming does affect its listenability.
The Ltd Ed Digipak with bonus Remix CD is only really worth it for the re-recording of Conversation Piece which is far superior to the original recording made back in 1970. The inclusion of the hard-to-find remake Panic In Detroit will enthuse those who missed out on the Rykodisc/EMI reissues of Scary Monsters in the early 90s which included this track. Is it me, or is there an even more palpable parallel between Heathen and THAT album of 1980? Hmmmm.
It's a shame it's taken Dame David so long to return to tuneful, sharp, simplistic, moving, witty and ultimately rewarding music. It was hard living down the shame of the 80s sell-out. It was tough seeing the genuine excellence of much of the tracks on Black Tie White Noise and 1.Outside go virtually unnoticed by the public. The sacrilege of record buyers missing out on The Buddha of Suburbia will eat my core til the day I die. Even Earthling and 'hours...' did little to restore faith, no matter how many 50th birthdays and comparisons to Hunky Dory they received. This album will be looked back on in a few years as THE definitive post-Let's Dance release.
Last week, Bowie revealed that he was happy with his musical direction and was startled at how good his writing is at the moment. This is the key. Bowie's found his way through the wilderness. I hope the enthusiasm and sheer brilliance of this album leads him on to do some of the greatest music he has yet to give.