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David Bowie - Top 25

I'm not the typical David Bowie fan, in that I initially found most of his records somewhat difficult to digest when I started exploring his backcatalog from the 70s in 2009.

But that was part of the appeal of Bowie.  He was weird, he was avart-garde, he was an artist in every sense of the word, hugely influencial to many bands I grew up listening to, so I wanted to at the very least familiarize myself with his work.  

At first, it was slow going.  

I picked up Man Who Sold the World back in 07, and found most of the album to be underwhelming and generally unsatisfying.  That delayed my exploration of Hunky Dory until I moved to Chicago in 09.  The first two songs on that record grabbed me pretty instantly.  Of course I knew "Changes" (who doesn't?) but the lyrics really spoke to me at the time, haven just moved to a new city ("...turn and face the strange...", etc).  To this day it's still my favorite Bowie song, and slowly but surely, the rest of Hunky Dory grew on me with repeated listens.  I then moved on to Ziggy, and was initially pretty underwhelmed by it as well.  For an album with such an epic reputation, I found it to be somewhat sedate, so it was initially hard to appreciate.  I listened to that album a lot around my first Halloween in Chicago, and it just so happens to fit the mood of the season, and to this day I always have to give it a spin or two around that time of year.  It's greatness has become more apparent to me over the years.  A true classic indeed.

One of the only Bowie albums that immediately made a strong, positive impression on me was "Aladdin Sane".  That's probably because it's his most direct, hard-rocking album, but it's got a lot of soul and camp as well (much like Ziggy).  I still prefer Aladdin Sane to Ziggy ever so slightly, and it's a favorite of mine from his glam period.

But my favorite period of Bowie would have to be his Berlin-era recordings, specifically Low.  To this day, it's probably my favorite Bowie album, because I find the mood of the record to be dreadfully profound.  It's bizarre, unsettling, cold, mechanical, funky, dreary, brooding, and occasionally harsh.  It can be a depressing listen, but it's a consuming and transformative one at that.  There's something about listening to Low in January in Chicago that really accentuates the otherworldly and harsh quality of both the music and the elements mother nature throws at you that time of year.  The bleakness of the album and the weather go hand-in-hand, and I enjoy embracing that feeling every-time the most brutal January weather rears it's head.

My intensive chronological exploration of 70s Bowie ends at Heroes, a good record, with an amazing title track (which is also essential January listening).  I have struggled to get into Lodger, Scary Monsters, and truthfully haven't made a great deal of effort to explore Bowie's 80s catalog because, well, it's the 80s.  But I have enjoyed his last two records, considered a bit of a renaissance for the man, which is all the more impressive given his age and declining health.

I always admired David Bowie for his individuality, uniqueness, his vision, his chameleon-like approach to music, and frankly the balls he had to fly his freak flag so creatively and emphatically.  He kept music exciting, invigorating, and helped evolve it into an art-form much in the same way The Velvet Underground did in the prior decade.

Ultimately, although there are several artists/bands who's music I personally enjoy more than Bowie's, there are very few that were quite as groundbreaking, influential, or diverse as he was.  I love artists that fly in the face of trends, popular tastes, and confidently blaze an unflinching trail of greatness in their wake for other's to try and follow.  With very few exceptions, no one did that better than David Bowie.

R.I.P.

#25 - Lady Stardust (1972)

 

#24 - Moonage Daydream (1972)

 

#23 - Weeping Wall (1977)

 

#22 - Sound and Vision (1977)

 

#21 - Panic in Detroit (1973)

 

#20 - Star (1972)

 

#19 - Watch That Man (1973)

 

#18 - Beauty and the Beast (1978)

 

#17 - Let's Dance (1983)

 

#16 - Station to Station (1976)

 

#15 - Aladdin Sane (1973)

 

#14 - Cracked Actor (1973)

 

#13 - Let's Spend the Night Together (1973)

 

#12 - Golden Years (1976)

 

#11 - Speed of Life (1977)

 

#10 - Breaking Glass (1977)

 

#9 - Hang On To Yourself (1977)

 

#8 - Suffragette City (1972)

 

#7 - Rebel Rebel (1974)

 

#6 - A New Career In A New Town (1977)

 

#5 - Fame (1975)

 

#4 - The Jean Genie (1973)

 

#3 - Oh! You Pretty Things (1971)

 

#2 - Heroes (1978)

 

#1 - Changes (1971)

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