(This review first ran on my old blog, Skratchdisc, in November 2010.)
The return of the son of the Thin White Duke…? Station to Station was one of the many times over his career where David Bowie sought to reinvent himself. In 1976 it was more rockin’ than Young Americans, more soulful than Diamond Dogs, and even considered “modern” (whatever that meant then).
When I first came across this album (in the early ’80s), I didn’t really like much of it, save for “Golden Years,” which upon release was the first record I was ever aware of that was by this “bisexual” guy Bowie. (In ’74 I was eleven.) That single’s always been one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve come to like most of the rest of Station to Station. “TVC 15” starts out with a Professor Longhair piano riff, and that barrelhouse vibe carries through the verses until you get to the chorus, which takes the tune into a very different realm. It’s a successful transmogrification. “Stay” is a rock/funk jam that showcases the entire band, especially drummer Dennis Davis. Throughout the record, he, guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and pianist Roy Bittan back up Bowie with a muscular, sometimes tender sound that foreshadowed where DB would go with his music in the early Eighties. (Earl Slick also shows up here, as does “Warren Peace” on vocals, who if memory serves me, is Luther Vandross [?]) And “Word on a Wing” really captures that sweet, yearning thing that Bowie does so well.
This release, the third or fourth time Station to Station has been on CD, comes in a few different versions, ranging from the standard one CD to the absolutely over the top 5CD/1DVD/3LP box that only the richest, most trainspotting of Bowie’s fans would buy. ($150!) I opted for the middle version, the 3CD one that has the original album on one disc, and then the oft-bootlegged 1976 Nassau Coliseum show on the other two. This live concert makes this the station from which to depart. The setlist is fairly imaginative for Bowie at this point, incorporating just the right amount of hits and other cool tunes, like “Waiting for the Man” (yes, the Velvets song), “Five Years” and “Life on Mars?” Almost the same band as on Station, these guys tackle Bowie’s set with vim and vigor, and a few reinterpretations that make this show worth the ticket price.
Sure, we’re all getting a little weary of these reissues—do we really need another rendition of a limited edition 7 CD box set of the Stooges’ Fun House sessions?—but apparently they’re almost the only thing keeping the major labels afloat these days. Still, the often nagginess (is that a word? well, it is now) of the thought “Do I really need this version?” that trails the purchase of such an endeavor can get to be taxing. But if music is the thing that floats your boat, then you need to keep that baby above water!
Upon reexamination in early 2016, I give the over-the-top Deluxe Edition a 5/5. A few years ago I got it, brand new, severely discounted by one online retailer or another. Hooray for me! R.I.P. David Bowie. – Ed.