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Expectations have long been the mixed blessing of David Bowie's illustrious, if at times frustrating career. Whether he addresses the inherent paradoxes of his own chameleonic past on this loose concept album (or, given his statements arguing that there's "not any ultimate reality," is itanticoncept?) is almost beside the point: The real glue that holds it together is the renewed strength of Bowie's songwriting. If his success at reinvention arguably went off the rails sometime between the dance-club affectations ofLet's DanceandTin Machine'snoisy, overweening art-rock, he continues the renewed embrace of basics heralded byHeathenhere. Not surprisingly that album's producer, Tony Visconti, has returned, framing Bowie's muscular efforts in ever more ambitious and far-ranging productions that paradoxically echo both Bowie's modern Manhattan roots and his 60's-70's musical prime (an era during which Visconti was often a key collaborator). Be they oblique, if cutting commentaries on current geo-politics (theLow/Heroes-era evoking "New Killer Star," "Fall Dog Bombs the Moon" and "Looking For Water"), surprising cover choices (Jonathan Richman's"Pablo Picasso" all dizzy and beefed-up; a suitably grand, Wall-of-Sound recreation ofRonnie Spector'sobscure,George Harrison-penned "Try Some, Buy Some") or more personal concerns (the vaguely Incan "Days"; the rhythmicLow-isms of "Never Get Old"), Bowie's work here is powered by a renewed sense of dramatic focus and musical purpose that's refreshingly free of the shackles of fashion and self-imposed reinvention. It's true you can't go home again; but damned if Bowie hasn't found his most compelling music in decades trying.--Jerry McCulley
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Label:  Sony
ArtistDavid Bowie
Release Date:  September 16, 2003
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review by . March 21, 2004
posted in Music Matters
Without wishing to put a hex on the old boy, I think it is now safe to say he's back: you can buy a new Bowie CD without wondering whether you'll need to wince when you stick it in the machine. The last time you safely do that was about 1980, and they weren't called CDs then. This is a very good follow-up to the seriously under-rated Heathen. At first I didn't think much of Heathen, and I am ashamed to say I said so on this site in a rather intemperate review. Heathen's grown on me, which is what …
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