Bowie’s 1976 album Station to Station is one of his many masterpieces. It also serves as proof that one can not only function, but excel, on nothing but cocaine, milk and hot peppers, which was Bowie’s alleged diet at the time. One suspects the recording sessions for Station to Station would be legendary if anyone could remember them. The classic rumor being that Bowie was so high during the time that the entire year is blacked out from his memory.
Even with all the craziness that surrounds the record, Station to Station has kind of fallen to the wayside since its original release, eclipsed by both the Berlin trilogy (Low, “Heroes” and The Lodger) and his magnum opus of Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps). However, now it’s getting another chance in the limelight with a new special edition to commemorate…well nothing, aside from how awesome it is.
The new remaster is excellent, and does not fall prey to the Loudness Wars. Every snare is crisp and bass line clear. And thank God, because all six tracks on Station to Station are undeniable classics. The surreal imagery of the title track and ode to a heroin nightmare that is “TVC15”; the genuine love/lust of “Stay” and darkly comic “love” of “Golden Years”; the heartfelt balladeering of “Wild Is the Wind” and “Word on a Wing.” It’s all classic, it all sounds great, and it’s all a must-have.
If you already own Station To Station and need more than a new transfer in order to be persuaded to make a repurchase, the special edition reissue also includes an entire live concert from the Nassau Colosseum in 1976. If Bowie really was doped out of his brain during the late ’70s, it didn’t seem to affect his ability to perform here. He’s on fire at this show, and is probably the second-best Bowie live recording next to the Live at Santa Monica ’72 album. It alone more than justifies the double-dip.
But if you really want to justify the double-dip (and have 150-some bucks to spend), then go nuts and get the deluxe edition. This thing is insane. Not only does it include the remastered edition of the album and the concert on both CD and vinyl, but it also includes an entirely different master of the album from 1985 (which, in all honestly, sounds pretty much identical to the new remaster) and another CD with the single edits of every song on the album, save “Wild Is The Wind.” There’s also another disc, a DVD this time, that features even more mixes of the album, some in surround sound. All that goodness is packed in an beautiful box that includes new linear notes by Cameron Crowe, extensive information about the album itself, reproduced press and fan club materials and much, much more. Pretty much the only thing it’s missing is a bag of blow. (EMI 2010)
David Bowie’s 2003-04 “A Reality” tour wasn’t billed as his last, but until he decides to jump back onto the stage for another go-round, that’s exactly what it is. And while the double CD A Reality Tour serves as a five-years-late memento of that occasion (and companion piece to the 2004 DVD of the same name), it still comes off as fresh and exhilarating as the concerts themselves felt five years ago. A big reason for this is Bowie’s achieving the sweet feat of placing copious material from his last two studio albums – 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality – among his ’70s, ’80s and ’90s classics in the best possible light. That is, “Afraid” and “New Killer Star” sound quite at home among older gems like “Breaking Glass” and “Ashes to Ashes.” And while such a large amount of new material (ten songs out of 33) inevitably leaves no room for big hits like “Young Americans” or “Space Oddity” (I also clearly remember Bowie playing “Blue Jean,” also left off this set, at the show I attended in 2004), the strength of all the material here – which also includes his takes on tunes he gave to Mott the Hoople (“All The Young Dudes”) and Iggy Pop (“Sister Midnight”) – is enough so that the stray hits aren’t really missed at all.
One could call this a “career overview,” as the album’s accompanying press release would have us believe, but in practice, A Reality Tour feels more like a continuation of Bowie’s career arc, one that he has left open-ended despite its skewing towards the sound he created on his last two albums and his late ’70s collaborations with Brian Eno. Even if he decides not to return to the world stage, however, he has surely left his legacy in fine shape. (ISO/Columbia/Legacy 2010)