It has been two years to the day since the great David Bowie died; as a tribute to his dazzling career I take a look at some of the best albums in his gigantic discography, giving you my personal top 10. Going through a list like this truly makes you realise and appreciate the magnificence of the Starman when he was here with us all.
10: Aladdin Sane (Released in 1973)
Aladdin Sane was Bowie’s sixth studio album and has perhaps one of his most iconic looks on the cover of the album. Given that it was the follow-up to his most recognisable album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, this is seen as the most difficult album of Bowie’s career as it was his first taste of writing an album as a true superstar. It has glamour and poise from the offset and tracks like The Jean Genie and Drive-In Saturday demonstrate the brilliance of the character Bowie lived his famous life by. He gained assistance from Rolling Stones members Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on the song Let’s Spend The Night Together which was a wonderful moment in the history of British music, combining some of our most cherished artists for a moment of magic.
9: Space Oddity (Released in 1969)
This album was his second release, it has two titles that vary based on which re-issue you may see. Whether or not it is Space Oddity or David Bowie the songs remain the same and brilliance cannot be ignored. The title track stands tall as one of Bowie’s defining moments as he created the now infamous Major Tom character within his song, it is the standout moment from this album. Other great moments do include Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed and Cygnet Committee, two songs that are long-winded rollercoasters but magnificent nonetheless. I think the best part of this album is that it wasn’t sure which era it belonged in, hence the numerous re-issues; as some of it sounded undeniably 60s while other songs belonged in the 70s style. Unpredictable and obscure, Bowie to the full.
8: Blackstar (Released in 2016)
David Bowie was a perfectionist as an artist, but he didn’t just leave his art in the studio, he carried it with him everywhere he went. His entire life appeared to be scripted like a dramatic play or musical, from the first moments to the burning embers of his existence. Blackstar was Bowie’s final album, released just two days before his tragic death and his death soon made everything oh so clear; he knew he was dying and kept it a secret. He wanted to illustrate the terms in which he died and how he would leave his mark on the world. Just one solitary listen to Lazarus tells you all you need to know about the silent suffering he went through, all to ensure his finale wouldn’t be tarnished.
7: Diamond Dogs (Released in 1974)
Diamond Dogs is the eighth album of David Bowie’s career and is a glittering example of his diversity and ability to move with the times, becoming a trend setter rather than a follower. Rebel Rebel was a glamorous rock anthem for the ages with crisp and clean guitar chords that wouldn’t sound out of place in a modern rock track. The title track is another great glam-rock anthem full of poise and panache, some of Bowie’s specialties in his music so he really saw an album like this as his chance to brag about his skills and where they’ve got him so far. David Bowie is a visionary and his rock and roll style on this album has been widely regarded as a major influencing factor of the punk revolution later that decade.
6: “Heroes” (Released in 1977)
The title track is an absolute staple of David Bowie’s work, but “Heroes” as an album has plenty to it in it’s own right. The work Brian Eno does alongside Bowie on this album is absolute gold, comparing the charm of Bowie’s vocals with the sonic serenity of Eno and his production methods. It was one of the two fantastic albums brought out by Bowie in 1977 and it highlighted him standing tall above the rest as the true king of the 70s. When creating Double Fantasy, John Lennon claimed that he could only wish to make something as good as this album, it has the stylistic prowess to rule over anyone who stood in the way of his crown. Don’t believe me or Lennon? Just listen to The Secret Life Of Arabia or Sons Of The Silent Age and come back to me.
5: Young Americans (Released in 1975)
The genre of this album has been described as “blue-eyed soul” which comes as a stark contrast to his style choices in Diamond Dogs, incredible given the two albums were just a year apart. Bowie himself described Young Americans as “the squashed remains of ethnic music as it survives in the age of Muzak rock, written and sung by a white limey.” It boasted the hit number one single Fame which had writing credits from John Lennon, a collaborator who also worked on the song Across The Universe from this album alongside fellow Beatle Paul McCartney. This album is one of the many Bowie albums to feature in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die and is commended for the daring spirit he shows to change his influences and broaden the horizons not only of his own music, but of those listening too.
4: Low (Released in 1977)
Low was the first of two albums Bowie released in 1977 and the second from that very year to feature on this list. It is widely regarded as one of the most influential pieces of work in his entire discography due to the electronic avant-garde styles he adopts. You will of course associate this album with the quite brilliant Sound and Vision, a song idolised by many for the juxtaposing uplifting guitar structure and sombre lyrical content. His interest in artists such as Kraftwerk and Brian Eno became apparent in the finished product of this album as he used haunting yet beautiful instrumentals to create a soundscape for his audience. NME called Low the 14th best album of all time, while Pitchfork ranked it as the best album of the 1970s, and it claims a very solid 4th place here on my list.
3: Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (Released in 1980)
One of only two albums on this top 10 to not be released in the 1970s, but it’s as close as you can get, being brought out in 1980. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) has a bizarre sound and an acquired taste, much like the title and album artwork would suggest, but songs like Ashes to Ashes and Fashion have stood the test of time as some of his best work ever. We also hear a revisit of the character Major Tom on this album which is a real homage to his die hard and loyal fans at that time but for us now it is just another string to the beautiful bow that is David Bowie’s career. The art-rock sound of this album gives it such a heavenly sense of beauty and it is some of the best vocal work of Bowie’s career, using that spiritually gorgeous melody of his to full effect.
2: Hunky Dory (Released in 1971)
This was Bowie’s fourth album and began his golden era in music, the near decade long spell where he became immortal to us all. The journey begins with Hunky Dory and it’s kaleidoscopic sounds, striking a truly immense balance between accessible anthems and progressive masterpieces. Changes and Life On Mars appearing on the same album should give you enough of a hint as to how marvellous this album is, but that wasn’t the whole story with this one; it was far more than inventive pop ballads. Queen Bitch was sexy and full of attitude, Andy Warhol was a glam-rock clinic from the maestro Bowie whose influence stemmed blatantly to the bizarre nature of Warhol’s art. Everyone who is anyone knows about the mastery of Hunky Dory and the fact it still sounds so innovative nearly 47 years later is the ultimate homage to it.
1: The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (Released in 1972)
Simply the best album David Bowie has ever done. Remember what I said about Bowie mapping his life like he was living in a fantasy play? Well on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, he takes on a mantle that we never could even imagine a singer-songwriter contemplating. His character work of modelling this make believe band where Ziggy Stardust was the main man and tracking their lives was breathtaking. It was something that nobody had ever heard of before and the freshness of it all still rings true to this day, some four decades later. The tracklist is near perfection, with Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City and Starman being obvious shining lights. It simply wouldn’t be fair to limit this album down to a few songs, though, the whole thing is a masterpiece and has to be one of the greatest albums of all time.