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David Bowie - Blackstar

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 5 / 2 / 2016

David Bowie - Blackstar


Anthony Strutt evaluates and reflects upon 'Blackstar', David Bowie's final album

Bowie's final album is a masterpiece of jazz infusion. It is his most difficult album to listen to, but his final gift to us while he was alive. Knowing he was not long for this world, he took his daughter and wife to all his old London haunts back in 2014, and no one noticed. He also planned his legacy for when he was no longer here. The first of this new material will be released at the end of 2017. For me, 'Blackstar' is hard work. A lot of people won't get it. It is an album that is as hard as having cancer itself which I also suffer from. For the last month my cancer has made me almost a cripple, but, like our David, you just have to fight it. If not, you have lost the battle. There is a lot of Bowie material left by the great man to really remember him by, but 'Blackstar' will remain the biggest mystery to his hardcore fans. Both 'The Next Day', its 2014 predecessor, and this album were recorded in secret, the latter being released on Friday 8th January, Bowie's 69th birthday. Two days later at 9.25 p.m. New York time he was no longer with us. I awoke on the Monday morning having been ill to my wife telling me the news. But you always think you have heard wrongly until it's all over the news. Never have I seen news coverage about a musician like it before. His death was pretty much that was all that they featured, every TV station and 6 Music having tributes all day. I have to say I cried like a baby, and I still cry over this bitter loss. I actually bought 'Blackstar' on the Saturday, so I am glad I didn't buy it after the Monday morning when the death was announced. I'm not perhaps the biggest fan in the world, but he changed my life from 1973/74 onwards. 'Blackstar' is only just over forty-one minutes long, and apart from the white front of the CD it is pretty much black all over. The whole mood Is bleak. While it was recorded with a jazz band, it doesn't really swing like jazz. It, however, firmly remains a Bowie album. Opening up with the title track that lasts just under ten minutes, it is a long journey of mixed emotions. There are strong rumours of it being influenced by the song of the same name by Elvis from 1960. The title track is electro in sound and combines this with the smoothness of jazz. A single candle burning, the vocals are hushed and are almost sung like a hymn. The song is in two parts, the second part being in more familiar territory. 'Blackstar' itself is a cancer reference. While the song itself does grow on you the more you listen to it, I do recommend watching the videos from the album as they breathe more life into the songs, even though they are very disturbing. 'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore' is a revisit from his most recent ten inch single, 'Sue', which also gets a reworking on here. Full-on drums lead it, while its jazz element makes it swing. It sounds like a song about sex addiction. 'Lazarus' for me is the stand-out track. It as Gothic as Joy Division's 'Closer' and the Cure's 'Pornography', but if anything even bleaker. He is telling us that he will be leaving soon. The video sees Bowie in bed, eyes covered, ready for death. If video is an art form, which it is, then this is taking it even further than anyone else ever has. It is a song that really makes you aware of how ill he was, and art at its most shocking and genius for being that brave. 'Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)' is here a complete re-write, a song about a relationship that goes badly wrong. 'Girl Loves Me' has humour, ending with the classic line of "Where the fuck did Monday go?" 'Dollar Days' is another song where he is saying goodbye, but isn't so strange as 'Lazarus'. It is classic Bowie, and for me is as strong as any single he has ever released. 'I Can't Give Everything Away' ends this difficult album, which is a real grower, although you have to be on his wave length to really treasure the content. 'I Can't Give Everything Away', however, is old school Bowie. It flows gracefully, and is lush, beautiful, and, unlike most of this album, not disturbing in any way. Bowie changed our lives with his Art. His life was Art, So why would he leave us without more Art? Even his death he turned into Art. Rest in Peace, Spaceman.

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