With over-the-top costumes, elaborate stage make-up, catchy rock tunes and drug usage, David Bowie was the poster child of glam rock. However, with the production of Station to Station, Bowie took the initiative to explore outside of his rock persona, building his tenth studio album off the influences of funk, disco and electronic rock.
The album opens with a psychedelic instrumental intro to the ten minute title track. The tempo starts off slow, gradually picking up speed as each new voice makes its appearance, creating the illusion of a train gaining momentum as it sets off on its journey. As the intro ends, Bowie’s voice creeps in to sing “the return of the Thin White Duke/throwing darts in lover’s eyes” (the “Thin White Duke” referring to a persona Bowie created for his Young American tour).
For three consecutive verses, Bowie’s voice haunts over the repetitive instrumental rifts. Suddenly with the quick roll of the drums, the song shifts from a psychedelic power ballad to an electrically charged funk rock anthem. Bowie sings through the last chorus fading into the distance, like a train leaving yet another station, as he repeats the words “it’s too late.”
The array of music elements incorporated in the song is just a small representation of what comes for the rest of the album.
It’s believed that Bowie was so dependent on cocaine during the production of Station to Station, that he was unable to recall much of the work put into the album’s creation. This could not only explain the lyrical opening for the single “Station to Station” with “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine/I think it must be love,” but also the genre dynamics on the album.
After pushing listeners forward with the futuristic sounds of “Station to Station,” Bowie pulls them back to the past with the disco-inspired track “Golden Years.” The four minute song seems to flash by as one can’t help but lose themselves in the hypnotizing rhythms.
The cocaine usage may also be to thank for the unusual tale found in the lyrics of one of the more popular singles off the album, “TVC 15.” The song begins with Bowie’s staccato vocals over a funk inspired piano rift before entering into the story of a woman being sucked into a television screen. Aside from the hard-to-understand lyrics of the amusing narration, the instrumental lines are strong and help to craft a rhythmically intriguing song.
With so much ground covered from experiential rock to funk and pop, it would seem only fitting to throw in a ballad or two. The angelic power ballad “Word on a Wing” is lyrically beautiful. Bowie continually sings out the line “in this age of grand illusion you walked into my life and out of my dreams.” It is unclear if Bowie is exploring a sincere religious side or if he is taking on a role of one of his many personas. Either way, even with the mediocre piano lines, the song holds its own against the other singles on the album. The second ballad “Wild is the Wind” wraps up the album, bringing everything full circle with the same futuristic feel exhibited in “Station to Station.”
The sound quality and overall packaging are professionally executed. The cover art for Station to Station is a still from the movie The Man Who Fell to Earth, a cult science fiction film that Bowie starred in prior to his production of the album. Even though none of the songs have a direct relation to the film, the artwork relates well to the material on the album given the space-age feel of a number of the songs.
Bowie blurs the genre lines by building Station to Station off of the musical components explored on his previous funk-inspired album Young Americans.
While still dabbling in funk and soul, Bowie took Station to Station one step further, incorporating electric rock influences by adding the use of synthesizers and other electronic instruments.
Bowie’s blending of genre specific elements exhibited the commonalities found between genres. He showed audiences the versatility he possessed as an artist and did so successful, as Station to Station is considered one of Bowie’s more notable works.
Following the success of Station to Station, Bowie continued to explore his creative options as a musician and as an actor. In 1983 Bowie was nominated for his first Golden Globe for Best Original Song for the motion picture Cat People. In 1984, Bowie received his first Grammy nominations for his album Let’s Dance and for his performance of “Cat People (Putting Out Fire).”
The following year, Bowie won his first Grammy for the music video “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean.” In 1996, Bowie was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and ten years later won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
After escaping the spotlight for nearly a decade, Bowie returned to his music in 2013 releasing his 30th studio album entitled The Next Day. The album was nominated for Best Rock Album for the 2014 Grammys along with Bowie’s performance of “The Stars (Are Out Tonight)” for Best Rock Performance.
Reviewer: Jessica Braun Gervais
IRC: Tom Byrne
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