Bowie, David - Heathen

Year of Release: 2002
Label: Columbia/Sony
Catalog Number: 508222 2
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:41:00

Getting old means you have a lot to look back on but sadly little left to go for. Having had the luxury to do whatever he liked, and doing it for a very long period indeed, mister chameleon David Bowie has looked back on his latest trilogy of efforts and decided it was time to go back to his older love, back to the period in which he was Ziggy Stardust. Getting "old" friend Tony Visconti back in, Bowie suddenly finds himself back in fashion because the same approach towards arrangements that Visconti adapted for the likes of Mercury Rev, are applied here, which gives the album a very contemporary feel, yet goes back as far as David's humble beginnings! It is magic that works both ways, and by inviting guests as diverse as Pete Townshend and Dave Grohl, he makes sure several generations will like what they hear. Although at times it's difficult to know who plays what and where, I do know that Jordan Rudess performs the piano, the sound of which was treated in a peculiar way as we can finally hear during "Slip Away." Jordan explains : "What happened was that they had two pianos in the room, one Steinway grand and one old upright piano. Mikes were put in and around that old upright piano whilst the foot pedal was clamped down. I played the Steinway grand but we got resonance from the upright. It was an original experiment, but this once again created new sounds, and you know me and my constant search for new, innovative and interesting sounds!"

Those new sounds alternate with the vintage structure of the songs harking back as far as his fruitful collaborations with Lou Reed and Iggy Pop. David even sings about Coney Island at one point! Bowie even takes the "old" stylophone out of the cupboard whilst introducing a fair amount of Radiohead soundscapes into the arrangements. However if you listen to the album Low then you know he's been experimenting with sounds for a decent amount of time already. For prog fans it is also remarkable to notice that Bowie has worked with Rick Wakeman (he even asked if Rick wanted to become "orchestral director" for the Spiders from Mars!), Brian Eno, Tony Kaye and Jordan Rudess. The man certainly has an ear for talent! Add to that the wonderful orchestral arrangements from the patented Visconti household, and you simply have to sence that Heathen is indeed a very, VERY good David Bowie album! An interesting feature is the fact that a lot of the music you hear on this album comes directly from the demo sessions, as these contained the right atmosphere that David was aiming for. As a result, the album sounds very intimate, as if you're sitting next to David who is singing you some wonderful stories.

The first single from the album, "Slow Burn," almost hides a Tamla Motown beat on top of which Pete Townshend can introduce his powerful rhythm guitar. "Afraid" holds a similar energy which we found on "Little Wonder" yet with some nice string sections. Because Nirvana's Dave Grohl is also a big Neil Young fan, Bowie invited Dave to guest on his cover version of Neil's "I've Been Waiting For You." The song should have had the help of what Bowie calls "a world famous keyboard player" whose name he doesn't want to mention. That partcular musician sadly turned up with some programmed synth sounds, which was not at all what Bowie intended. How long will this remain the mystery on Heathen or do we have to call Rick Wakeman straight away? Since its recording, the song 'I Would Be Your Slave" has received a completely different meaning than why it was written originally. Recorded two days after the September 11th incident, the song features the Scorchio Quartet, of which two of its members lived just around the corner from the World Trade Center. Whilst Bowie was recording this album on the outskirts of New York, the attacks happened. As he was talking to his wife Iman on the phone the second plane crashed into the trade center. Although Bowie panicked, Iman stayed calm repeating the same sentence over and over again : "lightning always strikes twice." Having witnessed it all from that close, needless to say "I Would Be Your Slave" has become a very intimate statement with the strings adding to its modesty. We clearly go back to David's early ears with the acoustic nature of "Everyone Says 'Hi'" in which, just like during those early years, he introduces some great yet simple and effective synths, but also some sounds which carry the Air trademark. In the end this is a superb and radio friendly song which might be issued as a single later on. Again the September 11th situation has drastically changed David's vision of the world, especially as he has a young daughter who is not even two years old when he is already 55, hence the main idea behind a song like 'A Better Future." Well let's hope this better future will give more people throughout the world a chance to listen to this fine album.

In order to let his own compositions shine David has also included some covers. One is "Cactus," originally penned by the Pixies, whilst 'I've Been Waiting For You" is from Neil Young. The most remarkable however is 'I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship' by the Legendary Stardust Cowboy which is the song that inspired Ziggy Stardust in the first place. As I said before: once you get "older," you tend to go back into the past, a long way into the past! Heathen is like a spaceship excursion taking you "back into the future" and landing in the best period you could ever hope for!

Sunday (4:46) / Cactus (2:55) / Slip Away (6:05) / Slow Burn (4:41) / Afraid (3:28) / I've Been Waiting For You (3:00) / I Would Be Your Slave (5:14) / I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship (4:06) / 5.15 The Angels Have Gone (5:02) / Everyone Says 'Hi' (3:58) / A Better Future (4:11) / Heathen (The Rays) (4:18)

David Bowie - keyboards, guitar, stylophone, backing vocals, drums, vocals
Tony Visconti - bass, guitars, recorders, string arrangements, backing vocals
Matt Chamberlain - drums, loop programming, percussion
David Torn - guitars, guitar loops, omnichord

Guests :

Pete Townshend - guitar (4)
Dave Grohl - guitar on (6)
Jordan Rudess - keyboards
Carlos Alomar - guitar
Sterling Campbell - drums, percussion
Lisa Germano - violin
Gerry Leonard - guitar
Tony Levin - bass
Mark Platti - guitar, bass
Kristeen Young - vocals, piano
The Scorchio quartet
The Borneo horns

Space Oddity (1969)
The Man Who Sold The World (1970)
Honky Dory (1972)
The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust (1972/2002)
Aladdin Sane (1973)
Pin-Ups (1973)
Images 1966-1967 (1973)
Diamond Dogs (1974/2004*)
David Live (1974)
Young Americans (1975)
Station To Station (1976)
Low (1977)
Heroes (1977)
Stage (1978)
Lodger (1979)
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) (1980)
Let's Dance (1983)
Love You 'Til Tuesday (1984)
Tonight (1984)
Never Let Me Down (1987)
Sound + Vision (1989)
Changesbowie (1990)
Early On (1964-1966) (1991)
Black Tie White Noise (1993)
Singles 1969 - 1993 (1993)
Rarest One Bowie (1995)
Santa Monica '72 (1995)
Outside (1995)
Buddha Of Suburbia (1995)
Earthling (1997)
All Saints - Collected Instrumentals 1977-1999 (2001)
Heathen (2002)
Best Of Bowie (2002)
Club Bowie (2003)
Reality (2003)
Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (DVD) (2003)
Inside Bowie And The Spiders (1969-1974)-An Independent Critical Review (DVD) (2004)

Genre: Rock

Origin UK

Added: June 26th 2002
Reviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

Artist website:
Hits: 1051
Language: english


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