Old Friends/New Light

Man, I’m really digging music this year! The new releases are way above average so far and I’ve rediscovered some classic gems that have been languishing away in my library, some for well over a decade. Shame on moi!

I’d like to make it up to them by highlighting a few overlooked/undervalued nuggets, a couple at a time, that I think deserve your full attention or, at the very least, another spin.

Roxy Music: Flesh + Blood/1980

This album, more than any other Roxy Music album, is considered by many to be their worst. Why? Well, according to my favorite quote source allmusic, it says that “much of the record is devoted to ill-formed, stylish lounge-pop. In particular, the reliance on reworked covers of “In the Midnight Hour” and “Eight Miles High” is distressing, not only because it signals a lack of imagination, but also because it suggests that Flesh + Blood is simply a lesser solo effort from Bryan Ferry. And even the handful of undeniably strong moments can’t erase the feeling that Roxy Music were beginning to run out of ideas.”

If they were indeed ‘beginning to run out of ideas’, then why oh why and how oh how did they follow this up with the magnificent and critically lauded Avalon? So bone dry they were that they came up with not only the best album of their career but possibly the most influential album of the ‘80’s. Poor, creatively drained Bryan Ferry and Co.

All that nonsense aside, it ain’t all that bad. It’s got some of my favorite tracks and sounds to me like a dry run of Avalon. ‘Same Old Scene’, ‘Over You’, ‘Oh Yeah’ and the title track are all genuine, if underrated, gems in the Roxy crown, up there with anything on For Your Pleasure or Siren. Those terrible covers allmusic mentions above aren’t that bad either. ‘Eight Miles High’ has a terrific ending (and doing a cover of a song by a band that made it’s reputation doing covers, well that’s just too ironic!), and ‘In The Midnight Hour’ is pure fun, if lacking a little of the originals grit.

David Bowie: The Man Who Sold The World/ 1970

I’m gonna go on record and admit that I never really understood the heaps of praise piled upon Low/Lodger/Station To Station. I love Heroes, but give me Scary Monsters, Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and The Man Who Sold The World any day over those three overrated piles of wax.

TMWSTW contains two of my favorite Bowie compositions in the title track and especially All The Madman, although the great tunes don’t end there. The Width Of A Circle and She Shook Me Cold are classics, and even though a few dated sounding (even then, I would imagine) fillers show up to the party (the laughable “Black Country Rock”, the passable Running Gun Blues), the overall flow of the album remains intact and is a very consistent, albeit weird, listen. It’s also, in my estimation, Bowie’s most English record.

 Day after day
They send my friends away
To mansion’s cold and grey
To the far side of town
Where the thin men stalk the streets
While the sane stay underground

Bleak and comforting at the same time, like all things British! This album gets lost and it shouldn’t. It’s terrific, and the beginning of Bowie’s so-called “Classic Period”, which lasted a remarkable 10 years (I’ll say that while I don’t understand the popularity of those Berlin albums I can appreciate the impact and influence they had). Don’t be satisfied with just the title track you have on your “best of” Bowie compilation. Buy this one now. It’s better as a whole piece.