David Bowie – Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78)

30 06 2018

Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) is a live album by David Bowie, recorded on the Isolar 2 Tour at London’s Earls Court on 30 June and 1 July 1978 by Tony Visconti, and later mixed by Bowie and David Richards in January 1979.

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This is my favourite Bowie live album. Although having a similar track-listing to the 2017 Stage re-issue, I prefer the sound and performances on Welcome to the Blackout. The performances feel more organic and more loose, with more Bowie chat than normal (probably due to the end of tour high).

The Welcome to the Blackout version of “Heroes” is utterly heartbreaking, and breathes new life into probably the most well-known song Bowie song. There is such clarity and clear separation in the mix. This version works so well, compared to some other live takes, because Bowie’s vocal is more restrained early on and slowly builds to the songs emotional climax.

The bluesey Jean Genie loses the glam-rock swagger, so is not my favourite version of the song. The Heroes and Low tracks are the standouts on Welcome to the Blackout. Bowies intro to Blackout gives this album it’s title, and the live premiere of Sound And Vision sounds so damn funky and fresh. I never tire of hearing Breaking Glass, and this version is delicious.

The highlight of the album is the 11 minute plus version of Station To Station. An extended synth intro cut through by Adrian Belew’s amazing guitar squeals blows the Stage version out of the water. The subtle synth and rhythm guitar lines are so prominent on this recording.

“It’s not the side-effects of the cocaine, I’m thinking that it must be love”

Five Years is extended due the the end of tour thank-you’s, and a tongue-in-cheek Bowie band introduction.

The bass playing from George Murray towards the end of Suffragette City is amazing, and Art Decade features some great synth work, and achingly distorted lines from Adrian Belew, who was at the top of his game during this part of Bowie’s career.

A technicolour, uplifting take on TVC 15 leads into a mind-blowing Stay. The inventive Dennis Davis percussion and blistering Carlos Alomar guitar on the extended intro make this one of the finest live documents of this song.

A version of Rebel Rebel that feels like it has been injected with the spirit of Stephen Sondheim rather than it’s glam-rock roots ends this essential Bowie live album.

Have a listen to Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) on your streaming site of choice by all means, but nothing beats owning the physical product, which includes a replica of parts of the Isolar 2 tour programme.

CD 1:
1.Warszawa
2.”Heroes”
3.What In The World
4.Be My Wife
5.The Jean Genie
6.Blackout
7.Sense Of Doubt
8.Speed Of Life
9.Sound And Vision
10.Breaking Glass
11.Fame
12.Beauty And The Beast

CD 2:
1.Five Years
2.Soul Love
3.Star
4.Hang On To Yourself
5.Ziggy Stardust
6.Suffragette City
7.Art Decade
8.Alabama Song
9.Station To Station
10.TVC 15
11.Stay
12.Rebel Rebel

Buy Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) on CD from Amazon

BLACKOUT

Buy Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) triple vinyl from Amazon

BLACKOUT

Buy Life on Tour with David Bowie: We Can Be Heroes by Sean Mayes (the keyboard player on the Isolar II tour)





David Bowie – Lodger (Tony Visconti 2017 Mix)

30 09 2017

The 2017 Tony Visconti mix of Lodger comes as part of the A New Career In A New Town (1977 – 1982) box set released today (29 September 2017).

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Lodger was Bowie’s 13th studio album, originally released in May 1979. The last of the Berlin Trilogy, the album was recorded in Switzerland and New York with Brian Eno, and was produced by Bowie’s longest collaborator, Tony Visconti, who also oversaw this 2017 mix.

First of all I must confess that Station to Station and Lodger are my favourite Bowie albums, so this review is not a critique, but a review of how the album sounds in its 2017 mix.

The short version of the review is this: Lodger has never sounded so good. Ok, now for the longer review! It does not sound as if there has been much tinkering with the instrumentation or vocals on the album, just a reworking using modern technology and the original master tapes – so it’s a remix, not a remaster.

From the drum roll that ushers in Fantastic Voyage, it’s clear that this is a high-fidelity version of the album. The strings and backing vocals are much clearer in the mix and there is added reverb on the tail-end of the “cos we’ll never say anything nice again, will we” vocal line. Apparently the lyrics are about the possibility of nuclear war, so this song is more relevant now than ever.

There is some great piano work from the late Sean Mayes on this song. I can recommend Sean’s Life on Tour with David Bowie book, which gives an interesting account of life on the road with Bowie and the band on the 1978 Isolar II tour.

African Night Flight is also greatly enhanced by the 2017 remix – there is greater separation between all instruments, and the guitar and chanted vocals sit much more comfortably in the mix. The excellent Dennis Davis drum parts on Move On sound so clear, and as with most tracks on this new version of the album, reverb and delay treatments are added to Bowie’s vocals. The ending of the song reveals layers that I have not noticed previously, that were hidden in the original mix.

Yassassin sounds a million dollars. The guitar and drums (especially the kick drum) are pushed to the forefront, giving the track so much more punch and drive. It’s like discovering a whole new song. The same applies to the frantic Red Sails – the guitar and sax interplay is so much clearer. Some of my favourite guitar lines on the album can be found in this track.

I was particularly looking forward to hearing my two favourite Lodger tracks, DJ and Boys Keep Swinging, and the new mixes Sound very fresh. DJ sounds so much richer – the drums and keyboards, including the wonderful ARP Solina, plus the amazing Adrian Belew guitar solos towards the end of the song, sound better than ever.

The kick drum and bass guitar are so much punchier in Boys Keep Swinging. Renowned for some of the band members switching instruments, this track, released as a single, is in my top 10 Bowie songs. Around the 2.30 mark, there seems to be a high-pitched guitar line removed in this mix, which is a little disconcerting and one of only a couple of negative points in the 2017 version of Lodger.

Repetition has the most disturbing lyrics on Lodger, and the song is greatly improved by this remix. I love the odd bassline on this track, and the guitars sound so vibrant. Once again, there are elements that I have not previously noticed that are more visible in this new mix.

The album closes with Red Money, the album’s update of the Bowie / Alomar song that appears as Sister Midnight on Iggy Pop’s The Idiot album. The bass is deliciously bubbly in this mix, and the instruments, especially the drums and percussion, sound so good. The Comsat Angels sounding guitar riff at around 1.30 and 2.20 – one of the strongest parts of the song for me, disappointingly sits much further back in the new mix.

So whilst this 2017 Tony Visconti mix overall is a vast improvement on the original 1979 version of the album, I will still return to the original of some songs, such as Boys Keep Swinging and Red Money.

Other highlights (on top of some of Bowie’s finest albums) on the box-set include the extended version of Beauty and the Beast (I had not heard this version before) and my favourite version of Cat People (Putting Out Fire), the stunning Giorgio Moroder soundtrack version, which has one of the most emotional Bowie vocal performances.

“Its been so long, so long, so long”

The A New Career In A New Town (1977 – 1982) box set is my favourite of the three released to date.  The whole package includes the following discs (all remastered, apart from Scary Monsters) plus a hardback 128 page book with photos plus notes from Tony Visconti:

Low / “Heroes” / “Heroes” EP / Stage (original and 2017 versions of the live album) / Lodger / Lodger (2017 Tony Visconti Mix) / Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) and the compilation Re:Call 3.

Buy “A New Career In A New Town (1977 – 1982)” CD boxset – on Amazon

Buy “A New Career In A New Town (1977 – 1982)” vinyl boxset on Amazon

Buy “Life On Tour With Bowie” by Sean Mayes on Amazon








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