Station To Station (Special Edition)

David Bowie

EMI, 2010

REVIEW BY: Ken DiTomaso


Apparently David Bowie was so strung out on drugs during the making of this album that he doesn’t remember a single thing about its creation. That’s a shame for Bowie of course, yet it still adds a little mystique to this album. It almost seems like such a fascinating record came out of nowhere, and in a way it almost did. Bowie’s previous record Young Americans was, with the exception of hit singles “Fame” and “Young Americans," a middling effort on the whole; featuring Bowie trying to morph into a singer of so-called “Philly soul” with only minor success. Station To Station, however, changes gears. The soul influence is still very much present, particularly evident on the two side closers, but alongside of it is a sort of futuristic vibe that foreshadows his future collaborations with Brian Eno. The atmosphere permeating the record is thick and compelling, yet there are no weird ambient instrumentals or inaccessible experiments; these are pop songs, and brilliant ones at that.

Right from the start, we know we’re in for something special as a train seems to drive from “station to station” through the speakers, marking the beginning of the title track. Nothing about the song is lacking, from its multi-part structure to its otherworldly atmosphere to its danceability and lyrics. “It’s not the side effects of the cocaine” indeed! And how do you follow up such a fantastic track? With another just as good if not even better, of course! “Golden Years” features an otherworldly groove and off-kilter harmonies. Despite the eeriness of the music here, it will make you want to get up and dance like nothing else, and that applies to the whole disc. You can just as easily lose yourself in the music as focus intently on it. Additionally, it may go without saying for some but Bowie gives truly transcendent vocal performances absolutely everywhere on this record, quite possibly a career peak in at least that regard.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This Special Edition finds the album sounding better then perhaps it ever has on CD, and audiophiles will most certainly want to take note. But that isn’t the only added interest. In lieu of the standard remastered album’s assortment of random bonus tracks, we are given an entire concert entitled “Live Nassau Coliseum '76." This show had long been available as a bootleg so it’s possible a handful of diehard fans may already be familiar with it. To most, however, this show is tantamount to a brand new live album straight from Bowie’s peak performing years. As far as song choice goes the set is nearly untouchable, hitting just about every major Bowie track between Hunky Dory and the then present Station To Station (which is unsurprisingly represented the most). We also get treated to a fun cover of The Velvet Underground classic “I’m Waiting For The Man,” and Bowie most certainly does it justice. The sound quality dips at one point near the beginning of the second half of the show (likely a remnant of its bootleg origins) but it disappears as quickly as it appeared. I’ve seen a handful of people complain about how most of the drum solo in “Panic In Detroit” was edited out. But unless you’re an obsessive completist this won’t bother you, most drum solos aren't particularly exiting and neither is this one, so I’ve got no problem with getting it over with a bit quicker. I do have to wonder though, why “Golden Years” wasn’t performed in this show. It was the album’s lead single after all.

For those truly devoted fans, there is also a Deluxe Edition which features even more bonus goodies, including both the album and the entire live show on vinyl, a DVD featuring the album in several super hi-fi formats (including a brand new 5.1 mix), and an EP with single edits and alternate takes of most of the album’s tracks. As a package, Station To Station is a delight whether you grab the Special or Deluxe Editions. Someone who isn't much of a David Bowie fan might find the extra material unnecessary, and in their case I’d probably recommend just finding one of the old single disk editions. But really, a few listens to this album would turn anybody into a fan. It’s an established classic in the rock cannon, and an absolutely deserving one in every sense of the term.

Rating: A

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© 2011 Ken DiTomaso and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of EMI, and is used for informational purposes only.