By Alessandro Arrigo
The death of David Bowie was a bolt from the blue. The writer was listening to Black Star that very day whilst travelling to his studio, and thinking about how Bowie always managed to catch one off guard. The news came like a cold shower from a colleague at the study and I thought it was the usual internet hoax. Unfortunately it was not.
There were times, I admit, when I did not fully appreciate his choices during the late eighties, but in 1995 with “Outside” he once again seized me because he had rediscovered the desire to confront and mix different genres such as “Earthling” where rock fused with jungle rhythms or “Next Day” where he resumed the train of thought he started with the Berlin trilogy “Low,” Heroes ” and “Lodgers” and it is clear that it was not done to follow a trend but to once again test himself.
“Black Star” is different, released on January 8 on his sixty-ninth birthday. It is suffering, free, and aware. He turned to a group of New York jazz musicians led by saxophonist Donny McCaslin.
A choice that matured after attending a concert in a small bar by the ensemble McCaslin. An exciting result where jazz blends with avant-garde rock, soul and trip hop. The album opens with the sumptuous Black Star a long track of nearly ten minutes that becomes hypnotic and makes you want to follow the “Black Star.” Continues with ” ‘Tis a Pity She Was A Whore” a track with strong pop hues and a relentless but not banal drum intro. “Lazarus” follows, with a video that seems like a real artistic testament. The suit of the alien Newton played by the same Bowie in 1976 in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth also makes an appearance. Lazarus is also part of the musical co-written with Enda Walsh staged off Broadway and is a sequel of sorts to The Man Who Fell to Earth.
“Sue (Or in A Season Of Crime)” released in its original version in 2014 is found here in a new, more experimental and evocative makeover. Bowie offers a wonderful interpretation in marching style in “Girl loves me”, to then return to the melancholic and evocative folds in “Dollar Days.”
“I can not give everything away” closes the album with echoes of “Thursday’s Child” and whilst the record grooves finish one gets the urge to replace the needle onto the first track.
The album was released in two formats, the exclusive edition in Vinyl 180 Gram Gatefold with a booklet of 16 colour pages and a coupon to download the entire album in digital format (MP3) and the now unobtainable limited edition with clear vinyl . Maybe this really is the ultimate gift of a great artist for those who loved him or the last shot at theatre to catch everyone off guard before resuming his journey into space. Long live the Duke!