Is The New David Bowie CD "The Next Day" THE SHIT Or Just Shit?

Let's face it, there are few legacy artists whose albums still hold the possibility for spine-tingling excitement.  While each new album by the likes of Springsteen, Dylan, Tom Petty, etc. is praised to the hilt as a "welcome return to form", the simple truth of how great such recent albums are is by how often you find yourself revisiting them months after the "new album smell" has worn off.

So, is the new Bowie album one for the ages, or one for the used bins of your local CD store?

When David Bowie unveiled his first new music in years and announced plans to release a new album that had been recorded on-the-sly over a two-year period with longtime producer Tony Visconti, a familiar buzz began to grow.

This is the same buzz that seems to grow anytime a living legend releases a new record.  In this case, that buzz is entirely warranted, as Bowie delivers an album that is as musically challenging as anything he has ever released.

Yes, I said "ever".

Normally, when an artist releases a "musically challenging" record, it's easy to admire the artistry and the ambition, but much harder to simply enjoy the album for the songs themselves.

Thing is, with the industry being in such a shambles, no longer willing or able to promote albums by legacy artists, there is no way for a new album to compete with an artist's past successes.  It's one thing to adore a 30-year-old album that has been entrenched as a rock & roll classic, but another to know whether a newer entry into the Bowie discography is truly on-par with past efforts of note.

Still, from the opening groove of the album opener (and title cut), Bowie sounds like a man possessed, seemingly striving to prove himself to, well, himself.  Seeing as how the album was recording on the down-low, I get the feeling Bowie had initial hesitations about whether he still had the magic.

While the album cover (the concept I find intriguing, if not a tad lazily executed) seems to show Bowie deconstructing his own image, I think the main point of it is to prove to himself and others that the visual image that has played such a role in augmenting his musical skills is no longer important.  In other words, it's all about the music this time out.

Thankfully, songs such as "Dirty Boys" and "The Stars Are Out Tonight" bristle with a faint familiarity that allows the listener to gain a foothold in coming to know this new entity.

"Love To Lost", though, is a song that demands one's attention, slowly and slyly building to a riveting crescendo and then receding in order to rebuild momentum all over again.

"Valentine's Day" up's the ante even more with a Lennon-esque vocal turn and the most radio-friendly chorus on the record.

"If You Can See Me" and "I'd Rather Be High" add further musical colors to an already varied musical palette, creating an album that doesn't so much settle into a single musical groove as reinvent itself from song to song.

Whether this album goes down as a modern-day Bowie classic remains to be seen, of course, but it is definitely an album capable of bringing older Bowie fans back into the fold.


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