Monday, 28 May 2018

David Bowie - Lodger (1979)

Bare strip takeoff skimming over rhino...

 

Released on 18 May 1979

Recorded in Montreux, Switzerland

Running time 45:41

Coming after the excellent, ground-breaking Low and Heroes albums, Lodger was always the poor relation of the so-called "Berlin Trilogy", both critically and in reality. This was, to a certain extent, the result of the album's muffled, lifeless sound. This tended to overshadow the fact that there were some hidden gems on here, if only they could be given a little polish. Thankfully, this has now been the case.

This is the remaster I have waited nearly forty years for. As I said, the album has always, in my opinion, suffered from appalling sound. The original RCA release was unlistenable and the 1990 EMI/RYKO not much better with a muffled sound that led one to think the album was just badly recorded in the first place, something that was substantiated with the 1999 release which offered little improvement. Others in that batch were more than acceptable, yet Lodger was always dreadful.

TRACK LISTING

1. Fantastic Voyage

2. African Night Flight
3. Move On
4. Yassassin
5. Red Sails
6. DJ
7. Look Back In Anger
8. Boys Keep Swinging
9. Repetition
10. Red Money                               

Some people have complained about various faults, a few seconds lost here and there etc. It those things matter to them then fair enough, they will not enjoy this release. If you want to experience this interesting album with a far fuller, bassier, richer sound and discover things in it that you didn't know were there - some of the odd sounds in African Night Flight for example, then this is for you. "Compression"? You know what - I don't even know what it is. Neither do I care. I just know this version of Lodger is the best I have ever heard it.

The guitar on Move On is vastly clearer, as is the intro to Yassassin. Red Sails has a whole lot more going on. The bass on Boys Keep Swinging and on Repetition is far more punchy. Great. I find myself enjoying listening to Lodger far more than I ever did. I used to always feel frustrated when listening to it - wanting to improve it. Now I don't need to feel that way.

Regarding the songs themselves, there are some genuinely odd and intoxicating songs on here - the opener, Fantastic Voyage is a musically attractive song featuring mandolin and some intriguing lyrics. Of course, African Night Flight is a strange song, but is has a captivating appeal and the middle-Eastern tones of Yassassin make for an a most interesting song, something Bowie had not really experimented with before.

Then there are the Buddy Holly stylings of Move On, the “new romantic” (before the term had been invented) chorus of Red Sails, with its bizarre "hinterland, the hinterland" lyric, the anthemic Look Back In Anger and the creepy, disturbing Repetition.  

The hit singles DJ and Boys Keep Swinging are both upbeat, commercially direct songs, if not quite the "Bowie classics" of some other hits.

The album has always been the poor relation of the trilogy, however, and not just because of the afore-mentioned previously poor sound but also because there just seems to be slightly less ground-breaking "stardust" about it than the other two undoubtedly possessed. Indeed, guitarist Adrian Belew (replacement here for Robert Fripp) said of Bowie and Brian Eno, working together here for the final time until 1995's Outside - 

"They didn't quarrel or anything uncivilised like that; they just didn't seem to have the spark that I imagine they might have had during the "Heroes" album."

It was probably just a vibrant working creative seam getting mined out, to be honest. I agree with Belew though, you can sort of feel it. Just a bit. 

Finally, the Tony Visconti "remix" of the album to be found on the A New Career In A New Town box set is a thing of beauty. It gives yet another dimension to this often overlooked but always interesting album. 

*

Finally, an interesting Bowie rarity that some believe is from this period is:-

I Pray, OlĂ©. Nobody quite knows the provenance of this track, which was included as a bonus track on a reissue of 1979's "Lodger" album. It definitely as similarities to Lodger material - Red Sails and Repetition in particular, in is drum sound and keyboard riff. Tony Visconti has no knowledge of it and says it is definitely not from the Lodger sessions. He suspects it may be from around the Scary Monsters period, but updated by Bowie in the early nineties.

With regard to the song itself, it is energetic and appealing enough, but is nothing special. Add it to a play of Lodger, however, and it doesn't sound out of place.

B


https://www.davidbowie.com/

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