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New sounds on Bowie's station

Were you to gather together a group of serious music fans and pose the question "Who had the best run of albums during the 1970s?" the answers would be more limited than you might think. Those from the heavier end of the spectrum would probably make a case for Led Zeppelin's output while fans of electronica could just as easily plump for Kraftwerk's.

Two artists stand out for me, Stevie Wonder and David Bowie.

From 1971's The Man Who Sold the World through the quantum leap that was Hunky Dory and the glam rock mayhem that surrounded the Ziggy Stardust/ Aladdin Sane/Diamond Dogs stretch, Bowie was totally on his game, but always had an eye on musical developments elsewhere to stay ahead of everyone else.

The incorporation of Philly Soul influences on 1975's Young Americans expanded his fanbase in America -- where he landed a No1 single with the John Lennon collaboration Fame. Then he changed his game entirely with the Berlin trilogy of Low, Heroes and Lodger in the latter part of the decade, bringing all his pop acumen into play but exploring the electronic music emerging from Europe.

The key album in the transition came in January 1976 with the release of Station to Station. At this point David Bowie was not a well young man. A BBC documentary of the period, Cracked Actor, showed someone so frazzled by drugs and fame that he could barely function, yet somehow Bowie carried the lead role in Nicolas Roeg's The Man Who Fell to Earth before convening in a Los Angeles studio in October and November 1975 to record this remarkable collection of songs.


At the time the singer was blitzed on cocaine, barely eating, having hallucinations and dabbling in occult literature, yet somehow this dysfunction provided no barrier to his creativity, despite him admitting, years later, that he had little recollection of actually making the album.

The opening title track is one of the most remarkable pieces of music Bowie has ever written, an epic which opens in a blaze of white noise until he makes a dramatic entrance with line "The return of the Thin White Duke/Throwing darts in lovers' eyes" and the songs rolls ever onwards through several gear-changes. He then went on to funk-pop (Golden Years, Stay), sci-fi loopiness (TVC15) and two of the best ballads of his career (Word on a Wing and a remarkable cover of Wild is the Wind).

Re-released in special and deluxe formats Station to Station still sounds as fresh as it did 34 years ago and comes complete with lots of extras, including a freshly remastered version of the legendary concert at Nassau Coliseum from March 1976. A landmark album from a landmark career.

Station to Station is issued on EMI