Heathen

Heathen

4.6 7
by David Bowie
     
 

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One of rock's most restless artists, David Bowie isn't usually prone to look back upon his past glories -- but when he does, he invariably manages to focus on the most artistically vivid (if not the most commercial). Heathen, which reunites him with Tony Visconti, the producer who helped shape Bowie's music in the early '70s, is

Overview

One of rock's most restless artists, David Bowie isn't usually prone to look back upon his past glories -- but when he does, he invariably manages to focus on the most artistically vivid (if not the most commercial). Heathen, which reunites him with Tony Visconti, the producer who helped shape Bowie's music in the early '70s, is just such a backward glance. Recalling such classic albums as Diamond Dogs and Aladdin Sane, the disc alternates between exuding a shimmering bleakness, as on the brooding opener "Sunday," and shooting out sonic sparks, exemplified by the wiry "Slow Burn," which features slashing guitar lines from Pete Townshend. Going back as far as Pin-Ups, Bowie has always shown a propensity for radically reinterpreting the songs of others, and Heathen is studded with such ditties. His take on the Pixies' "Cactus" is appropriately on edge, while a version of the Legendary Stardust Cowboy's utterly fried "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship" allows him to indulge a loopiness that will no doubt surprise diehard fans. For the most part, however, Heathen is fairly introspective, the sparse instrumentation acting as a foil for some of the singer's most fully realized lyric writing in quite a spell. That's true whether the subject is fairly simple, as on the lounge-ish love song "I Would Be Your Slave," or more obtuse, as on the folk-tinged "A Better Future." It's not the easiest of listens, but given some time to sink in, Heathen is likely to transform even skeptical listeners into Bowie believers. (Also available is a limited-edition version, housed in a special Digipak and packaged with a bonus disc comprising an Air remix of "A Better Time," a Moby remix of "Sunday," an alternate take of "Panic in Detroit," and "Conversation Piece" from the unreleased Toy album.)

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Heathen marks a new beginning for David Bowie in some ways -- it's his first record since leaving Virgin, his first for Columbia Records, his first for his new label, ISO -- yet it's hardly a new musical direction. Like Hours, this finds Bowie sifting through the sounds of his past, completely at ease with his legacy, crafting a colorful, satisfying album that feels like a classic Bowie album. That's not to say that Heathen recalls any particular album or any era in specific, yet there's a deliberate attempt to recapture the atmosphere, the tone of his '70s work -- there's a reason that Bowie decided to reteam with Tony Visconti, the co-producer of some of his best records, for this album -- even if direct comparisons are hard to come by. Which is exactly what's so impressive about this album. Bowie and Visconti never shy away from electronic instrumentations or modern production -- if anything, they embrace it -- but it's woven into Bowie's sound subtly, never drawing attention to the drum loops, guitar synths, and washes of electronica. For that matter, guest spots by Dave Grohl and Pete Townshend (both on guitar) don't stand out either; they're merely added texture to this an album that's intricately layered, but always plays smoothly and alluringly. And, make no mistake, this is an alluring, welcoming, friendly album -- there are some moody moments, but Bowie takes Neil Young's eerie "I've Been Waiting for You" and Pixies' elusively brutal, creepy "Cactus" and turns them sweet, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. In the end, that's the key to Heathen -- the undercurrent of happiness, not in the lyrics, but in the making of music, a realization by Bowie and Visconti alike that they are perfect collaborators. Unlike their previous albums together, this doesn't boldly break new ground, but that's because, 22 years after their last collaboration, Scary Monsters, both Bowie and Visconti don't need to try as hard, so they just focus on the craft. The result is an understated, utterly satisfying record, his best since Scary Monsters, simply because he'd never sounded as assured and consistent since.
Rolling Stone - David Fricke
His great concept roles -- Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke -- were all lost souls.... The real story here is Heathen's perfect casting: Bowie playing Bowie, with class.

Product Details

Release Date:
02/01/2008
Label:
Sbme Special Mkts.
UPC:
0886972379722
catalogNumber:
723797
Rank:
2667

Tracks

Album Credits

Performance Credits

David Bowie   Primary Artist,Guitar,Drums,Keyboards,Saxophone,Background Vocals,Stylophone
Pete Townshend   Guitar
David Torn   Guitar,Omnichord,Guitar Loops
Lisa Germano   Violin
Solá Akingbolá   Percussion
Carlos Alomar   Guitar
Sterling Campbell   Percussion,Drums
Matt Chamberlain   Percussion,Drums
David Clayton   Keyboards
Dave Grohl   Guitar
Tony Levin   Bass
Gary Miller   Guitar
John Read   Bass
Tony Visconti   Bass,Guitar,Recorder,Background Vocals
Mary Wooten   Cello
Gerry Leonard   Guitar
Gregor Kitzis   Violin
Mark Plati   Bass,Guitar
Martha Mooke   Viola
Kristeen Young   Piano,Vocals

Technical Credits

David Bowie   Producer
Matt Chamberlain   Loop Programming
Steve Elson   Contributor
Stan Harrison   Contributor
Gary Miller   Programming,Producer
Lenny Pickett   Contributor
Brian Rawling   Producer
Tony Visconti   Producer,Engineer,String Arrangements,Vocal Engineer,Vocal Producer,Guitar Engineer,Guitar Producer
Mark Plati   Producer,Engineer
Todd Vos   Engineer
Emily Lazar   Engineer
Brandon Mason   Engineer

Customer Reviews

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Heathen 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The 90's were quite eclectic for David Bowie and his many fans, with the rock changeling making a grunge album, a dance album, a pop soundtrack, a dark electronic concept album, a jungle album, and music for a video game. Heathen represents Bowie's return to just plain good music, and a triumphant return it is!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is Bowie's best album since Scary Monsters - and one of his best albums ever. From the very first somber notes of "Sunday" to the hypnotic beats of "Heathen-the Rays," Bowie captures the listener from beginning to end. "Slip Away" ranks right up there with "Life on Mars" off of Hunky Dory, and Bowie's cover of the Pixies' "Cactus" fits in perfectly with his own compositions. "Afraid," with it's reference to John Lennon's "God," (I believe in Beatles) brilliantly illustrates post 9/11 anxiety and a search for normalcy. Other great songs include his cover of Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting for You," as well as Bowie's own "Everyone Says 'Hi'."
Guest More than 1 year ago
heathen is david bowie's best album in a while! i love his remakes of "cactus" and "ive been waiting for u" to "slow burn" and "everyone says hi" this is a all around great cd! i agree with the rolling stone - this is bowie playing bowie!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Easily one of my favorites of the year, this collection, takes some getting use to but from start to finish there isn't one song I would have taken off. Like a breath of fresh air, even with all its 70's retro'isms and choice of producer, this collection is classic, moody & modern, one of Bowies best since the late 70's-early 80's. Even after a year it still draws you in. Excellent CD!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the best Bowie album since Scary Monsters (if we forget the undervalued Hours). Heathen has everything to become a great Bowie album: it has electronic, it has rock, it has a big touch of prog-art rock, and it's absolutely detached, elegant and cold but also warm, funny and heartfelt. Heathen will become a great classic Bowie album in the next 10 years.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a life long Bowie freak I have to say that this is the best thing I've heard from him since Never Let Me Down. Having Tony Visconti back in the producer's spot is great. Hearing him take a classic like ''I Thought About You'' and turn it into ''I Took a Ride On a Gemeni Spacecraft'' is worth the price of admission. The Moby remix of Sunday on disc two is also sweet
Guest More than 1 year ago
This CD is so good and improves upon successive listenings. Anyone who has ever loved or liked Bowie's work in the past will definately want to take a listen. And it should earn him new fans as well. There is no filler here. Every single song is either good or great. I was moved by Slip Away. I can't stop listening to it.