David Bowie: ranked

By Ackaraga Ackaraga
updated 7 months ago

The Thin White Duke from top to bottom.

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  1. Bowie* - Diamond Dogs

    I don't want to come off all fancy pants, but a peculiar type of Bowie fan will call this their favourite, and I guess that's me. Bowie was another one. This is his richest piece; deep, gothic, heavy, soulful, beautiful. I also adore the mesmerizingly dense sonic world here with all its proggy mellotron and fuzzed-out psychedelic guitars, which matches the twisted lyrical content to a tee. This is also Bowie's most intense moment as a lyricist and as a vocalist, bettering even the extraordinary highs of Station To Station, a few years after this. Career highs are everywhere to be found here, with no weak moments in sight. If you don't love this album as much as me, I actually feel pity for you. It's a stunning experience that I wish we could all share. 10/10

  2. David Bowie - Hunky Dory

    Side one is Bowie's perfect side of pop music. When you write 3 or 4 songs as brilliant and perfect as this, then you have artistic license to do whatever you want for the rest of career, and it looks like that's just what he did. But he had to earn it by writing 3 or 4 of the best pop songs of all time, and they're all here on side one of Hunky Dory. You know the ones. Oh yeah, side two is good too, just not as good. It's still 10/10

  3. David Bowie - Low

    There are those genuinely rare moments when an artists taps into something that looks into the future and creates the signpost for others to follow. And, follow they did. Credit must go to Tony Visconti, Brian Eno and Bowie for making just about the only important record from the old-guard in the year of punk: ground zero. And, it turns out that this pretty much was the future, only much, much better. 10/10

  4. David Bowie - Station To Station

    Grand, majestic sweep only the way Bowie can do it. It's almost a Frank Sinatra/Scott Walker album, but reinvented in a totally happening way. It's perfectly of it's time, incorporating the coolest aspects of disco/R&B, the cold world of European rock music and Krautrock and the glamour of art song, but of course remains ageless like all the best Bowie. Decimal points off for some rather tasteless and out of-tune guitar from Earl Slick on "Stay". Guitars would often be a problem on Bowie albums from here on out. 9.5/10

  5. David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars

    Yeah, as far as perfectly crafted pop tunes go, this was clearly a step back from Hunky Dory, but there was no other way to go after that. What we have instead is a corker quasi-concept album that combines glorious sci-fi pretension with glam rock drama. Rather smoothly produced, this is an easy listen from top to bottom with so many killer moments, it's hard to keep count. When Bowie cried out "you're not alone" at the end of the album, he spoke to an entire new generation of disenfranchised kids seeking a messiah. The effect was seismic, and Bowie became the artist of the decade at that moment. 9/10

  6. David Bowie - David Bowie

    This and the next one on the list (The Man Who Sold The World) are albums that I discovered at exactly the right time in my life and became oft-played obsessions. In fact, this particular era of Bowie became a focus of my lust for delving into the magical quest of musical discovery. I also collected bootlegs of outtakes and BBC sessions from this time period and it was a rich time. Both albums were constantly on the player in my teenage bedroom, with my young fingers struggling to strum along on a little guitar, my head filled with visions. I soon learned every word, every chord and every solo. These are precious memories and these are precious albums 9/10

  7. David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World

    2 For Sale from $1,644.30

    I assume if you're reading this, that you read the comment on the previous album. If not, then read that and then come back here. All done? Good. Further comment required? Well, after the gorgeous baroque-folk-rock of his second album, Bowie, Visconti and Ronno created the first Bowie rock album proper. Presumably inspired by Jeff Beck and Cream, this album was a heady mix of nightmarish dreams and brilliant heavy metal. It remains fabulous. 9/10

  8. David Bowie - "Heroes"

    Yeah, that's how good he is, that this extraordinary and cutting edge work, featuring possibly his best ever song, could land at #8. Damn. Just because it's #8 doesn't mean I don't recognize how extraordinary and cutting edge it is! Bowie was in an otherworldly headspace here, creating work that was so forward looking that we may never catch up to it. And yeah, the Fripp-drenched title cut is one of the finest pieces of rock music ever created. 9/10

  9. David Bowie - Young Americans

    How many truly great artists have this many truly great albums in their catalogue? The Beatles, maybe. Miles Davis, possibly. Bob Dylan? Bob Marley? Stevie Wonder? The Rolling Stones? Joni Mitchell? Nope, nope, nope, nope and nope. This is at #9 and it's a diamond. Still, this is one of those albums that suffered from programming decisions, where superior material was left on the cutting room floor to make way for songs featuring John Lennon. As it is, it's 8/10. With some reshuffling ("Fame" b/w "Across The Universe" being left off for a single, perhaps), we have something close to a near perfect 9.5/10 album:

    Young Americans
    Somebody Up There Likes Me
    Can You Hear Me
    Who Can I Be Now?
    It's Gonna Be Me

    Yeah. Incidentally, "Win" is another miraculous all-time favourite. This album is a genre exercise where he proves to be a master of Philly-Soul, equalling the greatest achievements of Thom Bell and Gumble & Huff.

  10. David Bowie - Aladdin Sane

    Now we're getting into excellent but flawed albums. The high points on this are as high as on any albums (the title cut at least remains firmly in my Bowie top-5), but it's obviously got some patchy moments, presumably caused by a hectic work and social schedule. Still, with a handful of timeless gems on board and a chunky, powerful production job, Aladdin Sane is one of his best sonic offerings. It's just got a few so-so numbers on it, and "Time" feels more Rocky Horror than Ziggy Stardust. It's 80% great, so... 8/10

  11. David Bowie - David Bowie

    37 For Sale from $7.81

    A bit of a cheat here, because it's not an original album but a deluxe edition of material from the era (1966-1968). However, the era was not fully represented by the original releases on Deram records, and this gives a more complete picture. What shines through is just how rich and wonderful this period was, despite (or even because of!) some of the lighter, sillier moments. But if we can't have light and silly moments, what exactly is the point in all this?! Anyway, there are so many wonderful groovy baroque-pop moments on here, especially as we see Bowie maturing as an artist. "Karma Man", "London Bye Ta Ta", "Let Me Sleep Beside You" and "In The Heat Of The Morning" are some of the best Bowie cuts from the early days, none released at the time. it gets 9/10, even though I'm ranking it a little low. I can do that because I have editing privileges on my own lists!

  12. David Bowie - David Live

    One of my favourite live albums. It was (beautifully) recorded on the Diamond Dogs tour in '74, and is just as atmospheric and dark as that parent album. Yeah, Bowie's suit is dodgy and his voice can get strained at times (though he pulls it all off like the master his was), but the setlist is perfect, the arrangements are amazing and the band is red hot. I have dreamed that I was there so many times, while lying on the floor listening to this beauty.
    Ranked lower, but anything less would be churlish: 10/10

  13. Bowie* - Cracked Actor (Live Los Angeles '74)

    Released years after the event, this was just about the best RSD release ever. It's basically as good as David Live, with a few amendments to the song list and better trousers. It's hard to find fault, so why bother? 9/10

  14. David Bowie - Bowie At The Beeb

    Another incredible archival release, though woefully incomplete. I mean, why why why not just release everything? It's all vintage, it's all Bowie and it's all great. I guess the crappy cassette bootlegs of the remaining material will have to do for now. Ta! Anyhow, this is absolute gold, especially the '68 session with "Silly Boy Blue" and "Karma Man", the wonderful '70 session with Junior's Eyes ("Janine"), and the entire live '71 gig from the Hunky Dory era. "Bombers", yeah! Amazing stuff, but points off for leaving an entire disc's worth of gems on the shelf. 8/10

  15. David Bowie - Lodger

    Oh man, I forgot about this one. I love this one! This is fun, wild, crazy and packed with goodies. Why isn't it in the top ten? Well, perhaps it should be, but I can't help but feel that the Duke was starting the artistic slide here. I'm also not sure if there's a single all-time great, classic tune on here, although the whole thing is pretty ace. 8/10

  16. David Bowie - David Bowie

    Yeah, this is a lovely album, cast in an unfair light simply due to the fact that its creator went on to become some super-important Artiste with a capital A. Big deal. Of course, he wasn't crap and suddenly became great. He was always great! Until he wasn't anymore. But he was undoubtedly great back in 1966 and 1967, just not as fashionable or profound as he later became. Personally, I find this scrapbook of stilted Edwardiana utterly charming and love every precious second of it. Which is why it's ranked higher than EVERY post-RCA release. Zing! 8/10

  17. David Bowie - The World Of David Bowie

    First of all, nice cover. I love the curly hair period which gave us "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" and so many other luminous gems. No, that song isn't on here, but it does contain the first release of that trio of gems "Karma Man", "Let Me Sleep Beside You" and "In The Heat Of The Morning", recorded in late '67 but rejected by the label that also rejected The Beatles back in 1962. So, this handy little release (presumably unleashed to tie-in with the success of "Space Oddity") is a bit like a tarted up version of the first album. Essential. 8/10

  18. David Bowie - The Forgotten Songs Of David Robert Jones

    Ah, a bootleg is ranked higher than Scary Monsters or Blackstar. That's me, folks. The fact is, this album of unreleased/obscure cuts from the 60s and early 70s has more music on it that I treasure than anything post-Lodger, and I'm not going to pretend otherwise just to stave off criticism. Maybe I'm a loony, but there's gold here. It's also a big part of my youth, although the version I had of these tracks ("Rupert The Riley", "Right On Mother", "Little Toy Soldier") was on a dodgy cassette tape, bought down in Camden Lock (London) in the 80s. Loved it all then and love it now. 8/10

  19. David Bowie - Hung Up On Romancing - Studio Rarities 1969-1972

    Another fine boot that expertly covers the late-60s to early-70s era in a way that no official label ever does, i.e. properly. But the big deal with this one was the upgrade in quality of the 1971 demo session that gave unto the world "Shadowman", the finest ever unreleased David Bowie Track. In fact, it's so good, it should have been on Hunky Dory instead of "Fill Your Heart" which was pretty slight. 8/10

  20. David Bowie - Little Toy Soldier

    OK, this one doesn't have any song that isn't on the above two bootleg CDs, but this is an album that I had back in the day, so it's important to me. In fact, I still have it and it's still awesome. 8/10

  21. David Bowie - Scary Monsters

    OK, this is generally considered to be his last "great" album, or the last album of the great period. Until Outside, or Blackstar, or The Next Day, or whatever, anyway. But, I'm just lukewarm on it. I love the two hits ("Ashes To Ashes", "Fashion"), but find much of the rest of it to be rather desperately trying to hang on to coolness, relevance, greatness. Instead, it's rather painfully grating and wannabe edgy. It's also the first time where I'm hearing tracks with no real melody or an identifying hook, which leads to the dreaded blandness; an unforgivable crime in pop music. This is the main factor that cursed Bowie in his later years; the ability to create cool soundscapes but entirely fail in creating a memorable tune. Still, it's got a few. 7.5/10

  22. David Bowie - Let's Dance

    Now that I think about it, I reckon I actually prefer this album to Scary Monsters, at least if I total up the tracks I really like on it. It's about 5 tracks each. They're about neck and neck. The first Bowie album of the post-great (post-RCA) period is still packed with good hooks and pleasing songs, but also has a pretty nasty drum sound, a sort of rot that crept in during the 80s and never really went away. Without a good snare drum sound, you can't have a great record, that's what I say. Unless there are no drums, which would have been a good idea in the 80s. Anyway, this is still fun, something that Bowie was shortly not going to be anymore, and rarely was again 7.5/10

  23. David Bowie - Early On (1964-1966)

    Oh yeah, this is a lovely and very useful comp that covers a lot of baby-Ziggy as he was first emerging from the cocoon. The best cut here is probably his '65 single "You've Got A Habit Of Leaving Me", which brilliantly combines the sound of The Kinks and The Who into an explosive pop nugget for the ages. It might be his best Pre-1969 track, actually. Also excellent are the trio of Pye singles from '66 (best of all the marvelously mod "I Dig Everything"), the first tracks where Mr. Jones went by his new, world-conquering name. All in all, this is fascinating, often great stuff. 7.5/10

  24. David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust - The Motion Picture

    Live album, recorded at the unannounced Ziggy-farewell show at the Hammersmith Odeon in 1973. Kate Bush was one of the thousands of crying boys and girls in the audience, and of course would go on to make lots of other people cry at the same venue later on. She made me cry there a few years ago, but I often cry at gigs. Anyway, this one started life as a pretty crummy sounding affair (released in the 80s) but was improved later on for a fancy reissue. I played the original version on vinyl about 8,000 times, but it hasn't remained a real favourite. 7/10

  25. David Bowie - Live Santa Monica '72

    This one is actually a technically superior recording and performance to Hammersmith in '73, but it wasn't one I cherished in my youth. Because I never had it, that's why. Weird. Anyway, all things considered, it's about equal to Hammermsith '73, though I would probably recommend this one first. 7/10