We want changes now!
12 June 2020-
This recent and rather extended period of confinement we were all forced to endure did some good for the music industry: Thom Yorke released a new song from his basement, Noel Gallagher found an old unreleased Oasis track, even Bob Dylan released a new (17-minute long) single... then none other than David Bowie came back from the dead.
Well, sort of: what he actually “came back” with is not entirely new. Nor is it entirely unreleased either: what the year 2020 is gracing us with are in actuality 1996 recorded rehearsals by the (great) man, guitarist Reeves Gabrels, bassist/vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey (in amazing shape, might we add) and pianist Mark Plati. And these rehearsals took place at a very specific time too: they occurred ahead of a performance at Madison Square Garden to celebrate Bowie’s 50th birthday. They were then broadcast on BBC Radio 1 the following year and got heavily bootlegged immediately after that. Now, over 20 years later and after the passing of the artist most central to the story, we finally got our hands on official versions of the tracks. For everyone’s benefit.
To think that these are mere rehearsals is somewhat mind-boggling: the quality of these very minimalistic yet subtle tracks is absolutely wonderful, highly reminiscent of MTV’s-then hit Unplugged series. Which is interesting, because we get to hear Bowie sing out “The man who sold the world” in very much the same way Nirvana’s famous Unplugged version made it sound a few years prior to that very session. While this may be somewhat fortuitous, we can’t help but imagine the late David Bowie finally answering Kurt Cobain’s call…
The rest of the LP is equally interesting: a “White Light / White Heat” cover that hits all the right buttons, serving as yet another homage to yet another great man (Lou Reed) and band (The Velvet Underground), a superb rendition of the ever melancholic “Quicksand”, the incredibly catchy acoustic riff of “Andy Warhol” and, finally, our favorite track in the selection: “Aladdin Sane” sung as a duet along with Gail Ann Dorsey, making it a beautifully intricate yet intimate piece of vocal virtuosity. The fact that Dorsey is a wonderful singer in her own right obviously doesn’t hurt.
All in all, this album offers a stark reminder of the remarkable artistry David Bowie was able to produce and bring about in his fellow musicians. While this does not quite equate a proper new LP — which we hope will appear sooner or later, and we’ll take B sides — it nevertheless does the trick: we get to hear Bowie’s voice again in a somewhat new and refreshing setting. All we could ask for right now…