Editor’s Note: Today is a sad, sad day as one of our all-time favorite musicians and a true musical chameleon has passed. David Bowie was truly one-of-a-kind and a true advocate for the outcast. So we wanted to revisit our favorite Bowie albums list, one which if we were to redo this list, his latest and final release Blackstar really probably should land towards the end of this list: his best album in 35 years. It’s the perfect mourning, funeral album. 11So please buy/stream Blackstar today as it it shows an icon still pushing boundaries and making emotionally-resonant music 50 years into his career.
It’s a freaky deaky kinda Bowie week here at LxL. Yesterday, we brought you the five best Bowies (or Bowie characters), and Tuesday came Bowie’s first release in over a decade. We will bring you a review for that next week, but for now, how about we hit you with our ten favorite Bowie albums? The music and fashion chameleon has wore many hats (and costumes) in his career, and today we bring you the ten best. Without further ado, here are the best albums by David Bowie in our humble opinion.
10. Scary Monsters
Aaaaahhh…scary monsters! Bowie’s first album in the 80’s was a real return to form, showcasing the sort of glammed-out, spooky, art rock he made a name for himself making in the early 70’s. Scary Monsters also bounces into a little disco with “Fashion” as well as one of the strangest sung Bowie songs in “Ashes to Ashes”, which also makes it one of the best – it’s just so unusual and eerie in the best kinda way.
9. Station to Station
Coming off the irresistible Philly soul and disco of Young Americans, Bowie kept some of those characteristics but made a much more experimental record in Station to Station. Headlined by the evercool “Golden Years”, Station to Station serves as the bridge between the extremely opposite albums that it falls between: the Philly soul of Young Americans and the groundbreaking avant-garde electronic rock of Low.
8. Space Oddity
Transforming from young Londoner David Jones into the music icon David Bowie started with Space Oddity. Still remaining one of his biggest hits today, “Space Oddity” has Major Tom (David Bowie’s first character) lifting off out into space, and Bowie never really returned – beside the time he fell to earth in the film The Man Who Fell to Earth, AND on Earthling, AND as Ziggy Stardust on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust…but who’s counting.
7. Diamond Dogs
A concept album (like so many of Bowie’s albums) based on George Orwell’s 1984, Bowie fell a little without Mick Ronson on lead guitar, but Diamond Dogs still delivers on several levels. Diamond Dogs is what it would sound like if Lou Reed and Mick Jagger kidnapped Bowie and then tried to convince people they were him as to keep down suspicion.
For his most groundbreaking record, Bowie hooked up with the 70’s best producer, Brian Eno, the king of ambient and experimental electronic music. The former Roxy Music member would work his magic on Bowie like he would later do for both the Talking Heads and U2, combining brilliant atmospherics with strong songcraft to make yet another timeless record.
5. Young Americans
Whoa that boy can groove. I would imagine when Young Americans came out, there was a handful of rock music fans just furious that Bowie was steeping into the deeply divisive genre of disco, but man did he knock it out of the park with Young Americans. Not only did the album produce three huge disco singles in “Young Americans”, “Fame”, and “Fascination”, but the album as a whole just swings and grooves like John Travolta on some funky acid.
4. The Man Who Sold The World
The Man Who Sold The World was Bowie’s first with guitarist Mick Ronson and its the most riff-heavy, guitar rock album of his career. Oddly enough, “The Man Who Sold The World” is probably best known not as a Bowie song, but as one of the last songs that Kurt Cobain played at MTV Unplugged: Live in New York months before he took his own life – a fitting song for an artist who felt tortured by his own success.
3. Aladdin Sane
Following the one-two punch of Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust will leave you knocked out 99% of the time, but Bowie managed to stay on his feet and deliver with Aladdin Sane. Aladdin Sane is the sound of David Bowie taking the glam-rock of Ziggy Stardust to a high-end New York jazz lounge at 2 in the morning.
2. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Our top two literally ended in a scoring tie (we occasionally rank and score albums with difficult lists), but just missed out with our tie breaker. Why is Ziggy Stardust so great you ask? Bowie combines his freaky vibe with the second best slew of songs of his career to make more than just a great album but a statement. The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust documents an androgynous alien rock star trip to Earth to tell people of its extinction in five years, only to meet his own at the hands of his own destructive behavior. The album stands as an anthem and rallying point for the oddballs, the weirdos, and those who just don’t quite fit in, rest assuring those that feel oh so lonely that “you’re not alone.”
1. Hunky Dory
The crown jewel of Bowie’s catalog is Hunky Dory. Mixing glam-rock with cabaret and pop, David Bowie released 11 songs of pure songwriting gold. My favorites remain the endearing weirdo’s love song “Kooks” , the freak stomp of “Oh! You Pretty Things”, the heartwarming, showtuney shuffle of “Fill Your Heart”. You also get some mega classics in “Changes”, “Queen Bitch”, and “Life On Mars”. Not to mention, Bowie had time to write “Song for Bob Dylan” and “Andy Warhol” as tributes to two of his artistic heroes. What does this album not have?
Wes – Heroes
Like Low, Heroes splits about 50/50 in terms of instrumental and vocal songs, but when Bowie and company sing, they shine. Guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson fame helps the songs rock and Bowie’s singing, especially on his career-centerpiece and arguably greatest song “Heroes”, helps these songs soar.
Todd – Let’s Dance
Anyone who knows Todd knows he likes to get on a good gawky giraffe dance once and a while. Let’s Dance allows him to do this, and for this, Todd is forever grateful to the Thin White Duke.
Austin – Heathen
Heathen is one of Bowie’s late career gems, and with this album resulting from a collaboration and tour with Trent Reznor made this a surefire just miss for Austin, whom adores the both of them.