The David Bowie Variations – with Mike Garson [Exclusive interview and Full Concert](2 of 4) [Listen: 1:03:13 minutes] – Saying YES to going on the road.
Interview Date: December 2, 2011 @2pm EDT
Special Guest: Mike Garson is an improvisational and multi-genre piano icon who is one of the most respected and sought after rock sidemen in the industry. In addition to his side work he has also had a successful solo career in both the classical and jazz worlds as well as worked with some of the most impressive people in music. But the thing Garson is most known for is the work he has done with David Bowie. Having worked with Bowie since his North American Ziggy Stardust tour back in 1972, the amazing stories and insights into Bowie's output helps to add a depth into Bowie’s art that few, if any, could touch. Through the years, Garson has helped shape some of Bowie’s most notable songs and albums including; Aladdin Sane, Pin Ups, David Live, Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Black Tie White Noise, Outside, Buddha of Suburbia, Earthing, Hours, Heathen, and Reality. I met up with Garson when he played live at the Detroit Institute of Arts on December 2 2011 during his “Bowie Variations tour” promoting his new album. In this podcast, Garson and I talk about his new album “Bowie Variations,” his reason behind the songs he chose, the Aladdin Sane, and Battle for Britain solo and we get into the genius of David Bowie. In this podcast, Garson and I talk about being micromanaged in the studio, the songs "Bring me the Disco King" and "Time", the albums Young Americans, and Reality, the turmoil in and around the Diamond Dogs tour, and even the latest on David Bowie (aka Davy Jones). P.S. Stay tuned, there could be some news about Bowie coming out with new album in 2012!!!
DAVID BOWIE'S TOP ALBUMS OF ALL TIME!
If you haven’t done so already, please take your protein pill and put your helmet on; we will be commencing countdown and turning the engines on in just a few minutes . . .
I hope you enjoyed last week’s podcast and our Bowie countdown. This week we are starting off at Ground control itself by counting down David Bowie’s Top albums of all time. The planet is still blue but there is something you can do and that is send me a message below in the comments (yeah, that’s right I’m the “Action Man” giving you the junk that makes you happy). Tell me what you think. Do you agree with the list, and how would you rate them differently? Do it or I’ll send my little green wheels after you. Here we go . . .
Number 10: Heathen
Heathen – A dark horse in more than one way. This album started off as a failed throw-back album titled “Toy” in which Bowie was to re-examine his early work and try to reinvent it in a new way. Although this project didn’t end up being fully realized, it did end up stirring some of Bowie’s ghosts and bitter memories from the past. Returning to his long time producer, Tony Visconti, for the first time since Scary Monsters, this is Bowie at his most reflective and sentimental. With songs like “Slip Away” - a song about getting high as a teenager and watching the children's show “Uncle Floyd” (for laughs) or the song “I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship” where he covers a Norman Carl Odam (aka the Legendary Stardust Cowboy) song who was obviously the inspiration for his Ziggy Stardust character. He touches upon his old friend, John Lennon, on the song “Afraid’ and even readdresses his classic song “kooks” with “Everyone Says Hi” (a song about his son). The album itself has dark undertones as if Bowie was a bit bitter about time moving on. It’s an easy choice for top ten and is head and shoulders above Bowie and Visconti’s second attempt, “Reality.” This album is a high watermark for sure.
Notable tracks include: Sunday, Slip Away, Afraid, and 5:15 The Angels Have Gone.
Number 9: Aladdin Sane
Aladdin Sane – Referred to as the “Ziggy goes to America” album, this was recorded when Bowie was on top of the world (for the first time) with his successful Ziggy Stardust album and tour heading through the states. Written mostly on the road traveling through places like Detroit, this is Bowie sucking it all in like a sponge, and writing about all the things he had only read about, but now is finally getting to see it with his own eyes. Aladdin Sane is a close cousin to the Ziggy Stardust, carrying over the exact same basic lineup as before but with some new members shuffled around. Although not as strong as Ziggy Stardust, it still has some really stand out tracks on it like “Time,” “Aladdin Sane,” and “Lady Grinning Soul.” All of which feature Mike Garson’s amazing playing and are as classic as anything Bowie has ever put out. There is also a “Glam-meets-50’s-Americana” thing that runs through the album with really cool tracks like “Drive-In Saturday,” and “Prettiest Star.” All in all, a must have for any Bowie fan; just not number one.
Notable tracks include: Aladdin Sane, Drive-in Saturday, Prettiest Star, Panic in Detroit, Time, Jean Genie, and Lady Grinning Soul.
Number 8: Young Americans
Young Americans - Known as Bowie’s disco album; this record hasn’t always had its fair shake. Known (at least at one time) as being Bowie’s favorite album, Young Americans stands up remarkably well in today’s environment. Being captivated by this amazing (but now rarely talked about) movement called the “Philly Soul Disco scene,” Bowie captures the grooves and feel of this funky 70’s soul music. Once again Bowie takes from what he saw as fresh and new material, rearranges it and makes it Bowie-ish. As it turns out, he was fantastic at soul music and even tested his material on the TV show “Soul Train” (with the late great Don Cornelius; performing “Golden Years” and “Fame”). If I had one complaint about this album at all, I would say that Bowie should have recorded this tour live instead of the Diamond Dogs tour with “David Live.” It also is worth mentioning that Carlos Alomar is stellar on this album and a big piece of the pie. Also having John Lennon, Tony Visconti, and an unknown artist at the time by the name of Luther Vandross helping out doesn’t hurt either. Later, the cocaine and the partying would catch up with him (on Station to Station), but on this record it is all soul, disco, and all night party.
Notable songs are Win, Fascination, and Fame (though the Rykodisc version has some excellent bonus tracks too).
Number 7: Lodger
Lodger - Being very different than the other two records in the “Berlin Trilogy,” this album has some really incredible standout tracks (even if it is the lowest ranking of the three). One could easily argue that this is Bowie and Brian Eno’s first attempt at making an album together, and crafted with a larger perspective in mind (rather than just another cult classic). Although the album is clearly European in feel and sentiment, the two have seemed to have lost any of that dark Berlin (communist wall) vibe that they had on the previous two records. Unlike Low or especially, Heroes, this is a playful and fun album, for the most part and has the band doing stuff like switching instruments so that they could play like they were kids. Needless to say, this is Bowie and Eno ready to pack a bag and “Move On”; whether by boat, train, or camel they just want to get the heck out of Berlin.
Notable tracks include: African night Flights, Move On, Yassassin, D.J., Look back in Anger, and Boys Keep Swinging.
Number 6: Black Tie White Noise
Black Tie White Noise - Releasing what sounds like an 80’s album in the 90’s and shortly after the breakup of Tin Machine; this is a rarely seen playful and truly happy Bowie celebrating his new life with Iman. Assembling the largest group of musicians that he has ever pulled together, Bowie is able to inspire everyone around him. Reconnecting with Nile Rodgers for the first time since Let’s Dance, Bowie is less concerned with making big hits but instead sticks to what he does best: writing excellent songs and being Bowie. This is a powerhouse of an album that rarely gets the attention that his 70’s work does. Let me state that this album surpasses most of his early work and could have easily fallen into the top five of all time.
Notable tracks include: The Wedding, You’ve Been Around, Jump They Say, Nite Flights, Pallas Athena, and Miracle Goodnight.
Come Back next week when we tackle the Top 5 Bowie albums of all time.
If you haven't done so already, check out Mike Garson's homepage to find out more about shows and new releases:
Also, for those that have already purchased Mike Garson's "Bowie Variations" and want to know why the recording seems to pop out and come alive, it all has to do with the way that it was recorded. The long time high-end audiophile masters, Reference Records, were behind this mind-blowing recording, capturing every nuance of Garson's craft. They have a ton of other cool vinyl that is worth checking out, and it's a great place to find that reference recording when you go looking for a stereo too.
There is a superstar producer (Glen Ballard) that gets mentioned by Garson in our interview that I think is really worth both a big mention and should be searched out by all. Here is a link to his really cool website:
I thought I might give a shout out to a fellow blogger and Bowie enthusiast Hans Morgenstern (of Independent Ethos). He has been a professional writer and journalist and has a great interview with Mike Garson (as well as a ton of other stuff) as well. Check him out:
Lastly there is a guy by the name of Dave Bowman with a Bowie/Stanley Kubrick mash up (two of my favorite artists of all time) that is worth checking out: