David Bowie, Best of Bowie

J. Edward Keyes

By J. Edward Keyes

on 06.05.11 in Reviews

Best Of Bowie

David Bowie
Great singles from an album-oriented artist

It’s somewhat peculiar to think of David Bowie as a singles artist. All of his albums — particularly those from the early part of his career — were organized thematically by persona: the guitar-slinging alien, the perpetrator of plastic soul, the coked-out, hollow-cheeked fascist-fetishizer. Best of Bowie‘s strongest quality is that it allows you to whip through all of them in just over an hour. Even in this, though, the tracklisting is almost inadvertently savvy — it would be jarring to careen from the ice-cold robo-funk of “Fashion” straight into the acid-wash, popped-collar-pink-polo-core of “Let’s Dance,” but situating “Under Pressure” between the two of them serves to unite the two diverging halves of Bowie’s career. Stacked end-to-end, it’s also a handy reminder of just how many great singles that album-artist Bowie managed to produce. Despite its ironic scare-quotes, when placed between the cynical “Fame” and the grim “Ashes to Ashes,” “‘Heroes’” radiates warmth and hope. Thirty-eight years later, “Rebel Rebel” has lost none of its sneer-n-cigarette cool, and “Young Americans,” with its leisure-suit sax solo courtesy of David Sanborn(!) still feels lithe and playful, even in the edited form in which it appears here. Just maybe drop out before you hit the 1985 duet with Mick Jagger on “Dancing in the Street.” All the spice in the world can’t save that much ham.