Tag Archives: Tony Visconti

➤ How Bowie threaded blue notes through his final surge of creativity

David Bowie, The Last Five Years,TV,video, Sue,

Bowie as a projected image in the video for Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)

“If you feel safe in the area that you’re working in, you’re not working in the right area. Always go a little further into the water than you feel capable of. Go a little bit out of your depth and when you don’t feel that your feet are quite touching the bottom, you’re just about in the right place to do something exciting” – David Bowie

THE MOST GRIPPING SEQUENCES in the new TV documentary about Bowie’s final surge of creativity are those which assemble every musician in the bands he worked with from 2012 to the end. Each band re-enacts pivotal moments when they rehearsed the music, inspired by his lyrics, and laid down the tracks for the albums The Next Day and Blackstar. Particularly revealing is the session when pure jazz soloists created the nerve-tingling Sue (Or in a Season of Crime), which Bowie added to his 2014 “best-of” collection, Nothing Has Changed.

To mark the first anniversary of the star’s death, this weekend BBC2 screened David Bowie: The Last Five Years, Francis Whately’s sequel to his other superb documentary Five Years broadcast in 2013. The role of jazz in Bowie’s musical temperament seldom gets discussed, though his producer Tony Visconti says the jazz influence had always been there in the music but underneath the surface. As a small child Bowie heard a jazz band and right away said: “I’m going to learn the saxophone. When I grow up, I’m going to play in [this] band. So I persuaded my dad to get me a kind of a plastic saxophone on hire purchase.”

In 2013 in New York he met Maria Schneider, a jazz composer, handed her a demo disc and asked her to extemporise around a tune called Sue. In turn, she told him he had to listen to this sax player Donny McCaslin and without missing a beat Bowie went straight into the studio with his group and Maria and out came possibly the purest jazz number of his career, a discomfiting tale of infidelity. It won Schneider a Best Arrangement Grammy in 2016.

➢ Watch the Donny McCaslin Group working
on Bowie’s Blackstar

Click any pic below to launch slideshow

REVIEWS OF THE LAST FIVE YEARS TV DOC

➢ A thrilling portrait of a late-life renaissance
– Jasper Rees at the Arts Desk

The opening yielded much joyful footage of Bowie goofing around on the Reality tour (2003), seeming much more like one of the boys than he ever managed with Tin Machine. The band still seemed spooked at the memory of his collapse, before he was carted off to retirement in an ambulance.

Maria Schneider was one of many musicians – three complete bands – who re-formed to walk through the creation of the music. Drummer Zachary Alford still looked shocked at the NDA handed him as he showed up to work on The Next Day. “If I said anything about it,” remembered bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, “I would be in big trouble legally.” Nobody was asked if Bowie really would have sued his collaborators for spilling the beans.

The recent collaborators reflected on the extent to which the new music was steeped in the past. But there was also good stuff from the old lags who worked (and sometimes slept) with Bowie in the feather-cut era: Ideally there would be a DVD with extras featuring much more from each of them. Chief keeper of the flame Tony Visconti sat at a console and played excerpts of Bowie’s unaccompanied vocal takes. On Blackstar came the haunting sound of Bowie wheezing like an ancient mariner fighting for every last scrap of breath. . . / Continued online

➢ A treat and a treatise on music’s departed genius
– by James Hall, Daily Telegraph

The Last Five Years wove previously unheard Bowie interview material with on-screen contributions from collaborators including producer Tony Visconti. The access and insights were faultless. Whately’s programme was essentially a treatise on artistic rebirth. And it showed that although Bowie’s musical style constantly changed, the themes that preoccupied him — alienation, escape, the notion of fame — were there until the end.

During his final creative burst, Bowie gradually revealed to collaborators that he was ill. In the most poignant scene, we learned that Bowie only discovered his cancer was terminal three months before he died. This was in October 2015 when he was filming the video for Lazarus, in which he sings the line “Look up here, I’m in heaven”. Bowie worked and cared and joked until the end. Through tears, Visconti said that he was at ‘the top of his game’. . . / Continued online

➢ David Bowie: What have we learned since his death? Some astounding new Bowie facts
have come to light – via The Guardian

70TH BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE CONCERT IN LONDON

tribute ,concert, David Bowie, Steve Norman, London

Brixton tribute concert for Bowie: Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman. (Photo: Getty)

❏ On what would have been Bowie’s 70th birthday his friend the actor Gary Oldman gathered at the Brixton Academy a 30-strong all-star lineup of musicians who had collaborated throughout his career, with some glorious orchestral and choral support. The show is the first in a run of gigs around the world taking place in cities that have a strong connection with Bowie and his work.

The London concert featured Mike Garson, Earl Slick, Adrian Belew, Mark Plati, Gerry Leonard, Sterling Campbell, Zachary Alford, Holly Palmer, Catherine Russell, plus such guests as Tony Hadley and Simon Lebon. Special highlights saw Gail Ann Dorsey singing Young Americans with Spandau’s Steve Norman on sax; and an audience singalong to Life on Mars? led by Adrian Belew and gifted vocals from Tom Chaplin from the band Keane. Plenty of live videos at YouTube.



➢ 10 Jan update: Gary Kemp joins his friend Robert Elms on BBC Radio London to discuss David Bowie, one year on. (Catch up on iPlayer for one month: starts at 13mins)

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

➢ 13 Jan: Iggy Pop’s tribute to The Songs of David Bowie on BBC Radio 6 Music and iPlayer for another month

➢ As a confused teenager living in Seventies suburbia, singer Andy Polaris retraces his obsession with Bowie

➢ Commemorating Bowie at the BBC

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➤ “I’m not a rock star” Bowie often said – No, David, you were a messiah

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, Man Who Fell to Earth, media, videos, films,

A humanoid alien comes to Earth with a mission… What a spooky coincidence that David Bowie played the alien Thomas Jerome Newton in the 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, TheTimes, UK, newspapers

Today’s Times: the masks and the man behind them

◼ ALL 10 BRITISH NATIONAL NEWSPAPERS filled their front pages today with the death of David Bowie at 69 – and so did scores of newspapers overseas. The last pop star whose death justified such deification was Jacko in 2009; and the last British pop star to do likewise was John Lennon, in 1980. The Times of London dedicated 18 pages including an outer broadsheet wrapper to honouring Bowie, plus an editorial comment as blessing. The Guardian topped that with 20 pages, plus the most enlightened editorial comment of them all. Not only did this misfit megastar and cultural icon radiate consummate flair as a performer but he displayed “an instinctive affinity with his times”. He had a “way with the zeitgeist”.

All media, notably social media, captured the dominant sentiment of generations of fans suddenly plunged into mourning. Again and again they claimed: He changed my life. . . He taught me how to be myself. . . David was my inspiration. . . David was my tutor. And most could quote their own favourite song lyric expressing their faith: Oh no, love – you’re not alone. . . Don’t tell them to grow up and out of it. . . It’s only for ever, not long at all. . . All you’ve got to do is win. . . We can be heroes just for one day.

David Bowie, death, obituaries, tributes, rock music, front pages,media, newspapers

Blanket coverage: Bowie on all UK front pages… Image updated 14 Jan to include news magazines

➢ ‘THE WORLD HAS LOST AN ORIGINAL’ DECLAREs THE GUARDIAN – MORE OBITUARIES AND KEY VIDEOS INSIDE AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S

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➤ Thanks to Neil McCormick for the only Bowie Blackstar review we need to read

Blackstar, album, David Bowie, jazz, pop music, video,Johan Renck , reviews,

Late-life melancholy with jazzy modulations: Bowie in messianic mode in the video for the album’s title track Blackstar

➢ With an album as rich and strange as Blackstar, Bowie is well and truly back from beyond, reports Neil McCormick, Daily Telegraph music critic, 18 December 2015:

For his 27th studio album, has Bowie gone jazz? On first listens to Blackstar, released on 8 January, Bowie’s 69th birthday, it certainly sounds like rock’s oldest futurist has dusted down his saxophone. They are tooting, parping, wailing and gusting all over the place, occupying rhythmic, atmospheric and lead parts, with guitars and keyboards intermingling in a weave of supporting roles.

Donny McCaslin, David Bowie, jazz, Lazarus, Blackstar

Donny McCaslin: Bowie’s new-found friend

The saxophone was Bowie’s first instrument, which he started learning in his pre-teens inspired by a bohemian, jazz-loving elder half-brother, Terry Burns. Bowie once said that, aged 14, he couldn’t decide if he wanted “to be a rock’n’roll singer or John Coltrane”. Even in his rise to rock fame, Bowie remained a creature of the jazz age, at least in the sense of the boundary-crashing freedom that characterises his work.

A new single, Lazarus, released today, may kick off in the vague realm of contemporary music, with spectral guitar and stuttering rhythms calling to mind the young British trio the xx, but it is not long before those saxophones are sighing and the beat is fragmenting. Just about holding it together are the familiar tones of Bowie’s teeth-gritted, tight-chested whisper of a vocal, proclaiming it is This way or no way / You know I’ll be free / Just like that bluebird / Now ain’t that just like me? Sure sounds like jazz to me. . .

What Bowie has created with this hardcore jazz crew, though, is not something any jazz fan would recognise and is all the better for it. At its best, free jazz is amongst the most technically advanced and audacious music ever heard but it can be uncompromisingly difficult to listen to for the non-aficionado. The improvisational elements that make it so gladiatorial and hypnotic live can make it over complex and inaccessible on record. Bowie’s intriguing experiment has been to take this wild, abstract form and try to turn it into songs. Blackstar is an album on which words and melody gradually rise from a sonic swamp to sink their hooks in. It is probably as close as free jazz has ever got to pop. . . / Read the full review at Telegraph online

◼ IN AN UNNERVING SIMULATION OF BOWIE’S VOICE, the star of Bowie’s new musical Lazarus, Michael C. Hall, sings its title track for the CBS Late Show (below) the day it is released as a single. The maestro himself is watching the show at home in his armchair. How meta-modern is that?!

➢ Bowie fulfills his jazz dream – Listen to an NPR Music interview with the two main characters who accompany Bowie on this new adventure in music – his longtime friend and producer Tony Visconti and his new-found friend/saxophonist and band leader Donny McCaslin.

➢ Nov 23, more background revelations in Rolling Stone – “We were listening to a lot of Kendrick Lamar,” says producer Tony Visconti. “The goal was to avoid rock & roll”

➢ PLUS: The Blackstar album reviewed track by track by Neil McCormick

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➤ The non-Bowie tribute super-duper group Holy Holy to stage The Man Who Sold The World

Tony Visconti, Woody Woodmansey , Holy Holy, The Man Who Sold The World,David Bowie,album, live concert,UK, pop music

TMWSTW: Bowie’s ambitious album to be updated in live performance by Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey’s band Holy Holy

➢ David Bowie’s website announces:
Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey perform David Bowie’s classic The Man Who Sold the World album with supergroup Holy Holy. Keep reading for further details of this and Holy Holy’s debut 45 with a Bowie cover on the B-side, not to mention a few words from a clearly excited Tony and Woody regarding the event. [Today’s update: After the Sept 17 London gig, a second performance is announced for Sheffield, Sept 18.]

David Bowie’s seminal album The Man Who Sold the World, produced by Tony Visconti, was recorded in 1970. It is unusually sonically heavy and dystopian for a Bowie album, with lyrical themes including annihilation and a totalitarian machine. The sound combines riff-laden heavy rock with futurist synth sounds and Visconti’s innovative production techniques.

Tony Visconti says: “I’ve rarely played anything as ambitious and demanding as the music of that great batch of songs conceived by David Bowie. With Woody Woodmansey and Mick Ronson, two of the finest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of recording and playing with, we set out to create something both new and classic, we called it our Sgt. Pepper. David gave us a chance to bring our unique talents to the table and we made up our parts within David’s framework. Mick forced me to listen to Jack Bruce, however, and told me ‘That’s what great bass playing was all about’. I got it, lead bass playing – as a guitarist this came natural to me. With David as our charismatic frontman we were Young Turks determined to spin heads and change the world of music… / Continued at davidbowie.com

Holy Holy, The Man Who Sold The World,David Bowie,album, live concert,UK, pop music,Malcolm Doherty, Steve Norman,

Holy Holy at Peckham Liberal Club last December: Malcolm Doherty on guitar and Steve Norman on sax. Photograph © Marilyn Kingwill

➢ A few tickets remain for Holy Holy’s TMWSTW on Sept 17 at The Garage, London
➢ Buy tickets for Holy Holy’s second performance on Sept 18 at the O2 Academy, Sheffield
➢ Update 5 June: more dates added, for Glasgow and Shepherd’s Bush Empire, plus a live discussion about the Bowie album at the ICA

Tony Visconti on bass, and Woody Woodmansey on drums, will be joined by this stellar Holy Holy line-up:
Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17), lead vocals
Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), sax, guitar, percussion and vocals
Erdal Kizilcay (David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Freddie Mercury), keyboards and vocals
James Stevenson (Generation X, Scott Walker, Gene Loves Jezebel), guitar
Paul Cuddeford (Ian Hunter, Bob Geldof), guitar
Rod Melvin (Ian Dury, Brian Eno), piano
Malcolm Doherty (Rumer), 12-string guitar and vocals
Lisa Ronson (A Secret History), vocals
Maggi Ronson backing vocals and recorder
Hannah Berridge Ronson backing vocals, recorder and keyboards

➢ Bowie collaborators Woody Woodmansey and Tony Visconti will lead a 12-strong ensemble, says The Guardian:
Woodmansey said the time was right to revive the album that first brought him, Visconti and Bowie together, and that it would be a fitting tribute to Mick Ronson, the guitarist and musical genius behind Bowie’s most successful run of albums, who died in 1993. The Man Who Sold the World was the first album Mick Ronson and I played on, our first even in a proper London studio, yet it never got played live,” Woodmansey said. “It was the forerunner of what we could do sound-wise, and we just let rip. We spent three weeks recording [it] because we were creating the songs as we went… / Continued at Guardian Online

David Bowie, Mick Ronson, 1971,

The day they signed the deal for Hunky Dory in 1971… In a band called Hype, Bowie, Visconti and Ronson (right) created a sound that led to The Man Who Sold the World. And that meant the future was hunky-dory

➢ At Facebook Spandau Ballet’s Steve Norman confirms: “And if that’s not enough, there’s a brand new track scheduled for release on the day of the gig, We Are King. I can’t wait!” A little bird says Steve himself wrote it as the Holy Holy debut single, backed with their cover version of Bowie’s Holy Holy.

❑ Not forgetting possibly the definitive performance of the title track The Man Who, with Klaus Nomi. This thrillingly exact video is (for rights reasons) available to view only in the V&A’s touring exhibition, Bowie Is, which is currently at Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin, Germany, until August 10, later visiting Chicago and next year Paris.

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: Bowie drags up in the Mr Fish “man-dress” that appears on the sleeve for The Man Who Sold The World

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: How Bowie defined the difference between glam and glitter

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➤ Bowie’s first album for a decade is beautiful, obsessive and deliciously cruel

EAGERLY AWAITED REVIEWS OF THE NEXT DAY,
BOWIE’S 30TH STUDIO ALBUM, DUE ON MARCH 11

The Next Day ,David Bowie,albums,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews ➢ An absolute wonder that’s bold and baffling, writes Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph, Feb 25:

It is an enormous pleasure to report that the new David Bowie album is an absolute wonder: urgent, sharp-edged, bold, beautiful and baffling, an intellectually stimulating, emotionally charged, musically jagged, electric bolt through his own mythos and the mixed-up, celebrity-obsessed, war-torn world of the 21st century.

Musically, it is stripped and to the point, painted in the primal colours of rock: hard drums, fluid bass, fizzing guitars, shaded by splashes of keyboard and dirty rasps of horns. The 14 songs are short and spiky, often contrasting that kind of patent Bowie one-note declarative drawl with sweet bursts of melodic escape that hit you like a sugar rush. Bowie’s return from a decade’s absence feels very present, although full of sneaky backward glances… / Continued at Telegraph online

➢ Despite the lyrical density, the album’s success rests on simple pleasures, writes Alexis Petridis at Guardian online today

The Next Day offers what you might call an index of Bowiean obsessions… The mutual respect between Bowie and Scott Walker is well-documented – an effusive 50th birthday tribute from the elusive former Scott Engel famously reduced Bowie to tears live on Radio 1 – and it’s Walker’s latterday work that much of The Next Day resembles, at least in that the lyrics are so dense and allusive you occasionally feel in need of a set of York Notes to get through them.

Producer Tony Visconti has suggested that The Next Day is of a piece with 1979’s Lodger and, as on that record, Bowie spends a lot of The Next Day experimenting with his vocal delivery, offering, among other things, a peculiar nasal drone on the title track and a doomy, tortured lowing that recalls Walker – him again – on the closing Heat… [This is] an album that’s thought-provoking, strange and filled with great songs… / Continued at Guardian online

➢ In the FT, Ludovic Hunter-Tilney perceives an album thick with visions of ageing, death and violence

Bowie’s vague but vital sense of terror is one of the most provoking and enigmatic aspects of his first album in 10 years… The visions of ageing, death and violence that run through the album… climax in You Feel So Lonely You Could Die, an unsettling kiss-off to a would-be suicide (I can see you as a corpse hanging from a beam), incongruously played as a ballad. Bowie’s idea of terror, an existential dread, follows Burroughs’ “frozen moment when everyone sees what is on the end of every fork” – a sentiment that Bowie rephrased in his Queen duet Under Pressure: It’s the terror of knowing/ What this world is about. / Continued at FT.com

The Stars (Are Out Tonight),David Bowie,vinyl , singles,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews

Another single release: The Stars is scheduled for a limited edition vinyl 7inch 45 Record Store Day release on April 20, 2013. Backed with Where Are We Now? Before that, on April 1, the album will be released as a 180 gram, 17-track double vinyl set

➢ More mystery than any other living singer,
asserts Chris Roberts at the Quietus:

Fortunately, [the album]’s great. I mean: it’s not just good, it’s great. No wild pioneering sonic experiments here: it’s primarily a “rock” album with plentiful twists, with the closest sibling being Scary Monsters… I sometimes found myself pining for more ballads or tangents to break up the album’s mid-section run of half a dozen roaring thumpers. Yet it starts with six mercurial wonders that have you grinning because he’s pulled this comeback thing off big-time. They tease, tumble and twirl, referencing his past in flashes but refusing to relinquish their own personalities and identities. Moreover, it closes with two mind-blowing, show-stopping, grandstanding epics: one as baroque as Rock And Roll Suicide ONLY MORE SO; one as frazzled and sinister and ticking as Scott Walker’s (ok, The Walker Brothers’) The Electrician.

So more than half the album is fantastic, and the rest is very, very strong… Every Bowie biography from now on is going to have a lot more cod psychology to do. And even after all these years, all these artistic statements, we don’t know what’s a confession and what’s a character. The interface between the two (substance and style seduce each other, Miller and Monroe in one misfit) affords Bowie more mystery than any other living singer, still… / Continued online at Thequietus

The Next Day ,David Bowie,albums,pop music,Tony Visconti ,reviews ➢ In the NME dated March 2, Emily Mackay says the in-your-face pace of The Next Day rarely slackens

It’s the sheer vibrancy of the new album that strikes you hardest. In contrast to Outside or Earthling, there’s no sense that it’s the need for another radical reinvention that has pulled Bowie back to music-making. These songs feel like stories that insisted on being told, bright and aggressive and poppy. The title track sets the tone. A cocky strut seething with rage… it boils with lust, paranoia and megalomania… This album is about songcraft… it absorbs his past and moves on, hungry for more… / Continued in the NME, along with an exclusive five-pager on the making of the album

➢ Bowie is in masterful voice and his band are at full throttle,
says Simon Price in the Independent, March 3:

The strangely artless artwork (the “Heroes” cover blanked out with a white square and the title in pseudo-Helvetica). The teaser single Where Are We Now?, wherein this Englishman in New York reminisced about old friends and Old Europe. Now it’s here, and it’s clear: The Next Day’s primary concern is the delicious cruelty with which the past haunts the present. Just walking the dead, indeed.

This album is not David Bowie’s first overtly nostalgic work, the first to reference his own career, nor the first to feature meditations on aging, but it repeats those tricks with immense style. On Love Is Lost, he brutally commands you to “say goodbye to the thrills of life … wave goodbye to the life without pain”. On How Does The Grass Grow?, amid Fifties ya-ya-ya-yas and snatches of Bond theme, he daydreams If the clocks could go backwards, then the girls would fill with blood and the grass would be green / Continued at Independent online

➢ We’re told Bowie made his first album in 10 years because “today he definitely has something to say”. In the Huffington Post (March 3) Michael Hogan says it’s up to us to ask, What is he trying to say?

You get the sense, from the music but also from the video [for The Stars Are Out Tonight] with Tilda Swinton, that Bowie has ambivalent feelings about his distance from the cultural tide. There was a time when he defined it, followed by a long period when he tried but perhaps failed to steer it in more esoteric directions; now all he can do is remind us how much he did to shape it – and impart a few lessons to those travelling in his wake.

Like so many ageing artists before him, it seems, Bowie has learned the Big Lesson: no matter how much money you make, how many sex partners you corral, or even how many masterpieces you produce, we’re all riding a one-way conveyor belt into the furnace of oblivion. Does that mean everything we’ve done is meaningless? Not really, Bowie seems to suggest on Where Are We Now?, As long as there’s sun / as long as there’s rain / as long as there’s fire / as long as there’s me / as long as there’s you . / Continued at Huffington Post

David Bowie, portraits, Jimmy King, William Burroughs

Freeze. And freeze again: Let’s not forget the shadow of Burroughs and his “frozen moment”. One of this year’s few official portraits of Bowie, taken by Jimmy King

➢ The Stars single reviewed: Bowie’s psychodrama mocks the rockiness of godliness

➢ Riddle of the train Bowie could not have taken in
Where Are We Now?

➢ 2013, The Bowiesconti proxy has spoken – Shapersofthe80s translates revelations from the Visconti interview

➢ 2013, Bowie officially not “devastated” as fab retrospective show goes ahead at the V&A

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