Classic Albums #2: David Bowie – Low (RCA – 1977)

The three albums borne by David Bowie between 1977-79 (Low, Heroes & Lodger) are commonly referred to as “The Berlin Trilogy”, despite the fact that only Heroes was wholly recorded in Berlin and none of Lodger was. Stylistically ‘The Trilogy’ is not a million miles away from 1976’s Station to Station which was recorded in LA. Low was primarily recorded just outside Paris.

Nick Lowe reportedly titled his EP "Bowi" in response to Low, dropping the 'e'.

Bowie collaborated with producer Brian Eno throughout and Eno is often credited with producing the experimental, avant-garde sound espoused over the trinity. Though this has been called into question to some extent, given Bowie’s own predilection for experimentation throughout his career.

The working title for Low was “New Music Night and Day”, however Bowie opted for the title due to his “low” moods during the album’s writing and recording according to the albums producer, Tony Visconti.

“There’s oodles of pain in the Low album. That was my first attempt to kick cocaine, so that was an awful lot of pain. And I moved to Berlin to do it. I moved out of the coke center of the world into the smack center of the world. Thankfully, I didn’t have a feeling for smack, so it wasn’t a threat.” David Bowie

The albums style is comprised of shorter, fragmented tracks on the first side, perhaps a reflection of Bowie’s ruptured mental state at the time while the second side shoots off into space with longer, instrumental tracks. ‘Breaking Glass’ is one of the stand-out tracks with Carlos Alomar throwing his name into the ring as a genuine rival to Mick Ronson for Bowie’s greatest guitarist companion.

Although heavily influenced by Neu! and Kraftwerk, Low is widely regarded as being heavily ground breaking.  Often held by critics to be Bowie’s best album and received praise from publications such as Pitchfork who voted it the best album of the 1970’s .

Low is Bowie at his artistic zenith, a height which he never reached again. The lyrics are biographical, apocryphal and fiction all at once. The layered sound flits effortlessly from punk-rock, to rhythm & blues to progressive rock.  Though rejected as the OST for Bowie’s motion picture “The Man Who Fell to Earth” the record is a very real soundtrack to Bowie’s recovery from exhausting drug addiction.

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