David Bowie - ★ (Blackstar)

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Posted on Fri, 09/23/2016 - 8:14am
by Ron Wallace

Member since: Sat, 01/24/2015
 

Release Type

Studio Album

Release Year

2016

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Total votes: 53
 
 
 

Label

Columbia/ISO Records

 

Album Overview

★ (or Blackstar) is the twenty-fifth and final studio album by the English musician David Bowie, released worldwide through ISO, RCA, Columbia, and Sony on 8 January 2016, coinciding with Bowie's 69th birthday. It was largely recorded in secret at New York City's The Magic Shop with co-producer Tony Visconti and a group of local jazz musicians. Bowie died of liver cancer two days after its release; his illness had not previously been revealed to the public. Co-producer Visconti described the album as Bowie's intended swan song and a "parting gift" for his fans before his death.

Blackstar was met with critical acclaim and commercial success, reaching the number one spot in a number of countries in the wake of Bowie's death, and becoming Bowie's first and only album to reach number one on the Billboard 200 album chart in the US. The album remained at the number one position in the UK charts for three weeks.

    Tracks

    TrackTitleDuration
    1★ (Blackstar)09:57
    2'Tis A Pity She Was A Whore04:52
    3Lazarus06:22
    4Sue (Or In A Season Of Crime)04:40
    5Girl Loves Me04:51
    6Dollar Days04:44
    7I Can't Give Everything Away05:47

    Background and Recording

    Bowie recorded Blackstar while suffering from liver cancer; his illness was not made public until he died, two days after the album's release. Like Bowie's previous album The Next Day, recording took place in secret at the Magic Shop and Human Worldwide Studios in New York City. Bowie began writing and making demos for songs that appear on Blackstar as soon as sessions for The Next Day concluded. He recruited a local New York jazz combo led by Donny McCaslin as the backing band for the sessions.

    Two songs that appear on Blackstar, "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" and "'Tis a Pity She Was a Whore", had been previously released, but were rerecorded for Blackstar, including new saxophone parts played on the latter song by McCaslin (replacing parts Bowie played on the original release). The title of the latter derives from the title 'Tis Pity She's a Whore, a play by John Ford, an English dramatist of the 17th century. McCaslin and the rest of the jazz group recorded their parts in the studio over a period of about one week a month from January to March 2015, and were reportedly unaware of Bowie's declining health - according to McCaslin, the band worked with Bowie “essentially from 11 to 4 every day”, while bassist Tim Lefebvre stated that "it never looked to us like he was sick". The song "Lazarus" was included in Bowie's Off-Broadway musical of the same name.

    The music on Blackstar has been characterised as incorporating art rock, jazz, and experimental rock, as well as elements from industrial rock, folk-pop and hip hop. According to producer Tony Visconti, they deliberately attempted "to avoid rock’n’roll" while making the album, and he and Bowie had been listening to rapper Kendrick Lamar's 2015 album To Pimp a Butterfly during the recording sessions and cited it as an influence. Electronic duo Boards of Canada and experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips have also been cited as influences. The saxophone was the first instrument Bowie learned, and he was an avid jazz listener in his youth. Billboard and CNN wrote that Bowie's lyrics seem to address his impending death, with CNN noting that the album "reveals a man who appears to be grappling with his own mortality".

    Release and Packaging

    The title track was released as the album's lead single on 19 November 2015 and was used as the opening music for the television series The Last Panthers. "Lazarus" was released on 17 December 2015 as a digital download, and received its world premiere on BBC Radio 6 Music's Steve Lamacq Show the same day. The album was released on 8 January 2016, coinciding with Bowie's 69th birthday.

    The artwork for Blackstar was designed by Jonathan Barnbrook, who had designed the artwork for Bowie's Heathen, Reality and The Next Day. The CD cover is adorned with a large black star on a plain white background, with the five star segments below the main star forming the word Bowie in stylised letters. The vinyl cover, in black, features the star as a cutout section, revealing the record (with an all-black picture label) beneath it. Music journalists also noted that a "black star lesion," usually found inside a breast, suggests to medical practitioners evidence of certain types of cancer.

    Blackstar sold 146,000 copies in its first week on sale in the United Kingdom (a week which saw four other Bowie albums in the top 10 and a further seven in the top 40, the latter equalling Elvis Presley's chart record). and more than 181,000 in the United States. Within days of the album's release, online retailer Amazon.com temporarily sold out of both the CD and LP editions of the album. In the week 11–17 January, Blackstar was the most downloaded album in 25 iTunes national charts.

    Critical Reception

    Blackstar received widespread acclaim from music critics. At Metacritic, the album received an average score of 87, which indicates "universal acclaim", based on 43 reviews. Rolling Stone critic David Fricke described the album as "a ricochet of textural eccentricity and pictorial-shrapnel writing". Andy Gill of The Independent regarded the record as "the most extreme album of [Bowie's] entire career", stating that "Blackstar is as far as he's strayed from pop." Jon Pareles of The New York Times described the album as "at once emotive and cryptic, structured and spontaneous and, above all, willful, refusing to cater to the expectations of radio stations or fans". The Daily Telegraph's Neil McCormick hailed Blackstar as an "extraordinary" album which "suggests that, like a modern day Lazarus of pop, Bowie is well and truly back from beyond." In a favourable review for Exclaim!, Michael Rancic wrote that Blackstar is "a defining statement from someone who isn't interested in living in the past, but rather, for the first time in a while, waiting for everyone else to catch up".

    Reviewing for Q magazine, Tom Doyle wrote, "Blackstar is a more concise statement than The Next Day and a far, far more intriguing one." PopMatters called the album "singular in its unique sound and vibe," describing it as "trippy and majestic head-music spun from moonage daydreams and made for gliding in and out of life." Pitchfork Media's review of Blackstar was published on the day of the album's release, two days before Bowie's death, and concluded with the line "This tortured immortality is no gimmick: Bowie will live on long after the man has died. For now, though, he’s making the most of his latest reawakening, adding to the myth while the myth is his to hold."

    The album was nominated for the "Top Rock Album" award at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards.

    Commercial Performance

    Blackstar was already on course to debut at number one on the UK Albums Chart prior to the announcement of Bowie's death on 11 January 2016, according to the Official Charts Company. The album debuted at number one after selling 146,000 copies and became his tenth number one album in the UK. The album remained three weeks at number one, falling at number 2 behind another Bowie album, the compilation Best of Bowie (2002), which became the first ever album to get to number one in the UK because of streaming.

    In the US, the album peaked at number one, becoming Bowie's first and only number one in that country. The album also peaked at number one in 28 countries, number 2 in Greece, Mexico, South Korea and Taiwan, number 4 in Hungary and 5 in Japan.

    Personnel

    • David Bowie – vocals, acoustic guitar, "Fender Guitar" (3), harmonica (7)
    • Donny McCaslin – flute, saxophone, woodwinds
    • Ben Monder – guitar
    • Jason Lindner – piano, organ, keyboards
    • Tim Lefebvre – bass
    • Mark Guiliana – drums, percussion
    • Erin Tonkon – backing vocals (2)
    • Tony Visconti – strings
    • James Murphy – percussion (4 and 5)

    Credits

    Arranged By [String Arrangement]: David Bowie
    Artwork [Star Image]: NASA (10)
    Design [Album]: Barnbrook
    Engineer [At Human Worldwide, Assistant]: Erin Tonkon
    Engineer [At Human Worldwide]: Tony Visconti
    Engineer [At Magic Shop, Assistant]: Kabir Hermon
    Engineer [At Magic Shop]: Kevin Killen
    Mastered By: Joe LaPorta
    Mixed By: David Bowie
    Mixed By: Tom Elmhirst
    Mixed By: Tony Visconti
    Mixed By [Final Master Mix, Assistant To Tom Elmhirst]: Joe Visciano
    Mixed By [Final Master Mix]: Tom Elmhirst
    Photography By: Jimmy King
    Photography By [Dollar Days Image]: Johan Renck
    Producer: David Bowie
    Producer: Tony Visconti
    Written-By: David Bowie

    Notes

    Album title and track 1 title generally referred to as "Blackstar" but printed as "★".

     

    Attribution

    Blackstar (album) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia : taken from - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blackstar_(album)
    https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/