Sound — 10
In the wake of Bowie's tragic passing, there has been much talk of what his best album is. It's a stupid question because he made so many classic and influential albums that it's pretty much down to personal preference. One album that doesn't get mentioned enough in these debates is "Station to Station," an album that combines blue-eyed soul, funk and art rock, and introduced the world to Bowie's last great character: The Thin White Duke.
Released in 1976, between the funk and soul of "Young Americans" (1975) and the experimental "Low" (1977), "Station to Station" is yet another example of Bowie's genius. The album only contains 6 songs yet fills out 40 minutes due to longer tracks being included. This is not a downside in any way: the tracks present are killer.
Opening with the 10 minute epic title track, a song that builds beautifully to an almighty chorus. With some terrific lead guitar feedback from Earl Slick and rhythmic playing from Carlos Alomar, it begins as a drone jam but blossoms into a rockier middle section and then into an shuffling chorus. Completed with pounding drums, thundering bass and tingling piano this track alone is a masterpiece.
The first single from the album follows next, "Golden Years" belying a more funk feel reminiscent of "Young Americans." Again, rhythm and groove really hit this one home, with layered backing vocals, a funky guitar riff and a great vocal performance from The Thin White Duke. "Word on a Wing" follows with a balladic majesty, driven by piano and Bowie's haunting vocals, it is yet another showcase of his incredible songwriting ability.
The next track is supposedly about Iggy Pop's girlfriend being eaten by a TV (at this point Bowie was on a strict diet of milk, red peppers and cocaine), and is often cited as having single-handedly inspired the British New Romantic movement in the late '70s and early '80s. Driven by piano and backed up by overdriven guitars, "TVC 15" is yet another gem with some serious groove. "Stay" follows with a funk inspired rock riff and some more fantastic lead from Earl Slick (giving even Mick Ronson a run for his money), melding funk and soul with a heavy rock style.
The album is closed by "Wild Is the Wind," a cover song that Bowie really makes his own, hauntingly crooning of love. Overall the style here is very unique and is backed up by stellar songwriting and musicianship. There isn't a dull track, they are all great in their own right.
Lyrics — 10
Lyrically this is a different album for Bowie as it is was his first as The Thin White Duke, a character described as a mad aristocrat and an amoral zombie who craves love yet cannot understand or feel it. This makes the albums lyrics kind of impenetrable and makes scratching beneath the surface a bit tricky, though this is all part of the art of this album. Mentioned by name in the title track, we are presented with images of him "throwing darts in lovers eyes," questioning "who will connect me with love?," and repeating the phrase "it's too late" over and over.
Love, and a lacking ability to fully experience it, is a key theme lyrically, Bowie scrutinizing ideas of love in every way possible, yet still fully subscribing to it, like in "It's safer than a strange land / But I still care for myself / And I don't stand in my own light / Lord, lord, my prayer flies / like a word on a wing." Bowie's vocals on this album are also top-notch, showing a true vocal talent in a way he didn't show before or since. If lyrical content doesn't interest you, Bowie's vocals certainly will, maintaining a certain haunting and emotional feel that is unique to "Station to Station."
Overall Impression — 10
It is just unthinkable that over about ten years, Bowie released an album every year and they were all fantastic and influential. "Station to Station" is often forgotten in this period, maybe due to a lack of single power (though "Golden Years" is a brilliant song). "Station to Station" is more of a piece of art, showcasing not only a musical combination of Bowie's previous rock styles with a forward-thinking experimentalism, but also presents a character who is a fully formed conundrum.
Every song has it's own place on this album and there is no filler, it's just wall to wall genius, making the whole album a highlight in some way. I love the rhythm and groove of it, whether it leans more to rock n roll or funk, it just delivers. Bowie left behind so much great music and so much inspiration for musicians of every genre, and "Station to Station" is just another reason why he will be sorely missed.