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 'Day' Tripper

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David Bowie returns with his first album in a decade

David Bowie
The Next Day
ROCK (ISO/Columbia)

By Kyle Anderson in Entertainment Weekly

David Bowie in 2013arly in his career, David Bowie realized that reinvention came naturally to him, and soon the spirit of change became his prime persona. Through all of his alternate guises -- space alien, drugged-out cartoon, machine-obsessed private detective, guy who just discovered the Pixies -- he's maintained a spectacularly consistent inconsistency, and while not all of it has worked, at least we always knew that another character was coming right behind.

David Bowie - The Next Day
Released on March 12, The Next Day is Bowie's first studio album in 10 years and his 30th studio recording. The album, with a cover combining the original Heroes cover, was produced by long-term collaborator Tony Visconti and was recorded in New York. It surprised fans when it was announced by Bowie on his 66th birthday, January 8.
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For the past decade, however, his chief guise has been Invisible Man. Following turn-of-the-century releases Heathen and Reality (which reunited him with classic-era producer Tony Visconti), he suddenly disappeared, cutting a tour short, ignoring music, and making only occasional appearances amid rumors of failing health so persistent that the Flaming Lips recorded a song called "Is David Bowie Dying?" In the meantime, pop stars like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé got rich crafting their own evil twins, and countless bands co-opted Bowie's fashionable bohemian androgyny.

Now he's returned to look back at a lifetime of looking forward. The Next Day, his 26th album, finds Bowie very much alive and vacillating between future-obsessed restlessness and outright nostalgia. Day takes the idea of revisiting past experiments and exposes them to gamma radiation, speeding up the evolutionary process across 14 tracks. And like a judicious parent, he treats his most high-profile projects equally, paying homage to all their quirks and foibles: The album-opening title track sounds like a return to Station to Station, single "Where Are We Now?" wallows in Low-era melancholy, and "Boss of Me" is a gospel-glam strut in the spirit of Aladdin Sane's "Watch That Man." This time, Visconti drops in a bevy of sonic retrospective winks, making it easy to spot references and also to reedit: If you dig the end-of-the-world dirges from Lodger, you'll adore "You Feel So Lonely You Could Die," but if you never got over Space Oddity's psychedelic folk, you can jettison all but "I'd Rather Be High" from iTunes.

A few tracks lack clear antecedents (see: the Jack White-aping "You Will Set the World on Fire"), and some simply lack cohesion, or at least enough melody to anchor them. But Day is also an excellent reminder that Ziggy Stardust, the Thin White Duke, and the lunatic who sang Christmas songs with Bing Crosby have been coexisting in the same brain for decades. Now that all of his alter egos have settle down, he can finally get on with the business of being David Bowie -- auteur, bon vivant, and eternally, rock's most gorgeous space alien.  B  

SO WHICH BOWIE ALBUMS INSPIRED THE NEXT DAY MOST?

Space OdditySPACE ODDITY (1969)  His self-titled debut was a pedestrian folk exercise, but the follow-up began Bowie's adventures among the stars. Day taps into that strummy, trippy space on the sweetly surreal "Dancing Out in Space."





Ziggy StardustTHE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972)  Bowie's signature alter ego claims Martian citizenship with bombastic, arena-friendly hooks. "How Does the Grass Grow?" continues its legacy.





Diamond DogsDIAMOND DOGS (1974)  This was the sound of Stardust taking his hedonistic party to the end of the world. Day kicks off with a Diamond-style title track that comes on like a glam-saturated call to arms.





Station To StationSTATION TO STATION (1976)  The Thin White Duke character changed his look and focus, turning toward funk and soul. Day revisits that long-ago persona's gospel-tinged skronk on "Boss of Me."





LowLOW (1977)  In the late '70s, Bowie decamped to Berlin to craft a trio of albums with the help of Brian Eno's atmospherics. Those moody throbs are re-created on "Where Are We Now?" and especially on the album-closing "Heat."





Scary MonstersSCARY MONSTERS (1980)  Perhaps Bowie's most successful synthesis of sounds, combining the style of glam with the emerging possibilities of synths; he does it again with the punchy "Valentine's Day."





OutsideOUTSIDE (1995)  Undoubtedly inspired by tourmate and spiritual descendant Trent Reznor, Outside deals mainly in spook-rock crunch -- the same kind heard on the thunderous, droning paranoia parade "Love Is Lost."





EarthlingEARTHLING (1997)  Earthling boldly cribbed then-fashionable rocktronica tricks from jungle, drum-and-bass, and techno. "If You Can See Me" carries that jittery glow-sticked flag.










 Chillin' with Slowhand

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Eric Clapton and buddies dig into a grab bag of classics on his new LP

Eric Clapton
Old Sock
ROCK (Bushbranch/Surfdog)

By Will Hermes in Rolling Stone

Eric Clapton - Old Socknews pichere are many Eric Clapton: firebrand electric bluesman, psychedelic jam god, avuncular song historian, easy-listening singer-songwriter. Clapton's 21st LP finds him mainly playing the latter two roles with an all-star crew. The song selection, long on covers, is promising: vintage folk, blues, soul, country and reggae; American-songbook classics by Gershwin and Kern; plus new material written by his band. Of the latter, "Gotta Get Over" is lit by a funky Chaka Khan cameo and the set's hot-test guitar work. "Every Little Thing," meanwhile, is a love-is-all-you-need anthem that trots out the Clapton kids and feels like an iPhone slide-show soundtrack. For the Billie Holiday-associated "All of Me," Paul McCartney drops in for a duet that could be an outtake from his recent standards LP; Clapton follows with a soulful reading of "Born to Lose" á la Ray Charles' Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.

But "The Folks Who Live on the Hill" misses the class-conscious irony at that standard's core, and the reggae grooves -- a take on Peter Tosh's "Till Your Well Runs Dry" recalls Clapton's hit cover of Bob Marley's "I Shot the Sheriff" -- are light. Per the title, this is comfort music, made by a guy who seems to be chilling with friends. if it sometimes sounds too comfortable, well, Clapton has probably earned it. * * *  

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