Since David Bowie’s death a couple of weeks ago, I’ve playing his albums pretty incessantly. Playing them all within a short time made me think about which ones I prefer. I’m sharing, in case it’s helpful to others thinking of expanding their Bowie collections.
David Bowie is in my second rank of favourite musicians: not someone whose music I’m completely obsessed with, but definitely one of the greats. He fits into mainstream rock, but like the most original and creative rock artists (The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, Radiohead) he was renowned for making radical changes in his music from time to time. In fact, Bowie’s changes were more radical and more frequent than any other major artist.
My decade-by-decade summary would be:
- The 1960s: An awkward debut, one brilliant single, and a very good second album.
- The 1970s: Mostly stunningly good, progressing through five utterly distinct phases.
- The 1980s: Starts with one very good album. After that, several dreadful albums that I can’t bear to listen to.
- The 1990s, 2000s and 2010s: Everything from 1995 on was very good to excellent.
I have a strong preference for his more adventurous work, and a very strong dislike of his most commercial work (from the mid 1980s).
To be more specific, here is my ranking of all his albums, from best to worst, with some comments about each.