Back in 1976, David Bowie formally introduced his persona of The Thin White Duke on the Krautrock-inspired Station to Station. Bowie had previously turned away from his glam-rock roots a year earlier on Young Americans in favor of a detached take on soul and R&B. Station to Station stands as an album of transition between his own self-described “plastic soul” music and the Berlin Trilogy (Low, “Heroes”, and Lodger). The songs on Station to Station are composed of a fusion of soul, rock, funk, and disco, twisted by an influence of experimental German artists. When singing as The Thin White Duke, Bowie sounds completely withdrawn from the emotions that the songs convey.
Everything about Station to Station, from its significance as a testament to the evolution of David Bowie as an artist to the role played by his cocaine addiction on its recording, has been oft-discussed in the decades since its release. But if there is ever a time to revisit an album, it’s upon the release of a special edition reissue and new digital transfer. Opener “Station to Station” is as epic an introduction to The Duke as ever. From the sound of a train chugging along the droning introduction to the buildup to an up-tempo, funky finale, it never slips to anything less than astonishing in its 10-plus minutes. Only someone like Bowie could open an album with his most experimental song yet, and follow it with something as danceable as the still-infectious funk hit “Golden Years”.
“World on a Wing” is an impassioned hymn that seemingly reflects Bowie’s spiritual longing that coincided with his personal woes during the recording of Station to Station. “TVC 15” begins with the false impression of a straightforward piano-rocker but proves to be the most compelling song after the title track, for both its trippy lyrics about a girlfriend getting lost in a holographic television and its desperate coda. Funk-rocker “Stay” features some of the best guitar work of Bowie’s career, and his seductive cover of “Wild Is the Wind” brings Station to Station to a haunting close.
Thirty-four years after its release, Station to Station stands as an intriguing portrait of an artist going through a period of transition. It’s also an excellent album in its own right. The new digital transfer of Station to Station is crystal clear and superbly mastered, but the differences between it and previous masters are subtle and would largely go unnoticed by a non-audiophile. As a better come-on for fans with standard sound systems and/or less discerning hearing, the 1976 concert at Nassau Coliseum is included with the special edition. The concert captured in the Nassau recordings is energetic, full of hits, and successfully maintains the delicate balance between cleaning up a performance for listening at home and capturing what the music must have sounded like in a live setting.
In addition to the three-disc special edition, a deluxe edition is also available that includes the new Station to Station master and Nassau Coliseum performance on both CD and vinyl, the the original 1985 CD master and an EP featuring single edits, a DVD featuring original analogue masters and new stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes, and replicas of the 1976 fan club package and memorabilia from the Nassau Coliseum concert. That’s a heck of a lot of packaging and extra bits, but a dedicated Bowie-ite will surely find it worthy of snapping it up. Otherwise, the new transfer is an improvement from the original, but with an album this amazing, any improvement is like another layer of icing on the cake.