Black Tie White Noise

Black Tie White Noise is the album I’m listening to right now. I’ve been listening to it full on for the last fortnight. It’s one of those albums that I keep forgetting about and then coming back to and thinking “Wow – this is really great”.

Released in 1993, it was Bowie’s first solo album in six years (he had been side-tracked with Tin Machine) and at the time it did really well in the UK – it is notable for being Bowie’s last UK number 1 album. However, ask most people to name their top five David Bowie albums, few are likely to include Black Tie White Noise in their list, which is a shame. While other Bowie albums from the 1990’s are now widely looked on as Bowie classics – The Buddha of Suburbia, 1.Outside, Earthling – Black Time White Noise is often forgotten about. Sadly, more people own 1983’s Let’s Dance (which shares the same producer, Nile Rodgers). Let’s Dance is a GOOD album, but it’s not a GREAT album. Based largely on the success of three singles – Let’s Dance, China Girl and Modern Love (all great songs) – it regularly appears alongside other Bowie classics in “Best Album…” lists. Black Tie White Noise rarely appears in such lists, but it deserves to. True, it doesn’t contain songs which can compete with the Let’s Dance singles in terms of mass commercial appeal, but it does contain great songs. These include Bowie originals, such as The Wedding Song, You’ve Been Around (a Tin Machine cast off) and Jump They Say (Bowie’s last UK Top 10 single), and covers, including Scott Walker’s Nite Flights and Morrissey’s I Know It’s Gonna Happen Some Day. Let’s Dance has little else to offer than it’s three famous singles. Taken as an album, Black Tie White Noise stands head and shoulders above Let’s Dance.

The music of Black Tie White Noise is fused with elements of dance, jazz, funk and soul and in that sense the album has much in common with Let’s Dance, released a decade earlier,and Station to Station, released seven years before that. While there are moments of beauty – The Wedding Song, Nite Flights, Miracle Goodnight – so too are there moments where (as in all great Bowie albums) the music becomes dark, experimental and edgy. Pallas Athena in particular is superb.

While it remains a largely forgotten album, Black Tie White Noise deserves a wider audience. In contrast to the album’s bland cover, the music is exciting, thrilling and memorable. If you haven’t heard it before, Black Tie White Noise is worth a listen, and if you have, give it another go!

Songs to download:

  • You’ve been around
  • Jump they say
  • Night Flights
  • Pallas Athena
  • I know it’s gonna happen someday
  • The Wedding Song
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