At the time of its release, David Bowie’s Lodger LP was met with somewhat mixed reviews and not so hand album sales. Off the back of Low and “Heroes”, Lodger felt like a minor disappointment for fans hoping for a more complete finish to the Berlin “trip-tych” as Bowie labeled the series of LPs. I myself, first heard Lodger by way of the Rykodisc CD re-issue in 1993. The album felt other worldly to my teenage ears. Bowie escorted us through a series of stories about travel, adventure, discovery, fame, domestic violence and and ability to be comfortable in ones skin. For many years, Lodger was a personal favorite that I would often revisit time and again. It’s the sort of record you want to listen to when walking the street of Borneo or Kuala Lumpur, both of which, I have done.
The only issue that I had with Lodger, and something that sticks to me to this day is the seemingly “muddy” mixing job that Tony Visconti originally performed on the 10 track opus. You always felt like there were things buried so far deep within the album that it was always going to feel like a somewhat incomplete listening experience regardless of how good the album was as a whole piece. Actually, listening to Lodger pre-2017 was like kissing that girl you always liked who always pulled away when your hands started to wander. OK, perhaps Lodger isn’t a “frigid” album per say but you get the drift yes?
Enter Tony Visconti, the original producer of Lodger who has, in effect cleaned Lodger up to be heard the way it probably always should have been heard. It’s been re-issued as part of the “A New Career In A New Town” box set that was released this week through Parlaphone records. It’s the third in the ongoing annual series following on from “Five Years” in 2015 and “Who Can I Be Now?” from last year, both reasonable releases without anything terribly new or exciting being included. Let’s just say all these releases are fantastic for the casual or new Bowie fans wanting to find out what all the fuss was about? Each box comes beautifully packaged and presented. But what of the 2017 Tony Visconti mix of Lodger? Let’s find out…..
From the opening bars of Fantastic Voyage, we are immediately welcomed with instruments and vocals that one had never thought existed on the original release or subsequent re-issues in 1991 and 1999. The original 1984 RCA CD release had probably been what I consider to be the best of a bad lot in terms of re-issues. However, now, we have one of the most impressive remasters of the Bowie cannon on offer. What hit me most of all the tracks was “Yassassin”, Bowie’s ode to his Turkish region of Berlin that he embraced with open arms for just over twelve months in the late 70’s when living with Iggy Pop. To be honest, it’s actually incredible to hear a new vibrancy to the song. Even after the solitary listen this morning on my rather expensive headphones, i’m anticipating many more listens over the weekend. After all, it’s my favorite period of Bowie’s career. He was edgy, dangerous and simply didn’t give a fuck what people thought of his music releases. It’s the way every artist should be but simply isn’t.
Famously, Bowie coerced his band of session musicians to swap instruments and play like a teenage boy band on “Boys Keep Swinging”. Speaking in the past, Bowie, Carlos Alomar and Visconti have both stated the original version sounded too polished hence the improvisation. It works a treat and on this new mix you can hear so much more giving the song a new lease of life. It’s that good a single that, if released today by say, The Killers, it would be a massive chart hit on both sides of the Atlantic. That’s the distinct beauty behind Lodger. To the casual music fan, they would struggle greatly to pin point a year of release had they not know who or what they were listening too. Imagine The White Stripes going art house or Radiohead moving back to their garage roots? That’s Lodger!
Upon release in May 1979, Lodger only trouble the TOP 10 in four countries, with New Zealand being it’s highest performing effort, peaking at number 3 in June of the same year. The androgyny of “Boys Keep Swinging” (a TOP 10 UK hit) and “DJ” coupled with the art house feel of “Look Back In Anger” made Lodger partly inaccessible for some. For me though, it’s the charm of an inspiring album that you would be utterly foolish not to rediscover again or even discover for the first time. For those of you like myself, not shelling out for the “A New Career In A New Town” box set, you can indulge in a listening session via Spotify. What on earth are you waiting for?