Songs in the key of Bowie: ‘Bowie Songs One’ reviewed

We review a very special musical tribute to David Bowie.

Last month, We Are Cult’s Ange Chan interviewed Clifford Slapper about ‘Bowie Songs One’; and here Ange reviews the album itself, a very special musical tribute to David Bowie…

‘Bowie Songs One’ is a new collaboration of familiar Bowie songs which have been re-interpreted for piano and voice. The piano in question is established musician Clifford Slapper who has also produced this album and features heavily on it. The album project started in Summer 2014, when David Bowie was still very much alive and the recording was fifty percent completed in January 2016, at the time of his tragic death.  The album is dedicated to his memory.

The compilation is a fully acoustic and unplugged affair where “the songs are stripped bare to reveal their emotional core” explains Slapper who has worked closely with Bowie in the past, playing piano for him on Bowie’s last ever TV appearance. The CD itself features a charming photo of the two of them together at the piano.

Clifford Slapper and David Bowie (Photos: Ray Burmiston, reproduced by kind permission)

The liner notes include some impressive testimonials from some notable Bowie-related characters including Harry Maslin (Producer of ‘Station to Station’ and Fame), Tony Visconti (Producer of thirteen of Bowie’s albums) and Mike Garson (Pianist on twenty of Bowie’s albums, and nine of Bowie’s world tours).

The album opens with Stay featuring Marcella Puppini, of The Puppini Sisters and as the liner notes state much better than I ever could, “(the song is) re-imagined in Weimar Cabaret and pre-war decadence“.  Marcella has a supreme voice which is utilised here to its tenderest effect.

The impressive voices also featured on the album provide a spectacular showcase, which lend a fresh ear to familiar Bowie compositions.  Coming from a range of diverse genres, including the jazz giant Ian Shaw, Katherine Ellis from the world of gospel and soul music, and Ray Burmiston who is perhaps better know for his photography, but who interprets Always Crashing in the Same Car forcefully, and evidently fuelled by a genuine love for Bowie.

In the midst of the album we’re treated some more familiar pop voices in the form of Techno stalwart Billie Ray Martin singing After All, and ‘old cathedral pipes’ himself, Mr David McAlmont, delivering Sweet Thing in the tenderest way you will ever hear.  David employs the full three and half octaves of his vocal range to the most mesmerising effect, taking you on the most spine-tingling musical journey for the duration of the track.

Linda Hergarten is the only vocalist whose classical tones appear twice on the album in the form of Letter to Hermione (about Bowie’s first lost love, Hermione Farthingale) and she concludes the album with a beautiful version of Time.

Stand-out tracks are difficult to spot as they all truly have their own unique special touches of magic.  The way in which the songs have been interpreted awards each composition with their own new flavour, coupled with the familiarity of Bowie’s songwriting talents and the expert musicianship of Clifford Slapper.

If you are a Bowie fan who likes to hear his work presented in new ways, then this album is definitely for you.


The album is due for full release on 3 March 2017 and will be available to download from iTunes, Amazon, Spotify with physical CDs available to purchase from www.bowiesongs.com

Production is already underway for a Bowie Songs Two collection.  For further details go to www.bowiesongs.com or www.cliffordslapper.com

❉ Ange Chan is a poet and novelist, and is a regular contributor to We Are Cult. She also  regularly writes poetry for the Doctor Who Appreciation Society’s fanzine “Celestial Toyroom”.   Her fourth poetry collection “Fame; What’s Your Name?” was published in paperback and ebook in 2016.  Her second novel “Baby Can You Hear Me?” was also published in paperback and for Kindle.  Her next novel is due to be published in 2017.

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