Our Top 10 David Bowie Albums presents what we believe were the ten most fabulous albums that David Bowie released throughout his career. Of course there are so many more than just ten. However, our top 10 lists are always written to serve as a starting point for fans unfamiliar with most selections of an artists catalog and of course as a place to debate which ones were the favorites among longtime fans. Sometimes we try to choose albums that define different periods of an artist’s career to give a better overall survey of their music. Other times we just pick what we think are the best ten records even if they are all from the same time period. With our David Bowie albums list we did a little of both.
All musical artists go through changes over time. David Bowie took those changes to an extreme in creating characters that defined particular albums. Characters such as Ziggy Stardust were given life and then death. Ziggy Stardust was not the only character or album persona David Bowie took on. There was also The Thin White Duke, Major Tom, Aladdin Sane and of course one could not forget his move role as Jareth the Goblin King in the film Labyrinth or his other awesome movie roles such as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth.
When we lost David Bowie a few years ago in 2016, we all lost a part of our pasts. For those of us who grew up in the 60s 70s and 80s David Bowie’s music was a part of our lives whether you were a fan or not. David Bowie influenced pop culture in so many ways. Our top 10 David Bowie albums list is tribute to one of our favorite musical artists of all time.
# 10 – Let’s Dance
We open up our top 10 David Bowie albums list with a great David Bowie album released in the early 80s in 1983. It was an album that was met with mixed review at the time as some did not like the albums supposed intent on delivering big time pop singles, as if writing a hit single is an easy thing to do. Regardless of the jealousy that some critics displayed in their album reviews, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance was as fun as an album he had ever released. How could you not want to dance and grove to the albums title track? It was an incredible infectious groove that was realized so well because David Bowie chose Nile Rogers of Chic fame to produce the album.
Over the years David Bowie proved that he knew how to find talent to work with him. Asking Nile Rodgers to produce the island was a brilliant move. Even more brilliant was David Bowie’s instinct to get Stevie Ray Vaughan on board the record. After David Bowie had caught a Stevie Ray Vaughan show, Bowie was so blown away by the guitarist he not only invited him to record on the record he asked him to join his band for the following tour. Sadly, Stevie Ray Vaughan quit the band before the tour began, but he did do the record. And of course, the entire reason he left the band was because his own career was just starting to take off.
David Bowie’s Let’s Dance is an album I can just listen to over and over again. Songs like the title track “Let’s Dance,” “Modern Love,” and our favorite song on the album; “China Girl,” are some of David Bowie’s most memorable songs. And lets not forget the great re-recorded version of “Cat People,” from the film Cat People. That was a real keeper.
# 9 – Blackstar
Blackstar was David Bowie’s final album he released before he passed away. His impending death fueled the albums lyrics and melodies in the most haunting fashion. The album was hailed universally by critics as one of the best David Bowie albums ever released. Even here on Classicrockhistory.com, writer Brett Stewart tagged the song “Blackstar,” as the best David Bowie songs ever released on our top 10 David Bowie songs list.
If I was writing this article five years from now, chances are maybe I would list the album Blackstar as Bowie’s best. It certainly is an incredible record. But its difficult to place now because it has only been out for a few years which is not a long time for an artist who was releasing records for almost fifty years. And of course there is the emotional ties to the record being David Bowie’s last. There is no doubting that Blackstar is a spectacular album. Maybe its too good. And maybe that is one of the reasons it’s so hard to write about. But there is no doubt that it belongs on this list of the best David Bowie albums.
# 8 – Scary Monsters
David Bowie’s Scary Monsters album is the last David Bowie album on this list that was not released in the 1970s. Although being released in 1980 its still pretty close. David Bowie released many great records from 1980 onward. However his catalog form the 1970s is so legendary there is just not enough room on this list for many records outside of the decade of the seventies if we are only picking ten.
Scary Monsters was released just before the arrival of MTV. However a few of the album’s singles such as “Ashes To Ashes,” and “Fashion,” were put into heavy rotation on MTV when the channel began airing. The album also featured guest appearances by Bruce Springsteen’s pianist Roy Bittan and The Who’s Pete Townshend.
# 7 – The Berlin Trilogy: Low / Heroes / Lodger
In the seventh spot of our top 10 David Bowie albums list we have actually placed three albums. The records, Low, Heroes and Lodger are recorded as almost a set. Its hard to really separate anyone of the three David Bowie albums from each other, so we placed then as one entry. They also stand as David Bowie’s last three albums of the 1970s. Low was the first of the three. It was released on January 14th 1977. Heroes came out the same year as Low was released on October 14th 1977. The third and final installment of the Berlin trilogy entitled Lodger was released two years later on May 18th 1979.
The three albums are usually regarded as a set for various reasons. One of the most significant reasons was the production team behind the albums. All three records were produced by Brian Eno and Tony Visconti. These three producers and musicals artists that David Bowie had chosen to work with on these three albums was significant because they all shared the same vision of what David Bowie was trying to achieve with these records. David Bowie had moved to Berlin to basically just be himself and hide in anonymity. It gave him a chance to explore various musical styles without defining himself as a particular character like he had done on his previous albums. The trilogy series was awash in experimentation and stands as a a fascinating chapter in the life of David Bowie. Don’t miss these three great David Bowie albums.
# 6 – Aladdin Sane
The next six David Bowie albums including this one define the true David Bowie classic albums period of the 1970s. These were outstanding records that stand as some of the best rock albums released in Classic Rock History. David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album was released in the spring of 1973. An amazing year in rock and roll history when classic albums such as Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon, Led Zeppelin’s Houses Of The Holy and The Who’s Quadrophenia. were also released. It was an outstanding year and David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane added to its greatness.
David Bowie’s Aladdin Sane album served as the follow up to the great David Bowie album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. If there ever was an album that would be tough to follow it would be The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Nonetheless, David Bowie followed up that album in spectacular fashion. The Aladdin Sane album featured soon-to-be hits the “The Jean Genie,” “Panic in Detroit,” and a great cover of The Rolling Stones classic song “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”
# 5 – Diamond Dogs
David Bowie’s album Diamond Dogs was released in the Spring of 1974 just about a year after the release of the Aladdin Sane album. In our opinion it is just a bit stronger than the Aladdin Sane album. The Diamond Dogs record contained one of the biggest songs of David Bowie’s career in the track “Rebel Rebel.” The album also contained other soon to be David Bowie classics such as “Sweet Thing,” and the dark piece “1984.” The album’s original cover art had to be edited as it displayed Bowie’s private parts in the half human, half dog painting. Ther are not many of those original covers out there.
# 4 – Young Americans
In 1975, David Bowie took a giant leap away form the glam type music he had been writing and recording to focus on a record that was inspired by American soul music. David Bowie called his version of American Soul music “plastic soul in reference to his standing as a white man from England attempting to do American soul music. It was a reference that was not needed because pretty much anything David Bowie composed and recorded stood as brilliant original materiel regardless of its inspiration. This was also incredibly evident on the fantastic Young Americans album.
One of the most consistent attributes of David Bowie’s 1970’s albums were hit singles. Young Americans continued that pattern. The Young Americans album spawned two major hit singles with the songs “Young Americans,” and “Fame.” The single “Fame,” became one of the biggest hits of David Bowie’s career as it hit number one in both the United States and Canadian music charts. The song also featured John Lennon on backing vocals. David Bowie, John Lennon and guitarist Carlos Alomar are all featured as songwriters on the song.
# 3 – Hunky Dory
Hunky Dory is the oldest David Bowie album to be placed on this top 10 David Bowie albums list. The record was released in 1971. The album was released before David Bowie had achieved the mass fame he accumulated after the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The album’s opening number and lead off single entitled “Changes,” would prove to become one of David Bowie’s signature songs. His greatest hits album was even titled ChangesOneBowie. Our favorite song from the record and also its second single was the great track “Life On Mars.”
# 2 – Station to Station
As we arrive at the top two positions on this top ten David Bowie albums list we had considerable difficulty choosing between the top two David Bowie albums. Both records are completely different works which is very reflective of the comparisons between most David Bowie albums. Station To Station was one of David Bowie’s most spectacular albums if not the best. It may not have been as groundbreaking or culturally significant as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars but song for song it is off the charts great.
Five singles were released form the Station To Station album. There was only six songs on the record so just abut every song on the album was released as a single. The album’s lead off single “Golden Years,” was a huge hit. The subsequent singles released from the record such as “TVC 15,” ” Stay,” “Wild Is The Wind,” and the edited version of “Station To Station,” all charted but did nit have the same success as the single “Golden Years.”
# 1 – Ziggy Stardust
Coming in at the number one spot on our top 10 David Bowie albums list is the masterpiece The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The album was released on June 16th 1972. The record is a concept album that focuses on a character named Ziggy Stardust who is a rock star who communicates with aliens. This is what we were told and how the album was described. In essence as fans what we found was a record of great rock and roll songs recorded by an artist wanting to stretch the boundaries of music and art in exploring themes that were often defined as taboo. Its was a significant album in terms of spreading the popularity of the genre of glam across musical genres while stretching the format itself deeper with meaning.
In the end, its always about the songs and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars had plenty of great ones. It was not an album full of hit singles as there was only two singles released from the record. “Starman” and its b side “Suffragette City” was were released as the first single from the record. “Rock and Roll Suicide,” was the album’s second and last single. Nonetheless, it was an album filled with amazing songs all tied together loosely in a career defining moment for a man who had many of them.
David Bowie Images in Feature Photo
David Bowie with eye patch -AVRO / CC BY-SA 3.0 NL (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/nl/deed.en)
Thin White Duke in vest – Jean-Luc Ourlin / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)