After nearly a year’s worth of anticipation, the reissue of David Bowie’s vital 1976 album, Station to Station, has been scheduled for release (Sept. 20). David Bowie’s official website revealed the details yesterday of the two versions of this reissue, which include a 3-CD special edition and a 5-CD/DVD/3-LP deluxe edition, which will probably cost more than $150.
Will it be worth dropping the money on a fancy version of what was a mere 6-track album when Station to Station first dropped in January of 1976? There are many reasons it will.
First, consider the historical context of album. Bowie, seen pictured above in a mug shot of that area due to his trouble with drugs at the time, was on the cusp of revolutionizing pop rock, setting the ground work for countless of new romantic/post-punk/new wave artists to come. The influences of Kraut Rock artists like Kraftwerk and Neu! had begun informing his music, which was mutating from his prior fascination with blue-eyed soul into something much more interesting.
This was also the height of Bowie’s cocaine-fueled days of oddball behavior. Taking on the persona of the Thin White Duke– as eluded to by the title track of this album– he would wear his hair slicked back and dress in minimal black and white suits while on tour for the album. He also made the unfortunate decision to exploit the fascist imagery and sometimes mentality, of Germany’s Nazi past, including the Hitler salute. But that was the punk rock thing to do at the time (let us not forget Sid Vicious would wear T-shirts with the swastika painted on them and Joy Division and later New Order took their names from the Nazi lexicon).
But Station to Station transcended all that. What has really endured is the strength of the music, even as experimental as it was at the time. It was the literal precursor to his much more popularly influential, if not stranger 1977 Bowie album Low. Musically, Station to Station does not contain the rambling instrumental ambient pieces that made Low’s B-side so famous nor does it have the shorter, quirkier pop/anti-pop songs of Low‘s A-side. Station to Station does however feature Bowie shedding the plastic soul of 1975’s Young Americans and exploring more progressive elements, like the long epic majesty of the title track and the layers of melody and din in “TVC-15,” a song that explores virtual sex through technology that long pre-dated its actualization. There are also truly soulful bits that still connect Bowie to Young Americans, like “Golden Years,” a single he performed on “Soul Train.”
As for the quality of extras tacked on to this reissue, this by far seems to outshine any previous Bowie reissue in the history of his catalog, including his more famous the Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars album, a mere 2-CD set reissued in 2002, marking its 30th anniversary. Though this reissue of Station to Station does not feature any studio outtakes, demos or B-sides (there were none for this album), there are two major aural aspects of this reissue to herald: the use of the original analog master tapes for the album (which will probably sound awesome on the vinyl version) and the first official release of Bowie’s much bootlegged Nassau Coliseum show from March 23, 1976.
There are a ton of paper extra goodies, too, as seen in the image on Bowie’s site, and which I have borrowed to illustrate here:
Again a shout-out to Bowie’s official website, where you can read the full details of these extras. What’s most important beyond these extras is the significance of the masters that will supposedly be used on this reissue.
Bowie’s catalog has suffered many so-called remasters since the early 90s, which, for the most part, were the albums with louder volume and this high treble quality that sometimes irritated the ears of the close listener. Only the original and short-lived RCA CD editions of 1985 came from the original stereo analogue master source and remain quite collectible for audiophiles to this day. I once owned the RCA CD of Station to Station but succumbed to the high collector’s prices it was garnering at the time, content to stick with my vinyl version. Here is that original CD, scanned for auction on eBay (I think it sold for about $60 or more):
As seen in the image for the Deluxe box, EMI has restored the original black and white cover art longtime Bowie fans have grown up with. Later reissues by Rykodisc and EMI had changed the cover to full color art, which, if I recall correctly, had been the original intended presentation for the cover art. But the original actual first release, in 1976 was the stark black and white image, a still of Bowie as the alien in the 1975 Nicholas Roeg film, the Man Who Fell to Earth. Maybe I am biased, but to me, its stark quality best suited the music inside. Here is the revised full color cover art:
But back to the music, the deluxe edition will feature the album on heavyweight vinyl (most likely 180 gram) and presented from the same analog masters, which will probably sound even better than the CD, as vinyl, many audiophiles will argue, is the only way to fully appreciate the warmth and depth of analog recordings. Unlike EMI’s earlier mistake to reissue Space Oddity on its 40th anniversary earlier this year on vinyl from the same digital masters Ryko used for its vinyl 1990 reissue, EMI has taken the proper steps to present the Station to Station vinyl as it should sound. Still, it remains to be heard by these ears, as the official release remains a couple of months away, but that’s for another post…
Yes, there is also a DVD audio version of the album, which should be neat to hear in its various forms. It includes a total of four different mixes: a new 5.1 surround mix and stereo mix by Harry Maslin, and the original analogue mix in LPCM stereo and 96kHz/24bit LPCM stereo. But I still see myself going to the vinyl over these mixes, personally.
The other audio aspect worth highlighting is the inclusion of the Nassau Coliseum show, which will also be featured in the more affordable, though not as comprehensive, 3-CD set, as pictured here (again, image from Bowienet):
The only thing that seems exclusive in the special edition are the three period photocards. There will also be an exclusive digital download of the special edition featuring the full length version of “Panic in Detroit” from the live show. Anyone who has heard the many bootlegs of this show will know that means the extended drum solo in the middle is left fully intact only on this digital version, where as the CDs will have it edited back.
The show has been widely regarded by Bowie bootleg collectors as one of Bowie’s greatest live shows, but the quality of these illegal pressings never did the audio justice. The only hint we had of the potential audio quality of this show appeared on the Ryko CD reissue of the 1990s, which featured the two live bonus tracks of “Word on a Wing” and “Stay” from that show. Now, finally, after those two quality live tracks were revealed in 1991, collectors can have the full concert in officially-sanctioned, high quality audio and, as can be seen in the image of the deluxe edition, on vinyl to boot.
Beyond the inclusion of the Nassau Coliseum show and the analogue masters as source material for the album, everything else is icing (oh, the final CD included as an extra in the deluxe edition is an EP of single mixes of five Station to Station tracks, which should prove an interesting curiosity).