Station to Station: Electric Heaven, Cocaine Hell
The Thin White Duke’s private bullet train hisses into the station, slowly building over the steady funk beat of Dennis Davis and guitar of the returning Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick, just jonesing until that futuristic groaning croon, hymn-like, guides us past demons, ever-trailing, “Station to Station”. From Funk Street to Disco Plaza, this express engine speeds like white light(ning) through the snow-coated 70’s, as comfortable in Harlem as in Studio 54. The bass work of George Murray and tinkling ivories of Roy Bittan lead from the energetic title track to the opulent “Golden Years”, sending a chilling Midas touch down spines since January 23, 1976. Anyone who doesn’t feel gilded and untouchable after track two isn’t alive. Anyone who is will begin to panic that they can’t slow down, for fear of death.
Side One soars to still greater heights with “Word on a Wing”, a plush, feather-laden number ever escalating on the musical scale, all the while kept grounded with an infectious beat and rousing piano work. Such a simple little plucking of the notes, quickly grows, swelling with mystical elusions, the sweet host of angels watching over us on our journey. The Man Who Sold the World peeking from behind the curtain, eyebrow raised, before returning to obscurity. Each pause in the lyrical delivery and silence between drum strikes leaving eternities to ponder the passion of this seemingly mere mortal with divine animal grace. All the near Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicides, their faith shaken with Young Americans, must have gone to heaven, joining the orgy of Soul Love. The prayers of Bowie’s audience answered, apparently fit into his scheme of things. You stand in awe, and fear for his very life (and your own) with every possessed gyration.
Side Two starts with more piano and drums, rowing into an ode to mechanical love, “TCV 15”. A transmission that focused Bowie’s transition from glam rock and plastic soul to synth-driven Kraut Rock, albeit with a billiard hall piano accompaniment. An electrical current of living sexuality flows throughout this 5:31 entry, unrelenting, the juice never stops flowing.
A strumming funk guitar that would feature well on a ‘Stones album of the same era writhes and rocks over a Zeppelin-strong bombastic drum beat, beckoning the listener to “Stay” within earshot of this album while breaking into dance, if not rounding to third. Bowie’s lyrics are clever, clear, and propel this song to the penultimate number, the aptly titled, “Wild is the Wind”. Beginning in a smooth jazz and Latin beat so popular in the 70’s, the mood conveyed is not stereotypical, and continues to elicit rapture in the modern listener, forty-one years later. Listeners hang like a leaf on a tree, awaiting sweet separation as the tornadic Station to Station spins to a close. The doors open with steam to the chill of night, and The Thin White Duke exits, feeling low.
© 2017 Richard Foreman