David Bowie – Never Let Me Down (2018 Remaster) (2019) [FLAC 24bit/96kHz]

David Bowie – Never Let Me Down (2018 Remaster) (2019)
FLAC (tracks) 24-bit/96 kHz | Time – 50:55 minutes | 1,03 GB | Genre: Rock
Studio Master, Official Digital Download | Front Cover | © Parlophone UK

Newly remastered of the 1987 album. The seeds of this new reimagining of the albums were first sown in 2008 when David asked Mario McNulty to remix the track ‘Time Will Crawl’ and record new drums by longtime Bowie drummer, Sterling Campbell along with strings. The track was issued on the iSelect compilation to much acclaim, and in the notes, for that record, David remarked ‘Oh, to redo the rest of that album’.

Fast-forward to early 2018 McNulty entered Electric Lady Studios in New York with Sterling, Tim Lefebvre on bass, who was in the ★ (“Blackstar”) band and Reeves Gabrels and David Torn on guitars. All of the musicians had a history with David, so were a perfect fit for what now sound like brand new songs. Nico Muhly, whom Mario first met when they were both interns working for Philip Glass in 2001, has handled the string arrangements.

Enter “Never Let Me Down”, his 17th studio album. Released in 1987, it was a record that achieved decent commercial success but generally poor critical reviews — with no one a tougher critic of the album than Bowie himself.

You can’t blame him for his well-documented disappointment.

It was the record directly after 1984’s Tonight (“Blue Jean”), which in turn followed a mind-boggling string of unforgettable records, rapid fire landmarks in musical adventure: Let’s Dance (1983), Scary Monsters (1980), Lodger (1979), Heroes (1977), Low (1977), Station to Station (1976), Young Americans (1975), Diamond Dogs (1974), Alladin Sane (1973), The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972), Hunky Dory (1971), The Man Who Sold the World (1970), David Bowie/Space Oddity (1969), and his self-titled debut from 1967.

No one, not even David Bowie, could keep firing on all cylinders nonstop. Although he initially professed to be pleased with the 11 cuts of Never Let Me Down, which he co-produced with David Richards (Queen, Iggy Pop), Bowie soon changed his tune. By the early 1990’s he was public with his misgivings, ruing the “good songs that I mistreated… I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing.”

A re-listen gives clues to his thinking. There are indeed Bowie gems on Never Let Me Down, like his soulfully bold opener “Day-In Day-Out,” and the title track where Bowie sings a gorgeous vocal line as heartbreaking, vulnerable and intimate as it is artistic. But often the record is too-big bombastic, replete with synthed-out drum and string replications stereotypical of “‘80’s production” where weird simulations and in-your-face gated reverbs dominate.

Such indulgences were collateral damage of synthesizer experimentation, an essential stage before people could eventually calm down and start hiring real players again. Sometimes it worked wonderfully – plenty of ‘80’s hits have endured for decades with just such characteristics. But it was a mismatch for Bowie and what he really had in mind for Never Let Me Down. Listening to the original you can hear how rarely the vocals and instrumental arrangements click, and how often they clash as on “Zeroes” where he seems practically shouting to be heard over the raucous guitars and rhythms.

01. Day-In Day-Out (2018)
02. Time Will Crawl (2018)
03. Beat Of Your Drum (2018)
04. Never Let Me Down (2018)
05. Zeroes (2018)
06. Glass Spider (2018)
07. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (2018)
08. New York’s In Love (2018)
09. 87 And Cry (2018)
10. Bang Bang (2018)

David Bowie, lead and background vocals; guitar; keyboards; Mellotron; Moog synthesizer; harmonica; tambourine
Carlos Alomar, guitar; guitar synthesizer; tambourine; backing vocals
Erdal Kızılçay, keyboards; drums; bass guitar; trumpet; violins; backing vocals
Peter Frampton, lead guitar, sitar
Philippe Saisse, piano
Carmine Rojas, bass
Stan Harrison, alto saxophone
Steve Elson, baritone saxophone
Lenny Pickett, tenor saxophone
Earl Gardner, flugelhorn
Laurie Frink, trumpet
Errol “Crusher” Bennett, percussion
Sid McGinnis, lead guitar on “Day-In Day-Out”, “Time Will Crawl” and “Bang Bang”
Mickey Rourke, mid-song rap on “Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)”
Robin Clark, backing vocals
Lani Groves, backing vocals
Diva Gray, backing vocals
Gordon Grody, backing vocals

Digitally remastered