David Bowie – Low – Our Shootout Winner from Long Ago

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

[This is an old listing that we ourselves are fairly skeptical of. We present it as more of a historical document than a guide to finding good sound on Low.]

This is the first Hot Stamper copy of Low to ever hit our site, and it’s a darn good one — especially on side one, where all the “pop” songs are found. We just had a huge shootout for this album featuring all the copies we’ve picked up over the years, and this domestic (!) pressing shocked us by blowing away our Brit copies on side one.

If you aren’t interested in the instrumental Bowie/Eno synth-heavy soundscapes that fill side two, this is THE copy to own.

I’ve said it on the site numerous time, but I spent a good portion of the ’70s playing art-rock records like Taking Tiger Mountain, Crime Of The Century and Deceptive Bends. I remember being blown away when Low came out, and it was a blast to hear how good a Hot Stamper pressing can sound on a highly-evolved stereo system today. Side one of this album features the more traditional (not really the right word, but I digress) Bowie rockers like Sound and Vision and Be My Wife, while side two sounds more like the instrumental synth music of Kraftwerk or Eno.

Side one here was killer, strong enough to rate between A++ and A+++. Compared to our other copies, it had more presence, more transparency, more energy and more weight to the bottom. The soundfield is open with some real depth to it, and the instruments and vocals all have real texture to them.

Side two was also very good though not quite in a league with side one. It’s got nice bottom end weight and texture to the synths but is not as big or open as the best we heard. I’m guessing some of you could care less for the synth experiments on this side and this would be a good copy for someone who’s all about the rock songs.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Speed of Life 
Breaking Glass 
What in the World 
Sound and Vision 
Always Crashing in the Same Car
Be My Wife 
A New Career in a New Town

Side Two

Warszawa 
Art Decade 
Weeping Wall 
Subterraneans

AMG Five Star Rave Review

Following through with the avant-garde inclinations of Station to Station, yet explicitly breaking with David Bowie’s past, Low is a dense, challenging album that confirmed his place at rock’s cutting edge. Driven by dissonant synthesizers and electronics, Low is divided between brief, angular songs and atmospheric instrumentals. Throughout the record’s first half, the guitars are jagged and the synthesizers drone with a menacing robotic pulse, while Bowie’s vocals are unnaturally layered and overdubbed. During the instrumental half, the electronics turn cool, which is a relief after the intensity of the preceding avant pop. Half the credit for Low’s success goes to Brian Eno, who explored similar ambient territory on his own releases. Eno functioned as a conduit for Bowie’s ideas, and in turn Bowie made the experimentalism of not only Eno but of the German synth group Kraftwerk and the post-punk group Wire respectable, if not quite mainstream. Though a handful of the vocal pieces on Low are accessible — “Sound and Vision” has a shimmering guitar hook, and “Be My Wife” subverts soul structure in a surprisingly catchy fashion — the record is defiantly experimental and dense with detail, providing a new direction for the avant-garde in rock & roll.