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Week 4 | All Saints (2001)

There are many Bowie compilation albums, however this one is unique in that it is all instrumental. My understanding is that Bowie put it together as a holiday gift for his friends, then later decided to release it. So it is basically a commercialized mix tape. Since most of the pieces on this come from two albums, “Low” and “‘Heroes,’” its value is limited especially in the age of playlists. (At least on my version— there are other, much longer versions that have additional material from albums such as “Black Tie White Noise” and “The Buddha of Suburbia”).

I have often thought that “Low” and “Heroes” would have been even better as a single album without the instrumentals. This is sacrilege to those who view those albums as among Bowie’s absolute best. It isn’t that the instrumental pieces are bad— they’re not— its just that they lack two of the features I like most about Bowie’s music— his voice and his lyrics. Actually, Bowie’s voice is used as an instrument in some of his instrumental pieces— he hums and chants in some, and in V-2 Schneider he does in fact sing the words, “V-2 Schneider” (though that’s it).

I also understand that at the time, “Low” must have seemed revolutionary. In addition to its use of a synthesizer, the idea of devoting an entire side of a record to instrumentals must have seemed awfully brave. Today, use of a synthesizer is not especially unusual and except for those embracing the vinyl revival, there is no distinction between sides of a record. Still, if you are the type of person who doesn’t have a record player and regrets not having the ability to play that side of “Low,” “All Saints” is for you.

So, this isn’t my favorite. Again, it isn’t that I dislike the music, but in reality I don’t play it very often. “All Saints” does however have one outstanding feature— the inclusion of “Crystal Japan,” my favorite Bowie instrumental. This piece does not appear on any official studio album (it is an extra on the 1992 reissue of “Scary Monsters”) and was originally used in a Japanese sake commercial. For me, the piece is reminiscent of the “Blade Runner” soundtrack by Vangelis, which is neither hear nor there but I like it.

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