Even such unquestionable musical authorities as David Bowie are sometimes under pressure from the publisher and his business world vision. Then it can easily happen that the finished recording stays on the ice and unreleased for many years. Such was the fate of Bowie’s album “Toy”, recorded in 2000 and officially released only now.
David Bowie composed “Toy” as a collection of songs from the beginning of his career. He returned some of them to the setlists, then filmed them again. He gave them a more modern guise with his concert band at the time and intended to release the record as a surprise for fans. But time (or label) was probably not ripe for such a step at that time. For almost the 1990s, Bowie profiled himself as a visionary, absorbing new trends and distribution technologies and being able to integrate them seamlessly into his music, and the idea of starting suddenly return to her own past, the publisher, of course, just didn’t smell.
And as if the author didn’t mind so much – he archived the already completed work and turned his attention forward to the future “Heathen”. Ten years later, in 2011, “Toy” appeared on the net in poor quality, yet fans cheered. The official release in the appropriate form was expected for another decade. The album became one of the expected bonuses of the narrative boxing “Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)” and now, the day before Bowie’s late seventies, it was released separately on streaming services and as a set of six 10-inch vinyls with alternative versions of songs. As mentioned above, twelve songs are not essentially new material. Bowie dusted off the songs from 1964 to 1971 and added a new one, “Toy (Your Turn To Drive)”, written in the style (at the same time, two more reworked, which reworked on the next studio). He shrouded everything in completely classic arrangements of timeless (pop) rock, preserving the period songwriting and characteristic melodies and choruses in the choruses (for example, “You’ve Got The Habit of Leaving”). Compared to the experimenting Bowie of the 1990s, “Toy” is a return to straightforward musicianship that does not need to discover and rework the surrounding influences. But it’s Bowie – so there’s no resignation to thoughtfulness. In these refreshed versions of early work, the singer’s huge talent for catchy but unplanned melodies, which stands above all stylistic changes, is clearly visible. Although the music echoes the sixties (spinet, or what the hell is in “Karma Man”) and lends a retro-pop touch to the arrangements, the result is an essentially timeless album that could be created in any decade from 1960 onwards. and it will work great anyway. This is mainly due to the material itself, which can withstand virtually any arrangement.
Two ballads stand out from the rock, pop-catching melody of the black-out frame: the piano-borne “Shadow Man” with a felt vocal line and the almost folk “Conversation Piece”. Pleasure is the striking chorus equipped with “Can’t Help Think About Me”, the swinging “Baby Loves That Way”, the rock-brisk introductory “I Dig Everything” or the contemplative “Silly Boy Blue”. Supported by a homogeneous musical background, Bowie jumps from one vocal style to another and audibly enjoys his return to his own roots. And that’s always a big plus. “Toy” is, from an overall point of view, a relatively calm, confident collection that knows what it wants and will offer a qualitatively balanced twelve songs, where none of them is obvious – you can’t reach next to it. The practice of posthumously releasing albums that the artist himself recorded but did not release during his lifetime is controversial in many ways. We can hardly take into account the reasons why the record was abandoned. However, I believe that David Bowie’s “Toy” case will be a bit different, and it’s a good thing this work eventually came out. He himself would most likely have released him into the world sooner or later, only his other projects had been pushed aside.
Even after more than twenty years since the shooting, “Toy” has not lost its relevance. This stylistic deviation now has a chance to get back into Bowie’s discography, where it belongs. Thanks to its qualities, it should not remain just a curiosity for fans, archive scraper (as is unfortunately sometimes the case), but a full part of the story of this artistic chameleon.
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REVIEW: Bowie’s album “Toy” goes back to the artist’s discography. Rightly so – it’s great