David Bowie: The Berlin Trilogy (An Imaginary Album)

A few weeks back, a few of us music geeks over on Music Twitter were having a polite conversion on the relative merits of David Bowie's late 70s so-called "Berlin Trilogy," the three albums he recorded (largely in Berlin) with Brian Eno and producer Tony Visconti. Like other Bowie fans, I find the records both terrific and frustrating, offering some of Bowie's greatest songs, but not necessarily records I ever listen to from beginning to end. I resolved to create my own imaginary Bowie album incorporating the era's highlights, something I would in fact want to play in its entirety... and unlike some of the imaginary albums I've tried concocting, this one was an absolute triumph.

Both 1977's Low and its follow-up from later the same year, Heroes, paired vocal rock tracks and more ambient-leaning electronic-oriented instrumentals. The latter undoubtedly derived from Bowie's partnership with Eno, who was at the same time wrapping up his own run of 4 relatively straight rock albums and pivoting to instrumental work. And while I absolutely adore Eno's ambient music, and his own combination of vocal/instrumental tracks yielded one of my favorite albums ever (1975's Another Green World), the non-vocal stretches on Low/Heroes kinda kill the momentum of otherwise great rock albums peppered with peak songs like "Sound & Vision," "Heroes," "What In The World," etc. 

So I culled out the instrumental tracks (save for the catchy "Speed of Life," which makes for a nifty introduction to the reconfigured album) and stuck with the vocal numbers.

As for 1979's Lodger, Bowie & Eno refrained from instrumentals, but some of the vocal tracks are a little too odd/experimental and generally have me reaching for the skip button in favor of straightforward rockers like "Look Back In Anger" and "Move On." So I made a few judicious cuts.

I ended up with just under an hour of music, sequenced to blend the three records--and it still sounds like a coherent whole given Visconti's consistent production. I opted to use Visconti's 2017 remix of Lodger, which sounds a little brighter to me than the slightly muddy original; I also subbed in the shorter single versions of "Heroes" and "D.J."

I've spun my new CDR a couple times and have to say, as a unified double LP, it could be Bowie's best record. Anyway, check it out for yourself on Spotify.