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Reviews » Audio Reviews » David Bowie: Heathen
David Bowie: Heathen
Sony Music // SACD // December 10, 2002
List Price: $18.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 30, 2003 | E-mail the Author
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The Music:

Sunday
Cactus
Slip Away
Slow Burn
Afraid
I've Been Waiting for You
I Would Be Your Slave
I Took a Trip On a Gemini Spaceship
5:15 The Angels Have Gone
Everyone Says 'Hi'
A Better Future
Heathen (The Rays)
When The Boys Come Marching Home
Wood Jackson
Conversation Piece
Safe


The DVD

SOUND: "Heathen" is presented by Sony on SACD in DSD 2.0 and 5.1. The 5.1 repurposing of the album was done by the album's producer, Tony Visconti, who was also the producer of some of Bowie's most highly regarded efforts. Bowie remains a popular music icon across generations, partially because of his ability to create timeless, experimental and involving music, but also because of his ability to slightly alter his sound to give it a more modern appeal, yet without losing any of his style or sound. "Heathen" provides plenty of highlights, including the melodic and haunting electronic rock of "Afraid", the high-spirited folky electronica of "Everyone Says Hi" and a soulful cover of Neil Young's "I've Been Waiting For You".

The album's 5.1 presentation on this SACD is generally quite good, although I think the mix could have gone even a little further. While I certainly wouldn't want the mix to sound gimmicky (with Bowie's sometimes experimental sound, things could certainly be zipping from speaker-to-speaker), this presentation could have been more than simply an enhanced version of the stereo soundtrack. The rear speakers are put to consistent use throughout, delivering reinforcement of the instrumentals, but there didn't seem to be many instances where the surrounds were used in an inspired or interesting way to provide discrete material. Again, this is a perfectly pleasant and immersive listening experience, I just would have liked a little more activity around the listening space and a little more done to pull the music out into the room.

Audio quality was quite good throughout both the 5.1 and stereo mixes. Both provide an excellent balance between instrumentals and vocals, and each instrument remains crisp and distinct on both editions. While the SACD version brings the kind of clarity one expects from the format (and then some), the material is often fairly subdued (pleasantly and rightly so), so the sound isn't particularly dynamic. However, fans of Bowie will be pleased to find that four songs that were left off the CD version of the album can be found here (both in 5.1 and 2.0)

Final Thoughts: "Heathen" is a great album, full of engaging and atmospheric instrumentals and Bowie's strong songwriting. The SACD version provides clear, crisp 5.1 and 2.0 presentations of the album, along with the added treat of four additional songs. Recommended.
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