I’ll be honest; there aren’t many artists who can keep me engaged with an album for nearly three hours. Years of whittling away my attention span through decades of technological developments mean that even sitting through a film of 120 minutes breeds discontent and an uncomfortable sitting position. However, if there was one artist capable of cajoling my cerebral cortex into actively listening to a sprawling album, it is David Bowie.
The Starman’s latest posthumous offering arrives one day before what would have been his 75th birthday. It acts as a reminder of his devotion to remaining in a constant state of evolution. The album, Toy (Toy:Box), was rescued from the dustbin of Bowie’s creation, having been initially recorded in 2000 and feels fresh and vibrant in 2022. Secretly shared in 2011, the “lost” album has now been given a standalone release, and it’s nearly three hours of pure brilliance.
During the hedonistic 1990s, Bowie dedicated himself to never looking back on his work. This meant that his shows were often left without some of the biggest hitters of his career, songs such as ‘Life on Mars’ and ‘Golden Years’ were kicked to the curb in favour of experimental and industrial sonic structures. However, with the turn of the millennium and Bowie’s seismic return to headline Glastonbury festival in the summer of 2000, the singer seemingly saw the value in his past once more.
However, not one to languish in the glory of his past, Bowie left the stage that evening with the kernel of an idea. He would look back to some of his forgotten gems from 1964-1971, before he truly excelled as an icon of music, and bring them into the new century. It was a ballsy move, and it angered the label. Bowie wanted to share the recordings as quickly as possible, but without much commercial value, the label decided to shelve the plans for a release.
The project was given a sample release last year as Toy: Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001), which focused on his work of that period. However, this expansive release not only provides all of that but more alternative takes as well as stripped-back recordings. It reveals the many facets of a truly iconic artist. Particular highlights include ‘The London Boys’ and ‘Silly Boy Blue’ which both reek of Bowie’s unique star power. Other impressive moments on the album include ‘You’ve got A Habit of Leaving’ and ‘Karma Man’ which are quintessential Bowie.
If you won’t believe our take on the ream of impressive tunes then one man you should listen to is longtime Bowie collaborator and frequent producer Tony Visconti, who described the songs as “some of David’s finest work”. If you won’t listen t him then you should invest the time in checking out the LP for yourself. It is a reminder of the searing talent we sadly lost in 2016 and the abundance of life he gave us before he departed.