There might not be any musician in history with as consistent a career as David Bowie. He released 14 albums between 1967 and 1984, and every single one of them is fantastic. His later work was less consistent, but he bounced back incredibly in the last few years, releasing 2 of his best works before tragically passing away earlier this year. He’s an artist who is particularly well-suited to the compilation format, since so many of his songs are so instantly recognisable, and have propagated throughout pop-culture for almost 50 years. Legacy collects many of his best, and most well-known songs into a solid, if slightly uneven package, and it serves as a fitting summation of Bowie’s work.
There’s something quite bold about naming this record Legacy. Many greatest hits albums require some sort of quirky or dramatic subtitle, but Legacy is content to let its exemplary artists stand on his own. It’s collected in chronological order, spanning from David Bowie all the way to this year’s Blackstar. It’s fascinating to see the progression of his work, especially in comparison to contemporary music. Many of Bowie’s albums were extremely controversial at the time, sonically speaking, like Young Americans and Low. Low in particular, generated a lot of ire for its electronic-influenced sound, and whilst Low track Sound and Vision certainly has some interesting sounds (there’s a digital cymbal that is of particular note), it’s ultimately a guitar-pop song like so many others in Bowie’s repertoire.
Legacy actually flows very well, for the most part, largely thanks to Bowie’s remarkable gift for a striking melody. From the opening line of Space Oddity, through to Modern Love, there’s not a single track that isn’t in some way memorable. Revisiting some of his earliest songs like Life on Mars and Starman feels almost revelatory, just in terms of how iconic some of their melodies are. The album’s second disk doesn’t feel as essential as its first, due to the decline in his output following Let’s Dance, but the tracks from The Next Day and Blackstar are excellent. Even if some of the songs aren’t up to standard, the standard here is the best work of David Bowie, which is an impossibly high mark to reach consistently.
Legacy just goes to show how remarkable an artist Bowie was. He was defiantly strange, and tried his hardest to never make the same album twice, but his work has an immediately recognisable through line, which is that it’s all fantastic. Between his catchy melodies, creative instrumentation, and very odd, moving-but-funny lyrics, David Bowie deserves to remembered as one of the greatest musicians of all time.