Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

  • SoundStage! InSight - Audio Research Past, Present, and Future (October 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - KEF's New R Series for 2018 (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio Moon 390 Digital/Analog Preamplifier and Streamer (September 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - EISA 2018-2019 Awards Introduction (August 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Simaudio's $118,888 Moon 888 Mono Amplifiers (June 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Totem's Tribe Tower (May 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion's Three Newest Argon Loudspeakers (April 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Making the Hegel Mohican CD Player (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Estelon Lynx Wireless Intelligent Loudspeaker (March 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh's Five New Solid-State Integrated Amplifiers (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Amphion's Krypton Loudspeaker (January 2018)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Anthem STR Preamplifier and Power Amplifier (December 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)

Parlophone 0190295730260/CDBB 7782
Format: CD

Musical Performance
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Overall Enjoyment
****

Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) is a two-disc live set from David Bowie’s Isolar II: The 1978 World Tour, which drew heavily from two albums Bowie released in 1977, Low and “Heroes”. Those recordings were part of what Bowie would later call the Berlin Trilogy, which concluded with Lodger (1979). The three albums were another shift in direction in an ever-changing career.

After the first leg of the tour, Bowie had released a live album, Stage, which went through several permutations before being reissued on CD in 2005 with the songs in the order in which they were performed onstage. The original LP release and early CD reissues had changed the playing order and used fadeouts, which the reissues of 2005 and 2017 removed to allow the two-disc set to re-create the pace of the concert.

While Stage comprised songs from several shows in April and May, Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) comes from two shows at London’s Earls Court, on June 30 and July 1. The song lineup is nearly identical, and Bowie is backed by the same musicians. They sound more confident in this later performance, and there are some differences in tempo and feel that make this new collection worth hearing.

David Bowie

“Warszawa” is slightly faster here, and keyboardists Roger Powell and Sean Mayes are more at ease with this densely constructed electronic composition, which Brian Eno and Bowie wrote for Low. “Heroes” is taken at a slower tempo, and Bowie’s singing is more emotionally shaded because the band is less rushed. “What in the World,” heavy-handed and ponderous on Stage, moves more fluidly here.

Some songs differ very little from their versions on Stage, but Bowie feels freer to emphasize different words and play with the timing. On Stage, the band is well rehearsed and professional, but on Welcome to the Blackout they’ve had two more months of playing together and are more responsive to each other. “Breaking Glass” is funkier in the later set, Bowie settling into a looser groove for a more dramatic reading.

David Bowie

Some tracks are worth hearing in both versions. “Fame” is looser and more soulful on Blackout; on Stage it has a bit more drive. “Hang On to Yourself” rocks solidly on Stage, but the speed and edginess of the punk-rock version on Blackout provide interesting contrast. For the most part, however, Welcome to the Blackout is the live album from this tour that Bowie should have released in the first place. George Murray’s bass lines hit harder, Dennis Davis’s drumming is more in the pocket, and Adrien Belew’s guitar solos burn more intensely.

The sound on Blackout is also markedly more exciting than on Stage, where Bowie and his band are at a slight remove, as if the listener is sitting two-thirds of the way back at a stadium show. On Blackout, Bowie’s voice is mixed farther forward, and each instrument has more clarity and immediacy -- the effect is of moving closer to the stage. There are also two songs not included on Stage, “The Jean Genie” and “Rebel Rebel,” both in fascinating interpretations. Welcome to the Blackout (Live London ’78) is as good as live Bowie gets.

. . . Joseph Taylor
josepht@soundstagenetwork.com