"Black Tie White Noise"


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Not to be outdone by his old duet partner Mick Jagger, who prospered by embracing Rolling Stones basics on his recent album, Bowie has found rejuvenation by being true to his nature. In his first solo album since '87, he moves station to station through his musical past and comes up with his most committed-sounding music in years.

Of course, Bowie's true nature is a much more slippery thing than Jagger's, a mix of irony and emotion, artifice and passion, all acted out on shifting ground in murky light. At its best, "Black Tie White Noise" keeps you off balance with its adventurous exoticism.

With "Let's Dance's" Nile Rodgers producing, and with trumpeter Lester Bowie all over the album (a jazz great's best rock showcase since Wayne Shorter teamed with Steely Dan), it sounds like something straight out of the New York avant-garde--which is only fair, since Bowie was a big influence on the culture-blending pastiche approach of the SoHo lofts.

It bogs down in long jams and exaggerated ballad crooning, but especially on the dense collages, with their Middle Eastern piping, whooshing hip-hop beats and layered voices, Bowie offers the kind of sonic intrigue and emotional urgency that his fans used to count on.

New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).

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