What’s on David Bowie’s iPod?

The pop master gives us an exclusive peek to mark the release of A Reality Tour, the live double album of his acclaimed 2003-4 world tour

By David Bowie

From:  The Observer,  Sunday 24 January 2010

I’ve chosen the songs that I’ve been playing the most over the last month. Here they are in no particular order.

Stay with Me by Lorraine Ellison

Ellison only got to record this goose bump-making classic because of a Sinatra cancellation at the studio. The vocal build and release on this track is galvanising. Writer Jerry Ragovoy also wrote “Time Is On My Side”.

El Ninõ – For with God No Thing Shall Be Impossible by John Adams; Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Willard White, Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, conducted by Kent Nagano

Just over a minute long and propulsive like a storm. I want to crush furniture. The emotional in search of the divine.

Junker’s Blues by Champion Jack Dupree

Simple, beautiful New Orleans piano. This 1941 song was the blueprint for Fats Domino’s 1949 hit “The Fat Man” and probably played a part in the making of Professor Longhair’s “Tipitina”.

Nixon in China: Act I, Scene 1; ‘Soldiers of Heaven Hold the Sky’ by John Adams; Orchestra of St Luke’s, Edo de Waart

Adams’s minimalism disguises the rich romanticism of his melodies. Ever ascending, rising through the clouds.

Embroidering Pouch by Peng Liyuan

Hugely huge in China. Peng holds the rank of major general in the People’s Liberation Army. I have a thing about Chinese folk music, OK?

All These Deserters by Boxharp

Mystical country. An eerie yellowing photograph.

Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin) by Scritti Politti

Who could dislike this glistening 1984 beauty? The upside of the 80s.

Dinner at Eight by Rufus Wainwright

There aren’t that many son/father songs but this is the best of them as far as I know. Rufus is just simply one of the great writers.

Different Trains I: America-Before the War by Steve Reich; Kronos Quartet

One of the late 20th century’s most affecting works. I love the use of speech as a source for melody. But it’s so much more than a concept, it’s also impossibly moving.

Blue Skies by Josephine Baker

I’m not a big Baker fan but there’s something about this performance that touches me. I think it’s the break in her voice among all this gaiety and optimism.

Gathering Storm by Godspeed You! Black Emperor

GYBE are among my, erm, two favourite Montreal bands, Arcade Fire being the other. All Montreal bands have around nine members, I believe.

Sonny’s Lettah (Anti-Sus Poem) by Linton Kwesi Johnson

The great Kwesi Johnson at his saddest. This forceful slice of narrative is part of the continuing evolvement from griot through the Last Poets to Mos Def.

Get Around to It by Arthur Russell

Quite strange but atmospheric. The late Arthur Russell was supplying all the background effects on his electric cello.

Sénégal Fast-Food by Amadou & Mariam

Let’s dance. Saw this on Africa Channel or maybe Link last year and play it at least once a week. What time is it in Paradise indeed?

Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet: Tramp with Orchestra by Gavin Bryars; Hampton String Quartet, Michael Riesman and Orchestra

This will either drive you up the wall or you will produce some amazing drawings while listening to it. You could probably cook a fish to this as well.

OUR VERDICT by Observer muso Gareth Grundy

While largely reclusive since 2003’s Reality, his listening habits are famously current – he was an early champion of the Arcade Fire, for example. And so it is here, Bowie clocking the prevailing trends for African sounds and the avant-garde disco of the obscure but cultish Arthur Russell. No one could have predicted the fascination with Chinese folk music, though. As for the influence of all this on a new album, don’t hold your breath. Come on David, get a move on…

To hear David Bowie’s selections in a Spotify playlist go to http://bit.ly/6oTqwp

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