David Bowie - Toy

David Bowie – Toy

In 2001, David Bowie went into the studio to start work on a new album. Towards the end of the sessions, he decided that some of the work would survive onto his next album, which would become Heathen. The rest, new interpretations of his past lesser-known songs, and a handful of new tracks, became known as ‘lost album’ Toy, and were mysteriously shelved.

Bowie himself claimed his record label EMI/Virgin had ‘too much on the back burner’ – presumably, in 2001, too much not to overlook one of the greatest albums of Bowie’s career. It was leaked in its entirety in 2011: the great man himself may not approve of his unreleased work being reviewed, but what’s to be done.

Post The Next Day – more an aggressively, ambitiously positive record – listening to Toy, twelve years on from the making, we have a collection which is warm, sublimely written, with touches of genius and genuine joy. Taken together, it sits as the mature, reflective elder brother of 1971’s Hunky Dory. ‘Conversation Piece’, an gobsmacking outtake from the sessions from that album, is heartbreakingly resplendent here, Bowie understatedly emoting in perfectly restrained poise.

‘Hole In The Ground’ and ‘Baby Loves That Way’ are both absolutely terrific, prime-era Bowie songwriting, hippified here, anthemic there, gloriously cracked everywhere – Bowie tracks, that like the very best of his work, are addictive, compulsive, you want to hear again and again. It’s a serious shame that EMI didn’t see fit to have these heard as singles by a wider audience at the time.

If there’s one niggle about the whole thing, it’s Bowie’s band – which has admittedly been criticised, whoever the personnel, since Tin Machine. Whoever’s fault it is, Bowie’s, producers, or ‘record executives’ (and despite bassist/backing vocalist Gail Ann Dorsey‘s lovely voice) they are once again struggling to find the passion or spontaneity to support such inspired songwriting. Vauxhall Corsa musicianship. It’s quite infuriating, but also telling that all the songs win through against such odds. Why the man doesn’t get Jean Michel Jarre in on keyboards and the guy from Lightning Bolt on drums beggars me.

The Next Day was a dormant Bowie lashing out in a contemporary howl, ghost-stepping into the world early in 2013. Toy, from magical 60s postcards such as ‘In The Heat Of The Morning’ and ‘Silly Boy Blue’, is a ghost in its own right, living up fully to its legend, lingering with the listener as one of Bowie’s most heartfelt, human, warm and joyous creations – of any decade.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.