David Bowie’s ghost album ‘TOY’ comes out of limbo for late singer’s 75th birthday

This is the story of a “ghost album” album like no other.

‘TOY’, a body of work destined to be David Bowie’s 23rd release, will be unearthed in its entirety this Friday (November 26) after it was shelved 20 years ago in a label dispute.

Recorded after his world famous Glastonbury set in 2000, it contains reimagines of songs the singer first recorded in the 1960s and 1970s.

The album is not known to the general public. Thin White Duke fans who followed in his footsteps with a magnifying glass were able to leak a pirated version online in 2011.

Others were intended for B-sides and builds. Bowie released ‘Heathen’ the following year.

‘TOY’ will be available in the new ‘Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001)’ boxset, released on November 26.

A separate physical vinyl and CD release of the album will arrive in early 2022, on January 7, the day before the artist turned 75.

Hear ‘TOY’ like Bowie would have liked

This one-off release will be the first time fans have been able to hear the album as the artist intended.

Representatives for the artist today suggest that he was ahead of his time by wanting to release a “surprise album” before the idea achieved general success.

Bowie insisted on an instant release or nothing at all, though that didn’t stop certain tracks from hitting the internet in later years.

“Fans still know two-thirds of the album,” says Jérôme Soligny, author of ‘David Bowie: Rainbow Man’, a key reference work for any devotee of the artist.

‘TOY’ allowed Bowie to give “a facelift”, as Soligny puts it, to little-known songs from his early repertoire; There are only three original versions from the ’60s and’ 70s in the initial batch featured on this new album.

Bowie’s co-producer Mark Plati says the album captured the singer in one of his happiest moments, “an amber of joy, fire and energy.”

“It is the sound of people happy to play music. David reviewed and reexamined his work from previous decades through prisms of experience and a new perspective, a parallel that does not escape me when I review it twenty years later.

“Every now and then, he used to say ‘Mark, this is our album,’ I think because I knew I was so deep in the trenches with him on that trip. I’m happy to finally be able to say that he belongs to all of us now.”

What can fans of ‘TOY’ expect?

The seeds of Bowie’s love of reinterpretations can be found in the late 1990s, when he performed ‘Can’t Help Thinking About Me’, the first song he recorded under the nickname ‘Bowie’, on stage with the same group of musicians with whom he would make ‘TOY’.

‘TOY’ is an honest album, a “missing link”, according to Soligny, that makes the tonal jump between ‘Hours’ and ‘Heathen’ make more sense.

He says Bowie sings like “Scott Walker (a British avant-garde legend) whom he adored. He leans into a baritone voice.”

Questions have been raised about the album cover, a puzzling image showing the features of an adult Bowie on the face of a child ape.

Animal images are not so surprising to Soligny. After all, the singer appeared as half man, half dog on ‘Diamond Dogs’ in 1974.

The recording led to an important personal reconciliation

This period is also notable in Bowie’s musical history because it led to a reconciliation with producer Tony Visconti.

The pair split in 1983 as a result of Bowie opting for Nile Rogers to produce ‘Let’s Dance’, rather than Visconti, with whom he had worked for the past four albums.

Let’s Dance became one of Bowie’s most commercially successful works.

Visconti was not responsible for any of the material that came from ‘TOY’ 17 years later, but was present in New York at the time of its recording.

He later revealed that Bowie was “terribly hurt” by the label’s refusal to release this body of work by surprise. As a result, Bowie left Virgin / EMI in exchange for a contract with Columbia Records.

“Virgin has turned into absolute crap. These people were terrible in the two years before I left,” Bowie said in 2002 in comments posted on ‘Rainbow Man’.

Visconti assumed his role as producer until 2016’s ‘Blackstar’, Bowie’s 26 and final album released two days before he died of liver cancer at the age of 69.

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