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Friday, 19 November, 1999, 21:57 GMT
CD Review: David Bowie
David Bowie: 'hours...' (Virgin)

By the BBC's Nigel Packer

Praise the lord and pass the mascara - Bowie's rediscovered the melodic muse.

If much of his recent output has been directed at the head rather than the heart, new album 'hours...' signals a return to the kind of songs you can fall in love with - great swooning creations delivered with a new found intensity.

This musical rebirth is suggested by the album's cover, featuring a new-look Bowie - long-haired and androgynous once more - leaning over his stricken former incarnation.

And sure enough pop music's most accomplished chameleon is soon ringing the ch-ch-changes, as he ditches the much maligned drum 'n' bass experiments of Earthling for a straighter rock format and some refreshingly introspective lyrics.

Bowie: Ditching drum 'n' bass for a more traditional rock sound
The siren voice is in great shape, whether sneering its way through glam stomper The Pretty Things Are Going To Hell or gliding over the lovely ballad Survive in finest Newley-esque fashion.

And he receives some fine support from guitarist and co-writer Reeves Gabrels, who manages to evoke the memory of Mick Ronson while firmly stamping his own personality onto proceedings.

Later tracks New Angels of Promise and Brilliant Adventure are awash with an eastern influence reminiscent of some of Bowie's early 1980s work.

But songs like Something In The Air and Seven are most likely to please the older fans. Guitars crunch and whine, the ghost of Ziggy briefly flutters into view and a million ageing star children wipe tears from glittering lashes.

At the age of 52 it would be all too easy for Bowie to rest on his laurels, or even feel intimidated into mediocrity by the achievements of his younger self. Instead 'hours...' finds him revisiting the past with dignity, style and a hatful of great songs.

Welcome back to The Jean Genius.

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