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No musician evolves without risk; fans prefer known quantities over variables and each new frontier comes with the risk of leaving the audience behind. But David Bowie has made a career of defying rock convention so flagrantly and with such finesse that his fans not only forgive him for his constantly changing style, they worship him for it. From the fey folk of his pre-Space Oddity days to the martinet funk of “Fashion” to the bloated hard rock of his Tin Machine era, the only thing constant in Bowie’s career is change. With his vast and diffuse output (three dozen albums and counting), the occasional bit of slag is inevitable, but Bowie can hardly be faulted when there are more than enough nuggets to make panning through his immense catalog worthwhile. At every career turn, Bowie has sustained flashes of brilliance--The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, to name just a couple of examples. Bowie exhibits a Janus-like stage presence, performing with utter candor on songs like “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” and “Quicksand” then disappearing into the plastic soul of Young Americans in the blink of an eye. This mercurial behavior makes Bowie into a living puzzle, one where all the pieces have yet to be revealed.

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