Monday, 21 November 2016

Classic Albums No. 20: Bowie Rare

In 1982, in an attempt to give their star signing a Christmas Number 1, RCA issued David Bowie’s duet with Bing Crosby as a single. Their performance of “Peace On Earth/Little Drummer Boy” was a surreal event in the first place, thanks to Crosby seemingly being unaware of who Bowie was, and Bowie only agreeing to the duet in an attempt to move his career towards the mainstream - hence his later quote of agreeing to do the show as "I just knew my mother liked him". It would have been a strange choice of single had it come out at the time of recording - 1977 - but to wait five years before releasing it was slightly baffling. Whilst it seemed to be designed to stem the flow of bootlegs that had been issued of the recording, it equally felt like RCA were simply trying to cash in.

Bowie, having recorded albums on a pretty much annual basis in the 70s for the label, had now stopped doing so. Instead, he seemed to be more interested in his acting career, appearing in the “Elephant Man” on Broadway, and filming the likes of “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence”. His big 1981 hit single, the duet with Queen, “Under Pressure”, had been issued on a rival label. 1982’s willfully uncommercial “Baal EP”, his only new product for RCA since the release of 1980’s “Scary Monsters”, only existed because it was a soundtrack to a Bowie starring TV drama.

So it’s safe to assume that the release of the Crosby 45 was an attempt by RCA to try and keep Bowie in the public eye. But by all accounts, the release of the single infuriated Bowie so much, that he expressed a desire to leave the label - and did so. 1983’s “Let’s Dance” was issued on EMI America, and turned him into a superstar.

In the years that followed, RCA continued to cash in. In 1983, twenty of Bowie’s singles were reissued (initially) in picture sleeves as part of the “Lifetimes” series, receiving new catalogue numbers which seemed to suggest they had been originally released in a totally different order. The series also, strangely, neglected to feature key Bowie singles like “Starman”. And then, in 1984, RCA started to issue - randomly again - selected Bowie albums on the super duper new CD format.

Not all the albums that could have been reissued actually were reissued. The 1983 live album of the Ziggy ‘Farewell’ gig didn’t resurface, but relatively recent RCA cash in albums, such as the ‘hits’ set “Fame And Fashion” and the ‘best of the album tracks’ set “Golden Years” did, despite the fact that both of Bowie’s earlier (authorised) compilations, “ChangesOneBowie” and “ChangesTwoBowie” were also being reissued.

What happened next is open to debate, but the most common story is that Bowie, having not given the nod for any of these reissues, saw them as another RCA cash in moment and asked for the CD’s to be withdrawn. Common consensus is that they were whipped off the shelves, which explains their often high price on the collectors market. But a blog written by somebody who was involved in their release (see suggests that the CD’s were only deleted in 1988 when RCA’s rights to releasing Bowie material expired. Other internet sources claim that people were still finding them in selected record stores even later than that, suggesting the CD’s had been deleted as opposed to being withdrawn and returned from the shops. Whichever story you believe, the fact is that by 1990, trying to find a Bowie CD from the RCA years in your local HMV was unlikely to happen.

By now, Bowie himself was going through something of a career rehabilitation period. Tin Machine had reinvigorated him, and in 1990, he announced his ‘farewell to the hits’ tour, “Sound + Vision”. To coincide with this, Bowie inked a deal which would see his “RCA period” albums reissued with bonus tracks (where possible). As RCA had obtained the rights to Bowie’s two post-”Laughing Gnome” albums in 1971, this meant the complete run of studio albums from “Space Oddity” to “Scary Monsters” were the ones getting the nod. The three live albums RCA had released up until 1983 were also included, although Jeff Beck’s refusal to allow his appearance at the final Ziggy gig be used meant there were to be no bonuses on the “Ziggy Stardust The Motion Picture” set. For reasons never fully explained, “Aladdin Sane” would also be missing bonus tracks, its potential bonuses being shoehorned onto other releases. Alongside these were, in the US, an accompanying boxset also called “Sound + Vision”, which doubled up as a sampler set for the reissues as well as including rarities and previously unreleased material. The boxset, and the reissues, were handled by the relatively small Rykodisc label (although they would later gain a reputation as reissue specialists) but the UK releases were to be issued on EMI, who decided against releasing the boxset - Rykodisc copies appeared on import quite freely, although EMI did eventually issue the box in expanded form in 2003.

Whilst I am sure that Bowie experts would be able to pick the choice of bonus tracks to pieces in some cases, I personally thought the “Ryko” reissues (as even the EMI ones get called - we shall refer to them like this for this article) were pretty good. By the time “Ziggy” had come out, the Shergold household had upgraded to CD, so these albums were killing two birds with one stone - not only were they appearing on this shiny new “indestructible” format, but the tagging on of extra tracks felt like you were getting a bit of value for money. OK, so there was later some head scratching about how genuine some of these outtakes were - the reissue of “Heroes” had a track called “Abdulmajid”, which shared it’s title with the surname of Bowie’s new girlfriend, suggesting it was a Berlin era outtake, but one which most likely had undergone some cosmetic enhancements for the reissue. But long lost B-sides were recovered, unreleased material exhumed, and - with the exception of the botched “Aladdin Sane” - this all gave this period of Bowie’s career something of a well deserved moment of recognition.

Perhaps I am being naïve, but given that the CD had been sold to the general public as this unbreakable music format, and these new Bowie CD’s had - usually - included never-before-heard material, I assumed that these were definitive editions. That these were now the standard releases and that if any of them had to be repressed, they would be repressed with their bonus tracks intact. How wrong I was.

What happened next - I am not sure. But by 1999, Rykodisc had been sold and it’s office in Massachusetts had been closed. This seemed to have some impact on some of the artists on it’s roster, and by all accounts, it resulted in the deletion of the Bowie reissues (possibly). Over here in the UK, Bowie - who had been leapfrogging from label to label after leaving EMI America in 1991 - found himself on Virgin in time for the release of the “Hours” album, who by this point, now came under the far bigger umbrella of the EMI corporation. Bowie’s three solo LP’s for EMI America (and “Tin Machine“) were all reissued by Virgin in 1995, with a so-so selection of random A-sides, B-sides and soundtrack contributions as bonus tracks (but nothing unreleased), and then, to more or less coincide with the release of “Hours”, EMI decided to reissue Bowie’s post-”Laughing Gnome” albums once more. EMI/Virgin now had the rights to the entire run of pre-Tin Machine solo records from 69 onwards, and decided to reissue them under the banner of the “David Bowie Remastered” series.

I wasn’t impressed. All of the bonus tracks from the Ryko releases went missing. Yes, these new reissues came with some nice pictures inside, and at least the albums now “ended” the way they should, but the idea of removing tracks like “Bombers” and the Arnold Corns single, and leaving them in a black hole, seemed bizarre to me. There was not even a new rarities set to help re-home them.

In the years that followed, some vague attempts were made at trying to recover these missing rarities. “Alabama Song”, a stand alone Bowie 45 from 1980 that had been on the expanded “Scary Monsters”, turned up again on 2005’s “The Best Of David Bowie 1980/1987”, whilst a number of instrumentals from the expanded “Low” and “Heroes” made it onto 2001’s “All Saints” and 2008’s “iSelect”. There were 30th anniversary reissues of “Ziggy”, “Aladdin Sane” and “Diamond Dogs”, but ultimately, things fell through the gap.

“Young Americans” reappeared in expanded form in 2007, but the version of “It’s Gonna Be Me” this time around was an alternate version. Better was the reissue of “Station To Station”, which turned up in 2010 in deluxe and super deluxe form, and this one ticked all the boxes, as both came with a live album from Bowie’s gig at the Nassau Coliseum in 76, which included within the two live bonus tracks that had been used to close the Ryko reissue. There were other releases as well. But at no point did “Hunky Dory” get any sort of expanded reissue. The result being that not only was one of Bowie’s finest albums seemingly being neglected from getting any special treatment (along with “Low”, of course) but that the missing tracks from it were still missing.

Before his death, Bowie had been working on the content for a series of, what I think could well be, career spanning boxsets. Or at least, post-”Laughing Gnome” ones. The first box, 2015’s “Five Years”, included all of Bowie’s studio albums from the period between 1969 and 1973, along with live albums taped during the period, including some which were not officially released until later on. In that box was a bonus double CD called “Re:Call 1”. It included a chunk of material that had been used as bonuses on the Ryko releases, alongside some more that weren’t. The “unreleased” material however, remained AWOL. One can only assume that either Bowie had vetoed these things from coming out again, or there is a plan for some form of mega rarities boxset in the future.

Now, why am I mentioning all this? Well, this year has seen the release of the follow up box, “Who Can I Be Now?”. This also has included it’s own “Re:Call” set, and covers the years from 1974-1976. Included on this set are a couple of tracks that not only missed being included on the Ryko reissues, but never - in their original form - had managed to appear anywhere else since their sole inclusion on a long deleted 1982 Bowie rarities album. The tracks concerned were the original, un-remixed version of the live “Panic In Detroit” from ‘74 and the 7” edit of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. That album was called “Bowie Rare”.

“Rare” was RCA’s attempt at cashing in on Bowie via the LP charts, alongside the “Peace On Earth” single. Bowie disowned it, and it seems to have received nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders, the Wikipedia article has long dismissed any notion of a CD release as pointless because “much of the content is available on other CD’s”. Not strictly true until the release of the new box set. And certainly, it would have made more sense if RCA has issued this in 1984 or 1985 instead of the gloriously pointless “Golden Years”.

But I like it. Not only does the Dame look quite dapper on the cover (and this coming from a married, heterosexual man), but it really does feel like some thought went into it. It does a pretty good job of hoovering up the RCA B-sides (as Dave never really did that many), and by covering what were, by this point, the “expanded” RCA years (ie. 1969-1980), and running chronologically, it serves as a pretty decent overview of the alternate side of Bowie’s career during what was, unquestionably, the greatest period of his musical output.

I also like the fact that it is a reminder of how rarities records used to be, issued as “normal” LP’s, normally priced. The “Re:Call” discs, remember, are exclusive to those boxsets, meaning that anybody who wants to just fill in those gaps, has to buy a boxset full of records they already own. The sort of people who can afford the boxsets without question, are probably the same group of people who have, or have a desire to have, the original singles upon which these things appeared in the first place, as opposed to just owning the songs (OK, yes, I do have "Who Can I Be Now?", so I'm picking on myself here). As for “Rare”, £15-£20 and it’s yours.

It starts, as all decent Bowie comps should, with “Space Oddity”. As the breakthrough hit, and as the monumental opener on Bowie’s first great LP, it always makes sense to kick start a compilation with it as well. Of course, the version here is a rare one, an Italian language version called “Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola”. You can probably guess that, when translated, it doesn’t come out as “Space Oddity”. It is basically a completely different set of lyrics, sung in Italian, for release on an Italian only 45 from 1970. Given that the music of “Oddity” was designed to fit the lyrics (the liftoff section, for example), it might seem perverse, but there we go. It got a second lease of life on bootlegs, but “Rare” was the first time this version of the song had ever been released in the UK. It has since been made available on the 2009 expanded version of the “David Bowie”/”Space Oddity” album, and the “Re:Call” disc in “Five Years”.

We then get three songs which, subject to some uncertainty, were all taped during the “Ziggy” sessions, and then released over the next few years. First up is “Round And Round” AKA “Around And Around”, written by Chuck Berry. This was very close to making the “Ziggy” LP but after concerns that the album had too many covers, this was binned in favour of ”Starman“, which had originally been envisaged as a stand alone 45. It turned up on the flipside of 1973’s “Drive In Saturday” single. It was included on the “Sound + Vision” boxset, but the version now available on the 2003 (and 2014) versions contain a different vocal take. The 30th anniversary edition of “Ziggy Stardust” includes the original mix, as does “Re:Call 1“.

“Amsterdam” AKA “Port Of Amsterdam”, was rumoured to have been recorded during both the “Ziggy” and “Pin Ups” sessions. It did, of course, only surface at the time of the “Pin Ups” LP, as it was included on the flipside of “Sorrow”, the sole 45 lifted from that LP. It was originally included as a bonus on the Ryko “Pin Ups”, which makes sense (it was remixed for that release BTW), but was later shoehorned on to the 30th anniversary “Ziggy” suggesting a confirmation of the recording date as 1971, as opposed to 1973. According to the excellent Bowie Singles website, second and third versions of “Amsterdam” exist, both slightly truncated versions that appeared on late 70s and early 80s reissues of the 1974 “Rebel Rebel” EP released in Australia. It gets more confusing as the equally excellent “Pushing Ahead Of The Dame“ blog states that the mix on “Rare“ is a totally different take from that on the original single - as I've never played any of my different copies of the "Sorrow" 45, I can't say. “Re:Call 1” includes this song, but god knows which mix it is.

We then have “Holy Holy”, originally one of three flop 45’s Bowie issued on Mercury Records in 1970/71. Bowie didn’t care a great deal for the single version, giving him an excuse to tape a new version during the “Ziggy” sessions. Again, it got shelved, before surfacing in 1974 on the “Diamond Dogs” 45. It was originally included on the Ryko “The Man Who Sold The World”, thereby relating to the release date of the original single and not the re-recording, but again, was later “correctly” re-positioned when it turned up on the 30th anniversary “Ziggy”. Both the Mercury version and the remake are now on “Re:Call 1”.

If you get hold of a cassette version of “Rare”, then it most likely won’t tell you why the tracks included have been included (mine doesn‘t). So, on the face of it, “Panic In Detroit” is an album track. But it is, of course, the live version taped at the same time as “David Live” and issued on the B-side of 1974’s “Knock On Wood” single. Strangely, this recording was omitted from both the Ryko version of “David Live” when it was reissued in expanded form, and also the “Sound + Vision” boxset. It was included in remixed form on “David Live” when that was reissued once more in 2005, but until recently, “Rare” was the only place you could get the original mix, other than on 45. Not sure exactly how different the two mixes are, I can't spot much between them, but it’s worth noting that the original version has been included on the “Re:Call 2” disc in “Who Can I Be Now?”, which also includes the remix courtesy of the inclusion of the 2005 reissue of “David Live” as well. So you can compare and contrast and see if your hearing is better than mine.

It was never made very obvious, but a lot of Bowie’s RCA singles were subject to remixing or editing in both the UK and the US - and beyond. Sometimes, you really had to listen on headphones to hear them (the UK 7” mix of “Jean Genie” does simply sound more ‘mono’ when you listen closely) but several of the US edits were quite drastic. “Young Americans” was not edited for it’s commercial UK release, but there was obviously a view in both the States and regards UK radio that, at five minutes in length, it was too long for broadcast. A shorter mix was created, and as well as being issued on promo copies, was also used for the commercial release of the single in the USA. It is truly horrific, jumping from the “or even yesterday” line to the section near the end where Bowie is singing “you ain’t a pimp” in a higher register, resulting in something hopelessly disjointed. It was obviously included on “Rare” because it is so extreme, it’s an obvious “single mix” whereas, say, the UK “Starman” 7” mix isn’t, but in terms of aesthetics, it would have been better to have had the glorious original US Single Mix of “Rebel Rebel”, with it’s freaky spaced out intro (later copies of the single ended up using the UK mix, so it really was a rarity, even in the USA). Not only does it sound different, but it’s a perfectly decent alternate mix, so this is where “Rare” possibly goes a bit off course.

So, we are now onto side 2. And probably one of the most famous Bowie flipsides. “Velvet Goldmine” was another Ziggy outtake, but took until 1975 to surface. It appeared on the 3 track “Space Oddity” maxi-single that was issued by RCA as a bit of a cash in event, with Bowie reportedly unhappy at the track’s release, commenting that the final mix was created without his knowledge. Nevertheless, once it was out of the traps, it became unstoppable. Get any expanded version of “Ziggy” and you’ll get it. It turned up on the slightly confusing “The Best Of David Bowie 1969/1974”, and even provided inspiration for a film of the same name. I think I even have it on some music magazine freebie CD as well. But back in 1982, it obviously wasn’t quite as commonplace, although the “Space Oddity” single had been reissued as a picture disc that year (as had “Sorrow” and “Drive In Saturday”).

Whilst the entire world and his wife know “Heroes”, what may not be so obvious is just how many different versions of it were created in and around it’s original release. A six minute long epic recorded for the album of the same name in 1977, it was issued in heavily edited form as the lead single from the LP that September. Bowie also decided to record French and German language versions, which involved him singing translated lyrics over the backing of the single edit. These appeared as singles in their respective countries under the titles of “Heros” and “Helden”, although the original English language version was also issued as a single in both those territories as well, with different sleeve designs and different catalogue numbers. The relative rarity of these items saw them included on a bootleg called “Slaughter In The Air”, an otherwise live document of a Bowie gig in LA from April 1978.

There also exists overseas a 12 inch single which includes longer versions of both these re-recordings, which dates from 1981. These versions are actually a hybrid of the re-recorded foreign language versions, extended to the same length as the LP version by gluing it to a section of the original song sung in English. So for these mixes, they had to be retitled to acknowledge their dual language vocals, and so the French one was cumbersomely listed as “Heroes / Heros” and the German one “Heroes / Helden”.

This full length version of “Helden” was originally included on the original German edition of the “Heroes” LP instead of the English mix. This was obviously done to acknowledge the Berlin background of the album. It got another lease of life when it was included on the 1981 compilation/soundtrack album “Christiane F”, a set of mostly Berlin-era songs which deliberately went down the rarities route by including a few choice oddities from the past - the “Heroes / Helden” track being one of them. The soundtrack was never officially released in the UK, so the first time the song appeared in the UK was on “Rare”. The soundtrack was officially released on CD in the UK in 2001 in a new Bowie sleeve. The story of “Helden” doesn’t quite end there, as the original German single mix was remixed in 1989 for the “Sound + Vision” boxset.

Another song with a long history is “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”, included at this point in the compilation to relate to it’s original 1979 release, but which actually dates from five years earlier. The original “John” was a post-Ziggy 1972 stand alone single release, the lyrical subject of which has been endlessly debated (it may be John as in John Lennon, or an earlier John, John Hutchinson, that Bowie irritated in his youth by temporarily nicking his girlfriend). After it’s release, Bowie - a man notorious for re-recording songs for potential new albums - decided to record “John” again, this time with a more noticeable saxophone section in the choruses, now known the world over as the “Sax” version. The plan had been to include it on the forthcoming “Aladdin Sane” LP as the album closer, but Bowie decided against it, and instead arranged for later pressings of the “John” 45 to use this mix instead of the ‘Ziggy-esque’ original. There was no obvious way to tell which version was which, although the excellent Bowie Singles website seems to suggest that the label designs for the Sax version are unique. If not, the matrix numbers are the indicator. Both tracks have surfaced on various releases over the years, with the original appearing on the 30th anniversary “Ziggy”, and the Sax mix on the 30th anniversary “Aladdin Sane”.

By 1974, Bowie was itching once more to try and get the song on a regular album. And so, during a break in the “Diamond Dogs” US tour schedule, he didn’t just re-record the song but completely re-wrote it, revamping it into a seven minute long funk workout, Bowie by this point going through an obsessive R&B fascination. The verses were more or less discarded, with just the basic song structure and choruses remaining intact. The “new” track was debuted on later dates of the tour, and it was planned to be included on Bowie’s next LP.

That album, we now know, had the working title of “The Gouster”, and the re-recorded “John” was planned to open the album. Master tapes exist which show that it was planned to be a seven track album, closing with “Young Americans” and “Right”. But after Bowie had collaborated with John Lennon in early 75 on a cover of “Across The Universe” and recorded a new song called “Fame” with help from guitarist Carlos Alomar, the project took a sharp turn. The original album was abandoned, and in it’s place came a 'funkier' album called “Young Americans”, which took four of the songs from “The Gouster”, most in rejigged form, added the Lennon tracks, added two more - and “John”, once more, got left on the shelf.

In 1979, presumably to cash in on the disco boom, RCA issued the revamped version as a single, under the title of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. On the b-side was a slightly remixed version of the original 1972 version, known as “John I’m Only Dancing (1972)”, which was even issued as an a-side at the time in selected overseas territories. The track, due to it’s length, was issued on a 12” single. But the idea of not issuing a Bowie 45 on the 7” format at the time would have been folly, so a heavily edited version of the remake was issued on the 7” edition. It’s not a great mix, as the joyous bounce of the original is lost, as the track fades out just as it starts to get going, but it exists. It was this edited mix that was included on “Rare”, the first time it had appeared on a Bowie LP. And until recently, the only.

When the Ryko reissue campaign got to “Young Americans” in 1991, the full length version of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)” was tagged on as a bonus track, alongside two more tracks from the abandoned “Gouster” project (“It’s Gonna Be Me” and “Who Can I Be Now”). The short mix remained AWOL, as “Rare” had long been deleted by this point. The remake turned up again on 1998’s “The Best Of David Bowie 1974/1979”, and again, in it’s full length 12-inch form. And when “Young Americans” was reissued in 2007, with restored mixes of several songs that had been ’altered’ for the 91 pressing, “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)” was once again added as a bonus track - and once again, appeared in it’s unedited form.

The short version has only now made it’s debut on CD, by appearing on the “Re:Call” Disc in the new “Who Can I Be Now?” boxset, and thus finally makes - 34 years after it’s release - “Rare” a now nice, rather than essential, Bowie release. Then again, with the boxset selling for just shy of a ton on CD (and much more on vinyl), anybody desperate to hear this (slightly butchered) single mix may find this LP is a cheaper alternate. Either that, or just try and hunt down the original 7” from 79.

We now come to the final two songs, both of which should be available on something you can buy on Amazon, but which will also surely appear on the next box set (or if not, the one after). Both songs are also two of the more ‘out there’ single releases from Bowie. First up is “Alabama Song”, listed on “Rare” as “Moon Of Alabama” and also known as “Whiskey Bar”. Written by Bertol Brecht and Kurt Weill, Bowie was a fan of Brecht (“Baal” was a Brecht play) and played it during his 1978 tour. Bowie was so taken by the song he decided to then record a studio version of the song, and released it in early 1980.

It’s certainly one of the more oddball of Bowie’s 45’s, complete with a chorus which sees Bowie singing at one pace, and his band starting off at another, resulting in them having to speed up to catch up with him. Whilst some of Bowie’s other single edits and stand alone 45’s had been compiled onto “ChangesOneBowie” and “ChangesTwoBowie”, “Alabama Song” was not, and so was included on “Rare” to give it a (temporary) home. It appeared on the Ryko version of “Scary Monsters” and the excellent 1993 set “The Singles Collection”, before getting it’s latest outing on the “1980/1987” CD+DVD set.

“Crystal Japan”, according to some sources, was recorded specifically for use in a Bowie-starring Japanese TV commercial - although Bowie said that even though it was used in the advert, it had originally been recorded for the “Scary Monsters” album. It was an instrumental, an oriental sounding piece of ambient music, that certainly would have made more sense as an LP closer than it did as an attempt at trying to crash into the Japanese singles chart. It was issued as a 45 exclusively in Japan in 1980, backed with “Alabama Song”.

It got a belated UK release the following year, when it was issued on the flipside of “Up The Hill Backwards”, reportedly due to stories of fans paying OTT amounts of money for the original single. “Up” was the fourth and final single from “Scary Monsters”, and whereas all the others had featured album tracks on the B-sides, this was the first to feature a ‘new’ B-side. Trouble was, with the album getting a bit old by this time, the desirability for singles from the record by this point was decreasing, and the single stalled outside the top 30 - “Ashes To Ashes” of course had been a chart topper. “Crystal Japan” was later added to the Ryko “Scary Monsters” reissue, and then included on the 2001 instrumentals collection “All Saints”.

So what was missing? Well, a single slab of vinyl was going to have to be selective, so your best bet is to look at what is on the “Re:Call” discs to see exactly what was issued outside of Bowie’s standard albums. As for the obvious ones? Well, I guess the acoustic “Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” could have been in with a shout, but maybe there were complications over the fact that it was a Philips B-side, and may not have been part of the RCA buy-out deal? The five rarities from the Mercury 45’s would have been a crowd pleaser - instead, it was left to the bootleggers to sort those out. Ditto the Arnold Corns 45. The “Sax” mix of “John” might have been a nice inclusion, as until the release of the “Sound + Vision” box, it was a bit of a pain to find, but given that “Rare” seemed to be a companion release to the two “Changes” sets, perhaps there was a view that including too many ’versions’ of the same song across these releases might have seemed excessive. The avoidance of repetition also meant that the 1979 remake of “Space Oddity” couldn’t be included, and is currently AWOL due to the deletion of the Ryko “Scary Monsters” upon which it later appeared. The next boxset should sort that problem.

Otherwise, “Rare” does the best it can within the confines of a single LP. It may well have incurred the wrath of Bowie, and it’s usefulness will probably be diminished once the next box (or boxes) appear with “Crystal Japan” and “Alabama Song”. But even then, it is still an interesting album, and one which shows that Bowie was not averse to tossing away perfectly decent songs as B-sides. I would sooner have had “Holy Holy” on “Ziggy” than “It Ain’t Easy”, for example. Remember, an album of Bowie B-sides is still going to be better than an album of Paul Young a-sides. Apologies if you happen to like him, but a fact is a fact. Next month, we shall look at Bowie’s “new” product from the last two years, and will see exactly how the “Re:Call” sets are finally filling in most of the gaps that this album started to attempt to do.


Rare (LP, RCA PL 45406, with inner sleeve)
Rare (Cassette, RCA PK 45406, pressed in numerous countries with front cover artwork variations on each)

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