Saturday, 24 December 2016

Bowie 2014-2016

And so, we come to my final Bowie blog of 2016.

Since “The Next Day”, both Bowie’s current label (Iso) and his former paymasters at EMI (now buried under the Parlophone imprint) have been tossing out material at such a rate, you have to wonder how much of this seems like cash in material. But by all accounts, a lot of the stuff that has come out in recent years had to get the nod by the man himself before it was issued/reissued, although this hasn’t stopped critics griping about the content of this material. This year’s new boxset, “Who Can I Be Now?” is a nice thing to own, but is mostly full of material most of us already have. It’s timing, surfacing at the same time as a gargantuan Pink Floyd boxset which included mostly material that nobody owned, officially, saw Bowie’s team come in for some stick.

But, it seems as though we are in the middle of some sort of revamping of the back catalogue, so we shall see what 2017 brings. Until then, here’s what’s been happening since my last Bowie blog on the “new stuff” back on 2014.

Blackstar and Lazarus

Routinely now being referred to by an actual black coloured star shape in the press, I don’t have such a symbol on my keyboard, so I shall refer to Bowie’s last studio album as “Blackstar”. You don’t need me to tell you about the fact that it was released only days before his passing in January, or the lyrical references and symbolism that pointed towards the issue of mortality. This album, unlike any Bowie album in years, has been subsequently analysed and obsessed over unlike any other.

An album heavily influenced by Bowie’s life long love of jazz, Blackstar later drew parallels in one magazine article with “Station To Station”, which had been recorded 40 years earlier. Both had a running time of about 40 minutes, both featured a relatively small number of songs, and both opened with a lengthy, multi part title track. “Blackstar” was a seven track LP, although only five of the songs were ‘new’, as two were re-recordings of material Bowie had first released in connection with the “Nothing Has Changed” best of (more later). Whilst it might have seemed that this was the sign of a man who simply didn’t have the energy to produce anything more, this was seemingly not the case, as those close to him have stated that not only were there outtakes from the sessions, but that Bowie had even started work on material for another new LP.

Let’s get the hyper expensive clear vinyl edition out of the way first. 5000 of these were pressed in a special die cut sleeve, which were sold with Bowie lithographs and available from his official site only. Worried that my postman might leave it in my recycling bin, and that it could end up with the binman a day later, I opted against this one - which, of course, now sells for a fortune - and opted for the black vinyl edition (Iso 88875 173871). These were nowhere near as limited, but soon sold out after his death, resulting in a second batch being made available. There seems, nowadays, to be a fascination with first and second Bowie pressings, a la The Beatles, and so you will find that the first pressings (with a 2015 copyright date) sell for more than the second pressings (2016 copyright date). To avoid being damaged, the vinyl itself is housed in a clear inner sleeve, and copies came with a lyric booklet. For the full monty, there should also be a card inside with the download code on, and the sticker on the front of the sleeve should be intact.

The CD edition was housed in a totally different sleeve (Iso 88875 173862), a white cover with a black coloured star shape filling up the front. The track listing is the same as the vinyl edition. Unlike the first and second editions of the vinyl, the CD version was not initially limited to a certain number of copies, and the versions on sale in your local record shop are essentially later repressings of the original release. There is no difference between a copy bought in January 2016 and one bought now - it’s only the vinyl edition that sold out, and required a second batch of altered pressings. It’s worth noting that copies of the CD were originally shrinkwrapped, and also came with a sticker on the front detailing the artist’s name and album title, but it’s possible that once second hand copies start to surface, the stickers may well have been discarded along with the shrinkwrap.

October saw the release of “Lazarus”, a cast recording of a Bowie written play that takes it’s title from one of the key tracks on “Blackstar”. Bowie obsessives will undoubtedly be fascinated by the album, given that it consists purely of Bowie songs, but the main interest for me has to simply be the three new Bowie tracks that appear on the set, sung by the man himself. Aside from some fancy vinyl releases aimed squarely at the bearded hipster crowd, the set was also issued as a 2-CD set (Iso 88985 374912), the second CD being a sort of EP style job, consisting of four Bowie recordings - “Lazarus” and the three new songs. Bowie also pops up on CD1, as a strange 30 second edit of “Sound And Vision” is included mid way through proceedings.

Nothing Has Changed and Legacy

With “The Next Day” having put Bowie firmly back into the public eye, Parlophone issued a new career spanning best of that was designed to celebrate Bowie’s 50 year long recording career in 2014. “Nothing Has Changed” was a very high profile release, being hyped up long before anybody even knew what it would look like, or exactly what it was.

When it appeared, it appeared in three distinct editions in the UK, each of which featured a different photo of Bowie looking in a mirror on it‘s cover, each photo taken from a different part of his career. The vinyl edition featured an early 70s image, the 2-CD set one came from the mid 70s, and the 3-CD one a far more recent contemporary image.

The 3-CD set (Parlophone 82564 6205769) was notable for featuring material from Bowie’s entire career, all the way back to 1964, the first time any Bowie set had featured such a wide ranging batch of material. This edition of the album was an essential buy, as it included various unreleased tracks and a barrage of single mixes. Highlights had to be the inclusion of several tracks from the abandoned “Toy” album, “Your Turn To Drive” and a re-recording of “Let Me Sleep Beside You”. Although Tin Machine material was absent, tracks from Bowie’s earlier bands were included, including tracks from the time he was the leader in The Lower Third.

The set ran backwards, starting with a new song recorded for the set, “Sue”, a gargantuan jazzy strut that sounds like the theme tune for a 70s cop show (which might explain the “Or In A Season Of Crime“ subtitle - or not), and closing with Bowie’s 1964 debut 45, the Davie Jones And The King Bees’ “Liza Jane”. This isn’t the first time a greatest hits set has run backwards (see the Genesis “Platinum Collection” release) and I can only think this was done to sort of build up to a climax of the big RCA era stuff at the end. But I am not sure it completely works, because once you’ve had “Life On Mars”, and then “Space Oddity”, it obviously keeps going back to that early stuff, stuff that sometimes even Bowie was a bit embarrassed by in later years.

The 2-CD set (Parlophone 82564 6205745) is probably a more sensible listening experience, running as it does in chronological order, starting with “Space Oddity”, and climaxing with “Sue”. Given that, in my opinion, Bowie was routinely at the peak of his powers in the 90s and 00s, this one works a lot better, as the ending quartet of “New Killer Star”, “Love Is Lost”, “Where Are We Now” and “Sue” pack a real punch. It is also noticeable for completely ignoring anything from 1987’s “Never Let Me Down”.

If it has any flaws, it is the sense that it maybe moves too quickly. Remember, we were getting career spanning double-CD Bowie best of sets as far back as 1993, so to try and use the same format for another one 21 years down the line, obviously means something somewhere is going to fail to make the cut this time. So there’s no “Diamond Dogs” or “Be My Wife” on this one. “Fashion”, bizarrely, appears in a newly edited mix, an attempt apparently to try and ’re-create’ the original 7” mix, but which fails abysmally, and sounds quite horrific. This mix also appeared on the 3-CD set.

The vinyl edition (Parlophone DBLP 6414) is a bit of an odd release, as by being restricted to two slabs of vinyl, it was always going to have to be very selective. It opts for an, at first, random looking track listing, but which seems to have some vague thought process behind it. So, side 1 runs backwards from “Let’s Dance” to “Life On Mars?”, side 2 opens with “Space Oddity” (Bowie, when he used to play this in the 70s, always dropped it in midway through the show) and is then followed by three tracks of glam before concluding with “Rebel Rebel” (which was also the closing halfway point on “Diamond Dogs”). Side 3 runs forwards from “Golden Years” to “Sue”, and side 4 cherry picks from the 80s, 90s and beyond.

It wasn’t designed as such, but “Nothing Has Changed” has ended up as an overview of Bowie’s entire career in a way, as “Sue” was later re-recorded for “Blackstar”, meaning the 3-CD version has both Bowie’s first single, and a track from his last album. “Sue” was issued as a 10” single to help promote the set, featuring both the radio edit and the album mix along with another new song (and another one later taped for “Blackstar”) called “’Tis A Pity She Was A Whore” (Parlophone 10 RDB 2014).

Bowie’s death did obviously make the record company think that a revised best of, taking in “Blackstar” material, would make sense and although it does have a feel of ’cash in’ about it, this year’s “Legacy” compilation makes a certain amount of sense. Issued on a single disc and also as a ’deluxe’ double CD set (Parlophone DB 69162), this is simply a revamped version of “Nothing Has Changed” - even the vinyl edition being planned for early 2017 replicates the ’random’ track listing of the 2014 LP.

It came in for some stick by online reviewers - including moaning about the packaging (although the booklet in which different Bowie album covers are spliced together to create alternative Bowie images is quite clever), and moaning about the track listing (“Dancing In The Street” is on here) but if you think of it a bit like the reissue Warners did of the first Madonna album, where it appeared two years after the original with a new title and new artwork, and was pitched specifically at new converts, then the existence of “Legacy” - and it’s choice of track listing - makes complete sense.

The main differences are that in order to cover “Blackstar”, a couple of newer songs from “NHC” have been removed, including “Sue”. Instead you get the ’never released in physical form’ radio edits of “Lazarus” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away”, the final song on “Blackstar” and the final song on “Legacy”. I quite like this idea, but again, you had the social media crowd banging on about “who cares about radio edits” - well, some of us do, and I was quite excited to add these to the collection.

More pointless though is the new mix of “Life On Mars” - in which the original version is turned into a more orchestral sounding affair by removing the drums and guitar parts. It does make it sound like a big, grand, sort of West End musical number by doing this, which I think was the idea, but there can be nobody who genuinely thinks this makes it better than the original. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Now. There is a part of me that isn’t even sure if this reissue is worth mentioning. Bowie’s 1976 best of collection, which for some reason, was reissued in 2016. But, officially, the album had been deleted from the Bowie catalogue some time ago, so this was not really a repressing of an existing album, the way vinyl albums used to get repressed back in the 70s and 80s, but a full blown, heavily hyped reissue of one of Bowie’s earliest hits sets. The question is - why?

And the answer is - I have no idea. It could be part of a new campaign to put back into the shops what might be considered important parts of the back catalogue, to tie in with the issuing of Bowie’s boxsets. The reissue came roughly midway between the release of the “Five Years” boxset, covering the 69-73 years, and “Who Can I Be Now?”, which covered 74-76. Or it could simply be that the decision was taken to issue it for no other reason than it is 40 years old. Thing is, where do you draw the line?

Don’t get me wrong, “ChangesOneBowie” is a crucial part of the Bowie story. Originally issued by RCA, who by that point had the rights to everything from “Space Oddity” onwards, it was therefore a mostly career spanning LP at the time of it’s release, containing Bowie’s big singles and a few key album tracks, along with the release of “John I’m Only Dancing” on an album for the first time.

It continued to make sense after the release of “ChangesTwoBowie”, the 1981 follow-up which brought the story up to date by including the likes of “Ashes To Ashes”, but did make the odd decision to include older material that could have been on the first LP but wasn’t (“Aladdin Sane”) in preference to newer, seemingly essential songs (there was no “Heroes”). But given that Bowie jumped ship soon after to EMI America, between them, they give you a decent overview of Bowie’s musical journey from 1969 to 1980, later seen by many as the key years.

1990’s “ChangesBowie” was essentially the officially revamped version of the album(s) after they got deleted in the 80s. Issued as part of Bowie’s retro-tinged “Sound + Vision” campaign, it used the same image on it’s front as “ChangesOneBowie” had done, but this time formed part of a collage full of other Bowie images from the years. The album featured a sizeable chunk of material from the first album, opened with “Space Oddity”, and used the same ‘block’ lettering typography that the originals had done (following on from the use of that style on “Station To Station”) but the compilation was rejigged to include a wider variety of material from the later years, including tracks from the EMI America period. Last time I looked, you could still pick this compilation up online.

Now, given that “Nothing Has Changed” was obviously designed as a definitive, career spanning best of, you have to ask why Parlophone are doing this. It seems to be nothing more than a slightly pointless cash in release. It was issued on vinyl and CD, with some of the vinyl copies pressed on clear vinyl, but with no indication as to whether or not, if you bought a new shrinkwrapped copy, what colour the vinyl would be (done to keep with the spirit of the original version, where the first pressings famously included the wrong version of “John I’m Only Dancing” by accident).

So, apart from it being 40 years, is this release simply being pitched at the newcomers? The people whose interest got reignited after “Blackstar”? Just another attempt, for the LP versions at least, to keep up with the often enjoyable, but sometimes baffling, vinyl revolution? Not sure. I am sure though, if you are desperate for a “ChangesOneBowie”, you would be able to find an original version, or a late 70s/early 80s reissue for not too much, although being able to click a few buttons on Amazon is obviously a bit easier. But if every hits collection that has been deleted over the years starts to get reissued, it would seem to me like overkill. Wherever these sets have included something unique or interesting, the original approach was to simply put said track on a newer release (so it was that “John I’m Only Dancing” made it onto “ChangesBowie”). Still, if you fancy a copy, I feel obliged to mention the catalogue number of the vinyl editions (Parlophone COBLP 2016).

The 40th Anniversary Reissues Continued

We left off last time by mentioning the then forthcoming release of the 40th anniversary version of “Knock On Wood”, which was breaking the tradition of the previous picture disc reissues by including a different song on the flipside, as opposed to using an “alternate” version of the A-side. “Knock On Wood” was thus issued as a AA-side release with “Rock N Roll With Me”.

From this point onwards, each of these reissues were to be issued by Parlophone as AA’s, meaning that a number of songs would, theoretically at least, be issued as a single for the first time ever in Bowie’s career, even though the stickers on the front of the sleeves would only make a point of plugging the ‘official’ A-side.

So, the follow up to “Knock On Wood” was 2015’s “Young Americans” (Parlophone DBYA 40), which appeared here in it’s ’2007 Tony Visconti Single Edit’ version. On the flipside was the alternate ’With Strings’ version of “It’s Gonna Be Me”, previously only available on the 2007 expanded edition of “Young Americans”. Because the track is quite long, the B-side has to play at 33rpm, and this, coupled with the poorer sound quality you get on picture discs, means that the sound - to these ears - is fairly awful, once again putting question marks over the quality control aspect of some of these new vinyl releases. It’s all very well bleating on about the “warm sound” of vinyl, but you will only get that sound by pressing the thing properly in the first place. Rant over.

Following a couple of RSD releases (more later), the next one in the series was “Fame”, which appeared in it’s original 7” edit form. The AA-side was “Right”, which had also appeared on the flipside of the original UK 7”. However, the version this time around was an alternative mix. Confusion reigned at the time as to what was so alternative about it, but as I understand it, the decision was taken to remix a number of tracks from the “Young Americans” album in preparation for it’s 1991 reissue by EMI and Rykodisc. The remix of “Right” that was done saw it mastered at the wrong speed, and the version that thus appears on the picture disc is the 1991 remix, but mastered at the correct speed. You can play spot the difference when you play it (Parlophone DBFAME 40).

I have already mentioned the “Space Oddity”/”Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud” reissue in a blog earlier this year, but just to clarify, this is a strange reissue which commemorates the 1975 RCA Maxi-single release but which uses a track listing more in line with the 1969 Philips original - edited version of the A-side on side 1, acoustic version of “Freecloud” on side 2 (RCA used the standard album version of “Space Oddity“ when they put it out as a 45). Apparently, this picture disc uses a stereo mix of the edit of “Space Oddity” in preference to the mono original, but I’m not sure exactly how different it sounds. Similarly, there are two mixes in existence of “Freecloud”, one with a spoken word intro, and one without. The images are also more in line with the 1969 release than the 1975 one (Parlophone DBSO 40).

The last reissue from 2015 was “Golden Years” (Parlophone DBGOLD 40), which again used the original 7” edit on the A-side. This one was issued as a AA with “Station To Station”, which appeared in it’s single edit form, originally concocted for use on a French 7” in 1976, and later included on the “Single Edits” CD inside the Super Deluxe boxset reissue of the “Station To Station” album. Suffice to say, this was the first time the song had appeared as an A-side in the UK.

Now, this is where it gets a bit baffling. The first 2016 reissue should have been the first of two, if we follow the logic applied by EMI and Parlophone so far. “TVC 15” was originally issued as the follow up to “Golden Years” in April 1976, and thus it’s 40th anniversary coincided with Record Store Day (Parlophone DBTVC 40). So, the 40th anniversary reissue was done as an RSD release, complete with suitably stickered sleeve (and inflated price tag). On the A-side, you get the original edited version. On the AA-side, you get a Bowie track that had actually appeared as a single before, “Wild Is The Wind” (issued to plug “ChangesTwoBowie” in 1981). However, the version here seems to be a new edit of one of the Harry Maslin mixes done for the “STS” boxset in 2010, so completists will have to consider shelling out for a copy.

If the 40th anniversary logic is applied here, then summer 2016 should have seen the release of “Suffragette City”. RCA had issued confusing cash in singles before (see the 1974 release of “Rock N Roll Suicide”) but this one was slightly more acceptable, as it was included on “ChangesOneBowie” and RCA issued the song as an attempt to promote the LP. But as I type this, there has been no reissue for this one. Strange. Especially when you consider the 2016 reissue of the album it was used to plug.

As for the other RSD releases in the period, the picture disc one from 2015 was a reissue of “Changes”, which was never reissued as a 40th anniversary release, as EMI only started doing them from “Starman” onwards. It was issued as a AA with “Eight Line Poem”, appearing here in it’s ‘Gem Promo version’ mix (Parlophone DBRSD 2015). The history behind the latter is that Bowie’s manager in 1971, Tony Defries, was looking to find new record deals for two of his artists - Bowie and Dana Gillespie. So, he arranged for a 500-run set of vinyl albums, pressed by the Gem Record company, which were to be used as a showcase for the two acts. Seven Bowie songs appeared on side 1, and five Gillespie ones on side 2, including her version of “Andy Warhol”. This later became known as the BOWPROMO.

The Bowie tracks were mostly songs that did end up on “Hunky Dory”, albeit all in slightly different forms - “Eight Line Poem” resurfaced with a completely different vocal mix. Two songs didn’t make the cut, “Bombers” and “It Ain’t Easy”. By all accounts, the promo didn’t generate any interest at all, and Defries then produced an early copy of “Hunky Dory” on the Gem label which featured the finished album, which did attract the attention of RCA. Copies also came with a gatefold sleeve which featured a sepia toned version of the actual final “Hunky Dory” front cover, although I understand some copies over the years have surfaced without this sleeve. Suffice to say, the original BOWPROMO release and the Gem version of “Hunky Dory” are auction house collectors editions.

The other RSD release from 2015 was for Scary Monsters album track “Kingdom Come”. This was part of Rhino’s ’Side By Side’ series, where the same song would appear on either side of a 7”, performed by different artists on either side. So this release sees the Tom Verlaine original on one side, and the Bowie cover on the other (Rhino R7-547633). Copies were pressed on white vinyl, and the Bowie side came with a label designed to look like the black and white RCA labels that were in circulation in the early 1980s.

The Boxsets

Issued in late 2015, “Five Years” (Parlophone DBX 1) is the first of a series of boxsets designed to sort of reinvigorate the Bowie back catalogue - or at least, the years from “Space Oddity” onwards. Ever since the deletion of the 1990s Rykodisc reissues, the Bowie catalogue has suffered from a slightly haphazard reissue program. A bonus track free reissue of “Hunky Dory” in 1999 remained the standard version of that album for the following fifteen years, whilst “Ziggy” got reissued not once but (at least) three times.

Whilst the boxset may seem like yet another cash in release - and to some extent, it is - it had Bowie’s blessing, and exists as an attempt to tidy up the back catalogue. Trouble is, this is all going to take some time, and at the same time as “Five Years” was being released, it was possible to buy new Parlophone branded versions of the old 1999 EMI reissues of the latter period albums - the sign of a catalogue nowhere near being tidied up yet.

So what exactly is in this first box? Well, you get reissues of the run of studio albums from “Space Oddity” through to “Pin Ups”. For both the vinyl and CD versions, attempts at recreating the original label designs have been made, but with a stylised “Bowie” logo in place of the original Philips, Mercury or RCA logo. Suffice to say, the bonus tracks from the old Ryko issues are absent. This was a deliberate move, to return the records to their original “state” - each of the studio albums in the set were later issued individually, and thus are now the new standard versions of those LP’s.

You also get - and this is likely to be a regular feature in each box - a bonus alternate album. In this case, it’s a second version of “Ziggy”, using an alternate cover shot (and alternate rear sleeve) and playing the 2003 remix of the album, which had only previously appeared on an SACD version of the album at the time, and later on the DVD included as part of the 2012 LP reissue. Live albums taped during the period are also included, so you get “Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - The Motion Picture Soundtrack” (the version here is a repress of the 2003 reissue), and “Live Santa Monica 72”, the authorised version of the earlier release on Mainman.

The big selling point really is the “Re:Call 1” disc of rarities. This gives a new home to some of the Ryko rarities, but is dealing only with material that had previously appeared on a commercial release at the time (along with the odd possibly-promo-only mix of early, highly obscure US singles, where question marks still remain as to the existence of stock copies). So, you get both sides of the UK “Space Oddity” single, all five rarities from the Mercury 45’s, “Ragazzo Solo”, both sides of the US “All The Madmen” 45, and the Arnold Corns 45.

The second disc deals with rarities from the RCA period, so you get mono single mixes, B-sides and overseas only edits. Repetition is allowed where the variant versions are noticeably different - so you do get both the original and “Sax” versions of “John I’m Only Dancing” - whilst tracks recorded in the period and only issued later on also make the cut, so you get the ’Spiders’ version of “Holy Holy” and “Velvet Goldmine”, taped in 71 but not issued until 74/75 respectively. What you don’t get are minor variations of existing tracks (so no US single versions of “Memory Of A Free Festival” or “Starman”) and, just to clarify one last time, none of the unreleased bonus tracks off the original Ryko reissues. Either Bowie had vetoed these things from ever appearing again, or there is a plan for a rarities boxset in the future.

Everything in the box, with the exception of the bonus “Ziggy” and “Re:Call” have now been made available individually, on both vinyl and CD. Generally, the CD editions were issued in 2015, and the vinyl ones in 2016. As somebody who struggles at times to keep up with this never ending recycling of people’s back catalogues, I would hope that these editions become the standard releases, and that any future reissues are simply repressings of these editions - if not, then the boxset will start to look like another record company exploitation job.

For clarification - the CD reissues from 2015 are in standard jewel cases, with the stylised Bowie logo once again used for the ‘label’ side of the CD. The vinyl reissues are effectively extracted from the boxset - however, these later copies were shrinkwrapped with a barcode attached to the back of the shrinkwrap for sales recording purposes, as the copies within the box were barcode free. Inserts that were included in the original boxset do seem to have survived for the repressings, as my “Aladdin Sane” comes with a reprint of the 1973 fan club application form that was included with the LP back when it was first released. On the form, you are asked to list the name of your school. Amusing, when you consider that this is the album where Bowie sings the line “falls wanking to the floor” on “Time” - I dread to think what was being shouted in the school playgrounds of the time. You will have missed the boat now, but anybody who ordered the box before it was released from Bowie's website, received a free "Pin Ups Radio Show" promo EP, although some CD editions were sold as individual items via Bowie's US website to get rid of the stock.

This year has seen the release of the second box, “Who Can I Be Now?” (Parlophone DBX 2), which runs from 1974 to 1976. So this one goes from “Diamond Dogs” to “Station To Station”, taking in “David Live” along the way. In comparison to the bonus “Ziggy” in the first box, this has two alternate albums in the form of the 2005 remix version of “David Live” (using a sleeve which is simply printed the opposite way) and the 2010 Harry Maslin mix of “Station To Station”, previously done for the super deluxe boxset (it comes in the 1991 colour sleeve version of the LP). You also get, for the first time, a sort of “new” album courtesy of “The Gouster”, an early version of “Young Americans”. The original concept was abandoned whilst Visconti was mixing the record, so the sleeve that is used simply seems to be a photo from the period, as opposed to it being any original proof sleeve.

The “Live Nassau Coliseum 76” album, previously only ever included in the deluxe versions of the 2010 reissue of “STS”, is also in here, along with an album of rarities, “Re:Call 2”. Bowie simply wasn’t as prolific as regards singles during this time, and mono mixes had ceased to be made, so this time around, it’s just a single disc. Again, a mix of UK, overseas and US single edits, the odd B-side (the live “Panic In Detroit”) and the 7” edit of “John I’m Only Dancing (Again)”. The full length version is on “The Gouster”, as is “Who Can I Be Now” and “It’s Gonna Be Me”, meaning that these one time Ryko bonus tracks are now officially part of the “standard” Bowie catalogue, I guess.

I have the CD version of this box, and so can confirm that the CD’s are designed like vinyl style pressings - gatefold sleeves, inner bags, and rear covers that show no barcodes. Tucked inside the “Station To Station” disc is a reprint of a mid 70s poster plugging the back catalogue, but I understand the vinyl box includes more inserts, including another fan club application form from the post-”David Live” period. Whilst the single disc “Re:Call” disc obviously seems a bit low key compared to the 2 disc one in the first box, especially when you consider that the last five songs are the contents of the “Single Edits” CD from the “Station To Station” deluxe box, it does at least do it’s job - and is worth listening to for the bizarre edits of “Diamond Dogs” (from Australia) and “Rock N Roll With Me” (from the USA), both of which just fade out halfway through proceedings. Yes I know, there is no “K-Tel” edit of “Diamond Dogs” in this set, but you can’t have everything.

You know, at the end of the day, it’s Bowie. And as pointless as this boxset may at times be, it has taken pride of place on my shelf. Let's not forget, the three studio records in this set are three of the best albums ever made. We shall have to wait and see what the next boxset produces, and how Parlophone are going to approach the missing rarities from the Ryko days - and whether or not they bother with the “Let’s Dance” to “Never Let Me Down” period.

And finally...

There have been some official but "unauthorised" releases in recent times due to ongoing quirky copyright laws. It's debatable as to whether or not you should attempt to bother with these, especially as there seems to have been a flood of these live albums, sometimes duplicating material from other such releases, but being Bowie, I couldn't resist getting what I think are probably the three most interesting.

There have been two releases on the Laser Media label - "Day In Day Out", as mentioned in my Bowie Live blog earlier this year (LM 160) and the untruthfully titled "Space Oddity FM Broadcast 1983", which is actually nineteen tracks lifted from bootlegs of rehearsals held in Dallas before the start of the "Serious Moonlight" tour (LM 700), none of which took place anywhere near a radio station.

Also worth a mention is the "Back In Anger" release on Sonic Boom (SON 0330), a double CD set documenting a show from the 1995 "Outside" tour, a flawed release, but currently the only 'official' full length document of what I consider to be one of Bowie's most important tours. Next year, my next Bowie blog should be a look at Bowie live albums from the post-Tin Machine years.

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