David Bowie

A New Career in a New Town

Parlophone

Jan 03, 2018 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


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Following several other posthumously released box sets (most notably, Who Can I Be Now?, which covers the period between 1974 and 1976), this comprehensive, 11-disc set covers his greatest era, namely the one between 1977 and 1982. Starting with the first of three albums made partly or totally in Berlin and with collaborators like (famously) Brian Eno or (less so) producer Tony Visconti and guitarist Robert Fripp of King Crimson (he's the one playing the iconic solo in "Heroes"), this is Bowie at the very peak of his powers. Low is the absolute peak of his powers, a tour de force featuring one side of mostly "rock" songs with vocals (albeit experimental ones influenced by his love of Krautrock) and an even more challenging instrumental side B. Once described as an album of healing made after the cocaine psychosis of the Station to Station recording in Los Angeles, the whole feel is that of a creative rebirth as well as an apex. Its more well-known and arguably even more experimental follow-up, Heroes, follows. What differentiates this box from the straight-up "reissue, repackage" technique favored by many of these kinds of sets is that Lodger, the third and last of the "Berlin" albums, is presented here in an entirely new 2017 mix by Tony Visconti himself. Fans have long complained that the original version is thin-sounding and so this is the response. Equipped with louder bass, cleaner-sounding and quieter, it's a nice variation on an old favorite, albeit one perhaps underrated given the tremendous albums it's surrounded by. By putting Lodger into focus, it gives it the attention it has always deserved. Plus, a remaster of the original mix is included on its own disc and it sounds great.

In addition, there are two different double-disc versions of the 1978 live album Stage. While this fan has no qualms about the sequencing of the original album, other fans have long complained and again, the new 2017 version is that response. On the new version, disc 1 is comprised mostly of then newer material from 1977 on whereas on the original, disc 1 (originally sides 1 and 2 on the original vinyl release) consisted of then more well-known material from the Ziggy Stardust and Station to Station eras, presumably to satiate fans who wanted more hits along the lines of "Golden Years" to ease into the more experimental material he was recording then. Concluding with 1980's masterful Scary Monsters, there is also an additional disc consisting of single versions, alternate mixes, B-sides, and non-album singles. Some of these (like his cover of "Alabama Song" and the 1980 re-recording of "Space Oddity") were bonus tracks on the Rykodisc CD reissues of the early '90s, but haven't been issued since, so it's nice to hear them again. It even includes his contributions to Bertolt Brecht's Baal and his infamously awkward duet with Bing Crosby on the seasonal tune "The Little Drummer Boy." (www.davidbowie.com)  

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