Friday, September 25, 2015

Some actual Bowie news!

What Would David Bowie Do? has never idled for too long on The Dame himself, as that was never its purpose. But today it enjoys no end of pleasure to declare that, being September 25, it is not only [KLAXON!] exactly three months to Christmas Day, or that it is the day that New Order release their hugely anticipated new album Music Complete, but that it is also one of those hens teeth-rare days when there is some actual, proper Bowie news.

I say "some", but don't go off too half-cocked: the day didn't begin, as it did on Bowie's birthday in 2013, with - gasp! - a new single and - gasp again! - a new album forthcoming (although it is believed that there could be plenty more to come in the middle distance).  

No, today's bounty is the release of David Bowie: Five Years - 1969-1973, the first of a series of career-spanning box sets, and which contains the first six original studio albums, including newly remastered versions of David Bowie AKA Space OddityThe Man Who Sold The WorldHunky Dory and Pin Ups, and a remix of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars previously only available as part of that album's 40th anniversary package. On top of that there is Re:Call 1, a two-disc compilation of non-album singles, single versions and B-sides, and two live albums - the brilliant (and once only available as a bootleg) Live Santa Monica '72, along with Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture Soundtrack. 

Enough? No, there's even more: a previously unreleased single edit of All The Madmen that was never issued, as planned, for the US, and Holy Holy, a 1971 single for Mercury that has never been available since. Add to the package a "lavish" (aren't they always?) colour booklet featuring a considered introduction by head Kink, Ray Davies, and notes from long-time producer Tony Visconti. All of this is available in a choice of either a 12-CD package or a 13-disc vinyl set, all pressed in 180g, which could present a transportation challenge to Shoreditch hipsters on their vintage bicycles.



Box sets of this kind are, of course, for prosperous completists and the wealthily curious (the CD package comes in at £98 while the vinyl set runs to an eye-watering £185), but there is enormous merit to such indulgence, as this particular collection charts the formation of the David Bowie character we have come to worship today.

The David Bowie album, with Space Oddity at its outset, presents an artist moving on from anonymous flirtation with R&B and the theatricality of Anthony Newley and Jacques Briel, to grasp the zeitgeist of 1969's new toy, outer space, drafting in the talents of then-Strawb Rick Wakeman, Mick Wayne, Visconti and Herbie Flowers, amongst others to construct this musical world that was neither in the psychedelic camp of the day, or the prog rock and folk rock camps that were to be set up in the subsequent years.

But even that album was just a sharpening of the stick for the incredible run that would follow, starting with The Man Who Sold The World - the dress rehearsal for Ziggy and the Spiders (with Bowie working with Mick Ronson and 'Woody' Woodmansey for the first time) - taking more familiar form with Hunky Dory (an assault of ready classics like Changes, Oh! You Pretty Things, the astonishing Life on Mars, Andy Warhol and Queen Bitch) followed by Ziggy and Aladdin Sane (which met a lukewarm response on release, but still contains giants like Drive-In Saturday, Panic in Detroit and The Jean Genie), and only wobbling slightly with the disappointingly executed covers album, Pin Ups (Sorrow being its only real highlight).

With Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, the 'drug years' and the Berlin trilogy to be chronicled in the next box sets or sets, Five Years, together with all the accessories that accompany the first six albums within it, establishes the artistic enormity and audaciousness of David Bowie's prolific first decade as a serious performer. Even if that art tailed off in the 1980s, the 13-year period from Space Oddity to Let's Dance is one unrivalled by any other musician I can think of. Its first act, chronicled here, can only be - and should be - marvelled at.




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