So I see the Bowie barrel is being scraped. Even though the re-release of the “Who Can I Be Now?” box set seems to have the Bowie family/Visconti seal of approval, it does feel like an exercise in redundancy to me. The Bowie website today has just revealed details of the box set which covers the period from “Diamond Dogs” to “Station To Station”. Pretty much all of the material is previously available, either on the Rykodisc reissues in the early nineties or more recent box sets. The other stuff is abridged singles or alternate or instrumental mixes.
I’m going to pass on this one. I’ve got most of the original material on two different formats and the prospect of the occasional slightly different mix isn’t lighting my candle. There really must be more interesting valuable stuff out in the vaults, given the time spent in the studio during this period. My friend Mark has just tipped me the wink to this:
The best I can say is that they’ve edited out “Across The Universe” more by dint of its creation post dating the sessions along with “Fame” (which I blogged about here), a song which took “Young Americans” a notch down from absolute classic version in my opinion. If you treat “Fame” as a one off superstar jam, along the lines of Elton and Lennon’s “Whatever Gets You Through The Night”, then the new running order kind of works.
In the meantime, I’ve created a Spotify mix of the versions of the songs on “The Gouster” LP as they already exist. I know the box set will house subtly different versions. The running order is interesting and gives prominence to the rather excellent original outtakes, namely “Who Can I Be Now” and “It’s Gonna Be Me.” Both have been long recognised as highlights of the period. They sound good in the new setting but then again, they’d sound great anywhere, given their inherent quality.
It stands up as something worthy of listening but given that the previously released vinyl version of the “Five Years” box set is going for £185 on Amazon, I dare say it will be a bit rich for my blood. It reeks of the recent “Led Zeppelin” reissues which featured instrumental mixes which were simply originals denuded of their vocals. I struggle to see the merit in this approach to extending a band or musician’s legacy beyond commercial gain. Of the musicians on a par with Bowie, only Springsteen and Dylan appear to be offering up genuinely interesting outtakes (Stevie Wonder has the material. Apparently there is a “Fulfillingness’s Second Finale” in the can, amongst other gems from his early seventies hot streak).
There has been little to no imagination applied to this grab bag. The original working title of “Young Americans” was “Shilling The Rubes”, a synonym for milking the suckers. This may have been a more honest title for the box set.