Reviews by - Lindsay Planer

David Bowie -- Complete EMI Back Catalogue (EMI)

This superbly conceived and executed reissue series reintroduces David Bowie’s classic studio output onto CD -- beginning with Space Oddity (1969) and concluding with the debut of Tin Machine (1989) some two decades later. Each CD sports mini replicas of the original packaging -- with inserts, pictures, lyrics, et al – fully in tact. The audio is equally impressive, as Bowie oversaw the remastering back in 1999.

The glam precursors Space Oddity (1969), The Man Who Sold The World (1970) and Hunky Dory (1971) explore some remarkably advanced lyrics, while introducing the world to such Bowie classics as “Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud,” “Width Of A Circle,” “The Supermen,” “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Life On Mars,” “Queen Bitch,” and the international hit “Changes”.

Over the years, Bowie has alternately disengaged himself, as well as embraced his Ziggy Stardust alter ego. Yet tellingly, he never abandoned such classic material as “Five Years,” “Moonage Daydream,” “Lady Stardust,” “Hang Onto Yourself,” “Ziggy Stardust,” or “Suffragette City,” from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (1972). Likewise, the Aladdin Sane (1973) tracks “Watch That Man,” “Drive-In Saturday,” “Panic In Detroit,” “Cracked Actor,” “Time” and “The Jean Genie” have remained part of his repertoire. Pinups (1973) was a collection of remakes, including his reinvention of the Mersey’s hit “Sorrow”.

Diamond Dogs (1974) -- complete with banned canine genitalia cover art -- yielded the rocker “Rebel, Rebel,” and the apocalyptic “1984,” while giving Bowie a chance to breakaway from the Spiders from Mars -- whom he had permanently disbanded the previous year. Young Americans (1975) was notable for John Lennon’s contributions to “Fame” -- Bowie’s first Number One -- as well as the remake of The Beatles’ “Across The Universe”.

While not a total dissolution into disco, Station To Station (1976) was home to the four-on-the-floor backbeat of “Golden Years”. It also pointed in the creative direction that Low (1977), "Heroes" (1977) Lodger (1979) and Scary Monsters (1980) would take in the ensuing months. This was a sort of regeneration for Bowie, as his writing became more lucid and personal. Although charting pop hits were few and far between, key cuts from these criminally underrated projects include “Breaking Glass,” “Sound And Vision,” “Be My Wife,” “Heroes,” “Joe The Lion,” “D.J.,” “Look Back In Anger,” the tongue-in-cheek camp classic “Boys Keep Swinging,” “Fashion,” and on “Ashes To Ashes,” Bowie resurrects none other than good ol’ Major Tom from the song “Space Oddity.” 

After a two-year (’81 – ’83) hiatus, Bowie staged an international comeback. Let's Dance (1983) unleashed “Modern Love,” “China Girl,” and his second chart-topper with the albums title track “Let’s Dance”. He quickly returned to the Top Ten with “Blue Jean” from the follow-up Tonight (1984), while “Day-In, Day-Out” and “Never Let Me Down” – both from the long player of the same name -- made it into the Top 30.

Tin Machine (1989) brought Bowie back into the context of a band alongside Reeves Gabrels (lead guitar), Hunt Sales (drums) and Tony Sales (bass/vocals) -- the latter duo being sons of American TV pioneer Soupy Sales. The initial results were strong as the album made it into the Top 20 stateside and all the way to the Top Five in the UK, aided by the singles “Prisoner Of Love,” Under God,” and the frenetic “Tin Machine”.

Overall, this catalogue has never sounded or looked better. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that this collection -- unlike the Rykodisc reissues of the early ‘90s – has no bonus material added. If the idea was to present these immortal recordings as close to their original incarnations as possible – mission accomplished.

Sly and The Family Stone -- The Collection (Epic/Legacy)

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Sly & The Family Stone’s 1967 debut, Epic Records and Sony/Legacy have created this stunning box set containing their seven classic long players. Each reaches back to recreate the best fidelity on Stone’s own vintage mixes, complete with every element of the original release reproduced just as faithfully. Plus, there is a total of 21 never-before-available bonus tracks, page-upon-page of rare and otherwise unpublished photos, and freshly-inked liner notes.

Sylvester Stewart (aka Sly Stone) had already become a San Fran Bay Area disc-jockey and regional record producer when Sly and company -- consisting in part of Sly’s siblings Rose (keyboards/vocals) and Freddy (guitar/vocals) -- began to take their audiences to places that rhythm and blues had never been before.

A Whole New Thing (1967) was indeed an apt moniker, as no one had ever heard anything quite like it. The 12-song LP has been augmented with the single monaural versions of “Underdog” and “Let Me Hear It From You,” as well as the instrumental “You Better Help Yourself”. 

Dance To The Music (1968) was propelled into the public ears by the Top 10 tune of the same name. Now the contents are bolstered by the 45 rpm mono mixes of “Dance To The Music” and the previously “unissued single version” of “Higher”. Plus, the recently un-vaulted side “We Love All,” the instrumental “Never Do Your Woman Wrong” and a cover of Otis Redding’s “I Can’t Turn You Loose”.

Life (1968) contained not only the title track, but also the fan favorites “Fun” and “M’Lady”. The single version of “Dynamite!” as well as the previously unreleased songs “Seven More Days,” “Pressure” and “Sorrow” have been added as bonus tracks. 

Stand! (1969) was without question a breakthrough release with “Everyday People,” “Sing A Simple Song,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “You Can Make It If You Try,” and of course “Stand!” Among the unissued goodies are mono versions of “Stand!,” “I Want To Take You Higher,” “You Can Make It If You Try” as well as the outtakes “Soul Clappin’ II” and “My Brain (Zig-Zag)”.

There’s A Riot Goin’ On (1971) reflected what was happening in Sly & The Family Stone’s audience. “Family Affair,” “Runnin’ Away,” “Luv N’ Haight,” and a trio of unreleased instrumentals help make this musical statement all the more powerful some 35 years later.

Fresh (1973) broke little ground stylistically, but did include a handful of excellent selections, namely “If You Want Me To Stay,” “Babies Makin’ Babies,” and a cover of the ‘50s pop standard “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” Alternate masters of “Frisky,” “Skin I’m In,” “Keep On Dancin’,” “Let Me Have It All” and “Babies Makin’ Babies” are all extras.

Small Talk (1974) returned Sly to a decidedly more peaceful place as reflected in the positive messages of “Say You Will,” Mother Beautiful,” “Livin’ While I’m Livin’” and “This Is Love”. The bonus tracks spotlight early and alternate renderings of the album sides “Time For Livin’,” “Loose Booty,” as well as “Crossword Puzzle,” and an instrumental titled “Positive”.

Good news for parties wishing to purchase the respective albums separately. Keep your eyes peeled as each long player will be sold as a numbered, limited edition … and once they are gone, they are gone for good. 

Lindsay Planer is a freelance journalist and is the weekday on-air producer at WDYT 1220 AM in Charlotte, NC. He's also a contributor to All Music Guide, CrutchfieldAdvisor.com and the Gaston Gazette.
All comments and questions are encouraged and can be sent to <asthediscspins@earthlink.net>.


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