Thursday, 6 October 2016

"Who Can I Be Now? [1974-1976]" by DAVID BOWIE [feat John Lennon, Luther Vandross, Roy Bittan (of The E-Street Band), Tony Kaye and David Sanborn] (September 2016 Parlophone 12CD Box Set – Ray Staff , Tony Visconti, John Webber and Cicely Balston Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...



"...Wild Is The Wind..."

Back when I pre-ordered this 2nd Bowie Box Set covering 1974 to 1976 - I looked at the track list and thought - where's my ton's worth? There seemed to be a lot of filler and unnecessary duplication for a hundred quid - and with his incredibly sad and untimely passing – the taking of the monetary Michael.

But having living with 'DBX 2' a week or so now - I'm way more impressed that I thought I'd be. And not just with the beautiful presentation and the spiffing new Ray Staff remasters - but with the 'content' which has made me reassess this whole period completely – a phase in his ongoing changes that always seems to be maligned and poo-poo'd compared to the classic early Seventies and the Berlin period to come. There's a lot to wade through - so lets once more celebrate the Thin White Duke becoming the Cool Soul Boy...

UK and US released 24 September 2016 - "Who Can I Be Now? [1974-1976]" by DAVID BOWIE on Parlophone DBX 2 - 0190295989842 (Barcode 0190295989842) is a 12CD Cube Box Set with an 84-Page Hardback Book and plays out as follows:

Disc 1 "Diamond Dogs" (38:33 minutes)
1. Future Legend
2. Diamond Dogs
3. Sweet Thing
4. Candidate
5. Sweet Thing (Reprise)
6. Rebel Rebel
7. Rock 'N' Roll With Me
8. We Are The Dead
9. 1984
10. Big Brother
11. Chant Of The Ever Circling Skeletal Family
Tracks 1 to 11 are his 8th studio album "Diamond Dogs" - released 31 May 1974 in the UK on RCA Victor APL1 0576 and in the USA on RCA Victor CPL1 0576. Written, Arrange and Produced by DAVID BOWIE with TONY VISCONTI - it peaked at No. 1 in the UK and No. 5 in the USA on the LP charts. CD Newly Remastered by RAY STAFF at Air Mastering with TONY VISCONTI.

Disc 2 "David Live - At The Tower Philadelphia":
CD1 (39:43 minutes)
1. 1984
2. Rebel Rebel
3. Moonage Daydream
4. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)
5. Changes
6. Suffragette City
7. Aladdin Sane
8. All The Young Dudes
9. Cracked Actor

CD2 (41:35 minutes):
1. Rock 'N' Roll With Me
2. Watch That Man
3. Knock On Wood
4. Diamond Dogs
5. Big Brother
6. The Width Of A Circle
7. The Jean Genie
8. Rock 'N' Roll Suicide
Disc 1 and 2 are the double live-album "David Live" - released 29 October 1974 in the UK on RCA Victor APL2 0771 and in the USA on RCA Victor CPL2-0771. Produced by TONY VISCONTI - it peaked at No. 2 in the UK and No. 8 in the USA. CD Newly Remastered by RAY STAFF at Air Mastering with TONY VISCONTI.

Disc 3 "David Live (2005 Mix)":
CD1 (49:11 minutes)
1. 1984
2. Rebel Rebel
3. Moonage Daydream
4. Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)
5. Changes
6. Suffragette City
7. Aladdin Sane
8. All The Young Dudes
9. Cracked Actor
10. Rock 'N' Roll With Me
11. Watch That Man
12. Knock On Wood

CD2 (53:39 minutes):
1. Here Today, Gone Tomorrow
2. Space Oddity
3. Diamond Dogs
4. Panic In Detroit
5. Big Brother
6. Time
7. The Width Of A Circle
8. The Jean Genie
9. Rock 'N' Roll Suicide
Released November 2005 on EMI 874 3042 - CD Newly Remastered by RAY STAFF at Air Mastering with TONY VISCONTI.

Disc 4 "The Gouster" - Previously Unreleased As An Album (40:08 minutes):
1. John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) - 7:02 minutes
2. Somebody Up There Likes Me - 6:31 minutes
3. It's Gonna Be Me - 6:30 minutes
4. Who Can I Be Now? - 4: 42 minutes [Side 2]
5. Can You Hear Me - 5:24 minutes
6. Young Americans - 5:17 minutes
7. Right
The original version of what would become the "Young Americans" LP was to be called "The Gouster" and was mastered as such (one of the pages in the booklet shows Bowie's handwritten track list and mixing instructions). Produced by TONY VISCONTI except for "Right" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me" - done by TONY VISCONTI and HARRY MASLIN - CD Remastered by RAY STAFF with TONY VISCONTI

Disc 5 "Young Americans" (40:52 minutes):
1. Young Americans - 5:14 minutes
2. Win - 4:48 minutes
3. Fascination - 5:48 minutes
4. Right - 4:23 minutes
5. Somebody Up There Likes Me - 6:36 minutes [Side 2]
7. Across The Universe - 4:34 minutes
8. Can You Hear Me - 5:10 minutes
9. Fame 4:20 minutes
Tracks 1 to 9 are his 9th studio album "Young Americans" - released 7 March 1975 in the UK on RCA Victor RS 1006 and in the US on RCA Victor AQL1-0998.  It peaked at No. 2 in the UK and No. 9 in the US LP charts. CD 2016 Remastered by RAY STAFF and TONY VISCONTI.

Disc 6 "Station To Station" (38:24 minutes):
1. Station To Station
2. Golden Years
3. Word On A Wing
4. TVC 15 [Side 2]
5. Stay
6. Wild Is The Wind
Tracks 1 to 6 are his 10th studio album "Station To Station" - released 23 January 1976 in the UK and USA on RCA Victor APL1 1327 and in the USA - it peaked at No. 5 in the UK and No. 3 in the US LP charts. CD 2016 Remastered by RAY STAFF and TONY VISCONTI.

Disc 7 "Station To Station (2010 Harry Maslin Mix)" (38:16 minutes):
1. Station To Station
2. Golden Years
3. Word On A Wing
4. TVC 15 [Side 2]
5. Stay
6. Wild Is The Wind
First released 20 September 2010 as part of the "Station To Station" Deluxe Box Set on EMI BOWSTSD 2010.

Disc 8 "Live Nassau Coliseum '76"
CD 1 (42:23 minutes):
1. Station To Station
2. Suffragette City
3. Fame
4. Word On A Wing
5. Stay
6. Waiting For The Man
7. Queen Bitch

CD 2 (40:38 minutes):
1. Life On Mars?
2. Five Years
3. Panic In Detroit
4. Changes
5. TVC 15
6. Diamond Dogs
7. Rebel Rebel
8. The Jean Genie
First released 20 September 2010 as part of the "Station To Station" Deluxe Box Set on EMI BOWSTSD 2010.

Disc 9 "Re: Call 2" (47:25 minutes):
1. Rebel Rebel (Original Single Mix) - 15 February 1974 UK 7" single on RCA Victor LPBO 5009 (mastered from an original 45 as mastertape is lost)
2. Diamond Dogs (Australian Single Edit) - 14 June 1974 Australian 7" single on RCA Victor 102462
3. Rebel Rebel (US Single Version) - the 'Phased' version released in the USA and Canada only as a 7" single on RCA Victor APBO-0287
4. Rock 'N' Roll With Me (Live - Promotional Single Edit) - October 1974 US 7" single on RCA Victor JB-10105 (stock copies are PB-10105)
5. Panic In Detroit (Live) - non-album B-side to the October 1974 US 7" single of Rock 'N' Roll With Me (Live)" on RCA Victor PB-10105 and the non-album B-side to "Knock On Wood (Live)" in the UK on RCA Victor RCA 2466 (released 13 September 1974)
6. Young Americans (Original Single Edit) - 21 February 1975 UK 7" single on RCA Victor RCA 2523
7. Fame (Original Single Edit) - 18 July 1975 UK 7" single on RCA Victor RCA 2579
8. Golden Years (Single Version) - 21 November 1975 UK 7" single on RCA Victor RCA 2640
9. Station To Station (Original Single Edit) - February 1976 French 'Factory Sample' 7" single on RCA Victor 42549
10. TVC 15 (Original Single Edit) - 30 April 1976 UK 7" single on RCA Victor RCA 2682
11. Stay (Original Single Edit) - July 1976 US 7" single on RCA PB-10736
12. Word On A Wing (Original Single Edit) - B-side to the July 1976 US 7" single of "Stay" on RCA PB-10736
13. John, I'm Only Dancing (Again) (1975) (Single Version) - 7 December 1979 UK 7" single on RCA BOW 4 (1972 song using the 'Gouster' soul mix from 1975)

VISUALS:
The visuals for this box are gorgeous - the 84-Page Hardback Book is a thing of fan-pleasing beauty and must have taken some serious proofreading (Compilers NIGEL REEVE and JO BLAIR will surely be up for awards). Others involved are HARRY WRENN-MELLECK and AISHA COHEN. Each album is given a full run-down by Original Producers Tony Visconti and Harry Maslin who add invaluable anecdotes on the recording process to the liner notes. In-between the text is wads of period photos, trade adverts, magazine repro's, album artwork and full musician/recording credits as well as release details. The individually pictured rare 7" single from around the world on the "Re: Call 2" CD compilation are given a page each and in-depth fan-obsessed detail provided.

The Repro Artwork for each album is crisp and all original inserts are present (even if the white paper sleeves for "Gouster" and "Re:Call 2" seem a tad superfluous). Each CD has a Japanese plastic protective which is a smart move - "David Live" comes with its two inners - the second "David Live" offers different inner sleeves - "The Gouster" has a lyric insert - "Young American" has its 'Fascination' insert advert for Bowie's RCA catalogue - the original white sleeve and withdrawn colour artwork for "Station To Station" are used for those two variants - the "Nassau Coliseum '76" double has no inners which is a bit of a cop out and the "Re:Call 2" set has both an inner and artwork from the 'YA' period. It’s all very tastefully done. Let's get to the music...

AUDIO:
RAY STAFF - who received such praise for the "Five Years" first box - is back again - aided in Transfers and Mastering by JOHN WEBBER and CICELY BALSTON at Air Mastering. I'd have to say that the aural results very much depend on the album you're listening too. You can't argue with the Disco-Rock wallop of "1984", the Glam Boogie of "Rebel Rebel" and the backwards guitars of "Sweet Thing" - but "Rock 'N' Roll With Me" still sounds strangely lacking and weedy. There's also a marked difference between "The Gouster" unreleased-album as opposed to the clearer polish that came with "Young Americans". But the live stuff sounds way better than I had expected it too - and I'm loving that cover of The Velvet's "Waiting For The Man" on the recently unearthed "Nassau" double.

MUSIC:
After the collective yawn that greeted the cover versions project "Pin Ups" in 1973 – I can recall the same applying to the decidedly patchy "Diamond Dogs" for 1974. The obvious winners "Rebel Rebel" and "1984" showed he still had it - but stuff like "Big Brother" and "Chant..." felt strangely devoid - like Bowie was reaching for change but not quite knowing what that direction was in.

I love his Soulful period and it's now obvious from this Box Set that the "Young Americans" album as released was a smarter move both visually and musically than the slightly odd "Gouster" line-up. I can't imagine David Bowie would ever have signed of on the rather dull mock artwork Parlophone present us with here - even though it's clever to have the lyric insert in the same typeface as the released "Young Americans" version. And three of the mixes are Previously Unreleased - "Right", "Can You Hear Me?" and "Somebody Up There Likes Me".

But it's also obvious that Bowie's allegiance to John Lennon gave us the unconvincing cover of The Beatles' "Across The Universe" when we could have had the magnificent "It's Gonna Be Me" from the "Gouster" sessions. This song alone has to be the best unreleased Bowie gem ever - stunning Soulfulness ably helped by the mixed backing singers which included Luther Vandross amongst their numbers. There’s also a better crispness to the YA released version of "Right" that The Gouster lacks while the seven-minute "John, I’m Only Dancing (Again)" is more Disco than edgy-funk and for me - too long and weedy (he was right to think that less was more when the single was eventually released as a Soulful cut in 1979). "Fame" was a co-write with John Lennon and Carlos Alomar and great Bowie single - here sounding like Talking Heads before the event. Another factor that should be acknowledged is the guitar of CARLOS ALOMAR whose sheer funkiness lifts every track.

That other forgotten LP nugget in Bowie's cannon is surely "Station To Station" - an album that seems to grow in stature as the years pass. "Stay" and the Johnny Mathis/Nina Simone cover of "Wild Is The Wind" are magnificent stuff - as are both the extended LP version of "Golden Years" (wah wah wah) and the Side 1 finisher "Word On A Wing". I'm not sure I needed the 2010 Harry Maslin Mix of the LP but I'm digging the live double "Nassau" and as a 70ts singles freak - finally getting all those 7" single edits and promo versions together in once place on the rather cool "Re: Call 2" exclusive CD set is a blast.

The 3rd Box Set will deal with his Berlin period - "Low", "Heroes", the live "Stage", "Lodger" and possibly "Scary Monsters" - the mere thought of which is liable to make many DB fans combust on the spot - or lose even more hair - or both.

In truth I find this second Box Set a strange mixture of the sublime and the superfluous - but that hasn’t stopped my admiration for this extraordinary artist – if anything DBX 2 has only deepened it. Chameleon, innovator, ahead of so many curves - what a loss his talent was... 

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

INDEX - Artists, Albums, Record Labels, CD Remaster Engineers, Liner Notes Authors, Links etc