Sunday, 22 November 2009

“David Bowie: 40th Anniversary 2CD Remaster” aka “Space Oddity” by DAVID BOWIE (2009 EMI '40th Anniversary 2CD Remaster') - A Review by Mark Barry...

"…Ground Control To Major Tom…Take Your Protein Pills…Put Your Helmet On…"

This EMI Collector’s Limited Edition 2-Disc reissue is a 40th Anniversary celebration of Bowie’s long forgotten and criminally underrated 2nd album from 1969 - “David Bowie” - later more commonly known as “Space Oddity”. There’s a lot on here so let’s get to the Major Toms…

UK released October 2009 - "David Bowie: 40th Anniversary Edition" by DAVID BOWIE on EMI DBSOCD 40 (Barcode 5099930752221) is a 2CD Remaster of his 1969 self-title LP on Philips that plays out as follows:

Disc 1 (46:12 minutes):
1. Space Oddity
2. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed
3. Letter To Hermione
4. Cygnet Committee
5. Janine [Side 2]
6. An Occasional Dream
7. The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
8. God Only Knows
9. Memory Of A Free Festival
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album “David Bowie” issued 14 November 1969 on Phillips SBL 7902 in the UK. Released in the same month in the USA but with slightly altered artwork (the photo on the cover is used as the 1st page of the booklet), the US version was re-titled as “Man Of Words/Man Of Music” and issued on Mercury SR-61246.

Disc 2 – BONUS MATERIAL - (63:47 minutes):
1. Space Oddity (early 'Demo' version featuring duet vocals with John “Hutch” Hutchinson, recorded January 1969)
2. An Occasional Dream (early 'Demo' version also featuring duet vocals with John “Hutch” Hutchinson, recorded March/April 1969)
3. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (this is an alternate version put out as the non-album B-side to “Space Oddity” issued in July 1969 as a UK 7” single on Philips BF 1801. It contains the Paul Buckmaster spoken intro and less brass and strings - none of which are on the LP version)
4. Let Me Sleep Beside You
5. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed
6. Janine (tracks 4 to 6 were recorded live for the Dave Lee Travis show on the BBC’s Radio 1 on 20 Oct 1969 (broadcast 26 Oct). 5 and 6 have been issued before on the 2000 CD set “Bowie On The Beeb...” but 4 is previously unreleased)
7. London, Bye, Ta-Ta (Stereo Version) (recorded in January 1970 in Trident Studios as a follow up single to “Space Oddity” but shelved, this version first appeared on the “Sound + Vision” 4CD Box set in 2003)
8. The Prettiest Star (Stereo Version) (released as a UK 7” single in March 1970 on Mercury MF 1135 but only in MONO - this STEREO version first appeared on the 1997 compilation “The Best Of…1969/1974”)
9. Conversation Piece (Stereo Version) (the non-album B-side to “The Prettiest Star” 7” single which was only ever issued in MONO – this is a previously unreleased STEREO version)
10. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 1)
11. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 2) (tracks 10 and 11 are the A&B of the June 1970 UK 7” single on Philips 6052 026. This is not the LP track, but a re-recorded version then split across two sides of a single. These first appeared on the Ryko CD version of “Space Oddity” in 1990)
12. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (Alternate Album Mix)
13. Memory Of A Free Festival (Alternate Album Mix) (previously unreleased version that is over 2 minutes longer)
14. London, Bye, Ta-Ta (Alternate Stereo Mix)
15. Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola (Full Length Stereo Version) (the 1970 Italian version of “Space Oddity”. It translates into “Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl”. The single mix turned on the “Bowie Rare” LP in 1983, but this version is previously unreleased)
[Note: 1, 2, 4, 9, 12 to 15 are Previously Unreleased]

The British album (on which this release is based) originally came in a fetching gatefold sleeve (now a hugely collectable £400 vinyl rarity in mint condition) and it’s this artwork that’s used for both the back and front cover of the tri-gatefold digipak. Different Trident Studios Master Tape boxes are pictured under each see-through CD tray, while the 32-page booklet is a feast of memorabilia from fans and collectors - rare picture sleeves, trade adverts, period photos – all topped off with a fantastically detailed essay by noted expert KEVIN CANN.

If I was to have a gripe about the booklet and the packaging, it would be this - on the back of the UK success of the “Hunky Dory” album in September 1972 (reached number 3 in the UK charts), the “David Bowie” album was then reissued in November 1972 on RCA Victor LSP 4813 as “Space Oddity”. It came in different artwork and was given an inner lyric bag and a foldout poster. I mention this because for such an extensive and superbly annotated booklet, none of this is printed or pictured – an odd omission?

But it’s a minor point because the real sparks are to be found in the SOUND. Remastered from the first generation master tapes by PETER MEW at Abbey Road with help from TRIS PENNA and NIGEL REEVE – the audio is FABULOUS. I’ve sung the praises of Peter Mew’s work before (Jethro Tull’s “This Was” and Dr. Feelgood’s “Down At The Jetty” jump to mind – see reviews) and having years and hundreds of credits to his name, he knows his way around a tape or two. I’ve never heard the track “Space Oddity” sound so clear and full - it’s a superlative job. The clarity on the two newly found demos at the beginning of Disc 2 is incredible also - especially given their vintage and crude recordings.

The music itself is an acquired taste. Not quite the Sixties pop of his debut or the Seventies rock brilliance of “Ziggy” and “Hunky Dory” which was just around the corner, it’s a man finding his artistic feet – ideas are everywhere – and it’s even quite folky in places. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea for sure, but if you’ve the inclination, it’s a rediscovery well worth making… 

To sum up – this is a superb reissue – and it’s the dogs bollox where it matters the most – in the sound department.

Far above the world – sitting in his tin can – Major Tom is grinning…

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