Friday, 4 March 2016

"BOWIE Heard Them Here First" by VARIOUS ARTISTS [DAVID BOWIE Cover Versions] (2014 Ace Records CD Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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

The premise is simple – tunes that have moved/inspired David Bowie throughout his extraordinary five-decade career – the original songs by the original artists – 24 melodies he’s covered from 1964 right through to 2003. But this is Ace Records of the UK doing the CD compilation - so the annotation and sound quality is top notch. There’s a wad of facts to get through so let’s have at the Thin White Duke’s Pin-Ups...

UK released April 2014 – "BOWIE Heard Them Here First" by Various Artists [DAVID BOWIE Cover Versions] on Ace Records CDCHD 1387 (Barcode 029667058322) breaks down as follows (76:06 minutes):

1. Louie – Go Home by PAUL REVERE & THE RAIDERS (1964 USA 7” single on Columbia 43008, A)
Covered by Davie Jones & The King Bees in 1964 on the UK 7” single Vocalion Pop V 9221, A

2. I Pity The Fool by BOBBY BLAND (1961 USA 7” single on Duke 332, A)
Covered by Manish Boys in 1965 on the UK 7” single Parlophone R 5250, A

3. Fill Your Heart by BIFF ROSE (on the 1968 USA LP “The Thorn In Mrs. Rose’s Side” on Tetragrammaton Records T-103)
Covered by Bowie on the “Hunky Dory” LP in 1971

4. It Ain’t Easy by RON DAVIES (on the 1970 US LP “Silent Song Through The Land” on A&M Records SP-4264 – also a USA 7” single on A&M 1188, A)
Covered by Bowie on 1972 LP “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars”

5. White Light/White Heat by THE VELVET UNDERGROUND (on the 1967 LP “White Light/White Heat” on Verve VK 10560)
Covered by Bowie on the 1983 Soundtrack album (recorded 1973) “Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture”

6. Everything’s Al’right by THE MOJOS (on a 1964 UK 7” single on Decca F 11853, A)
Covered by Bowie on the 1973 all-covers album “Pin Ups”

7. Friday On My Mind by THE EASYBEATS (on a 1966 UK 7” single on United Artists UP 1157, A)
Covered by Bowie on the 1973 all-covers album “Pin Ups”

8. Rosalyn by THE PRETTY THINGS (on the 1964 UK 7” single on Fontana TF 469, A)
Covered by Bowie on the 1973 all-covers album “Pin Ups”

9. Sorry by THE MERSEYS (on the 1966 UK 7” single on Fontana TF 694, A)
Covered by Bowie on the 1973 all-covers album “Pin Ups”

10. Where Have All The Good Times Gone by THE KINKS (on the 1965 UK 7” single on Pye International 7N.15981, A
Covered by Bowie on the 1973 all-covers album “Pin Ups”

11. Around And Around by CHUCK BERRY (on a 1958 USA 7” single on Chess 1691, A)
Covered by Bowie as “Round And Round” on the B-side of “Drive-In Saturday”, a 1973 UK 7” single on RCA Records RCA 2352

12. Knock On Wood by EDDIE FLOYD (on a 1966 USA 7” single on Stax 194, A)
Covered by Bowie in live form on the 1974 UK 7” single on RCA Records RCA 2466, A

13. Amsterdam by JACQUES BREL (on a 1964 French 7” EP “Brel En Direct” on Barclay 70)
Covered by Bowie as the B-side to “Sorrow” – a UK 7” single in 1973 on RCA Records RCA 2424

14. Wild Is The Wind by JOHNNY MATHIS (on a 1957 USA 7” single on Columbia 4-41060, A)
Covered by Bowie on the 1976 album “Station To Station” and as a 7” single

15. Alabama Song by LOTTE LENYA & THE THREE ANIMALS (on a 1930 USA 78” on Ultraphon A 370, A)
Covered by Bowie on a 1980 UK 7” single on RCA Records BOW 5, A

16. Kingdom Come by TOM VERLAINE [from Television] (on his self-titled 1979 debut Solo LP on Elektra Records 6E-216)
Covered by Bowie on his 1980 LP “Scary Monsters”

17. Criminal World by METRO [featuring Duncan Browne] (on the 1976 UK 7” single on Transatlantic Records BIG 560, A)
Covered by Bowie on his 1983 LP “Let’s Dance”

18. Don’t Look Down by IGGY POP (on his 1979 album “New Values” on Arista AB 4237)
Covered by Bowie on his 1984 “Tonight” LP

19. Dancing In The Street by MARTHA REEVES and THE VANDELLAS (on a 1964 USA 7” single on Gordy 7033, A)
Covered by Mick Jagger and David Bowie as a 1985 7” single for Band Aid/Live Aid Famine Support

20. If There Is Something by ROXY MUSIC (on their 1972 debut album “Roxy Music” on Island ILPS 9200)
Covered by Bowie on the 1991 “Tin Machine II” album

21. Nite Flights by THE WALKER BROTHERS (on their 1978 LP “Nite Flights” on GTO Records GTLP 033)
Covered by Bowie on his 1993 “Black Tie, White Noise” album

22. Cactus by THE PIXIES (on their 2nd album “Surfer Rosa” from 1988 on 4AD Records CAD 803)
Covered by Bowie on his 2002 album “Heathen”

23. Pablo Picasso by THE MODERN LOVERS (on their 1976 debut album “The Modern Lovers” on Home Of The Hits HH-1910)
Covered by Bowie of his 2003 album “Reality”

24. I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spacecraft by LEGENDARY STARDUST COWBOY (on a 1969 USA 7” single on Mercury 72891, A)
Covered by Bowie on his 2002 album “Heathen”

The 20-page booklet is beautiful – crammed full of the original 45’s (mixture of UK and US issues) – there’s a foreign picture sleeve of Ron Davies’ fabulous “It Ain’t Easy” single – sheet music for The Mojos and The Pretty Things (full page on the rear of the booklet) and even the 1930 78” of “Alabama Song” on Ultraphon. In-between all that visual richness is superlative and informative liner notes by IAN JOHNSTON who goes into Bowie’s eclectic choices right up to Iggy Pop, The Modern Lovers and The Pixies. Beneath the see-through CD tray is the sheet music to “Friday On My Mind” by The Easybeats - it’s really well done.

With so many varying sources and time frames the audio flits from period to period but is still superb throughout (mastered with skill by longstanding Ace Engineer NICK ROBBINS). I’ve been after the Ron Davies tune, “It Ain’t Easy” for years and here it is in superb remastered form (Three Dog Night and John Baldry both named albums after it in 1970 and 1971 respectively). The only turkeys sound wise are the Brel track “Amsterdam” and the 78” from 1930 – in fact both songs are the low points on this compilation for me – dreadful stuff.

Given that this is David Bowie’s influences – the listen was always going to be eclectic – interesting – and possibly even slightly unnerving – and in some respects “Bowie Heard Them Here First” is all of those things (and why would you want it any other way). In fact once you get away from the Sixties influences – the compilation starts to flow and work so much better – the Iggy Pop, Tom Verlaine, Metro and Pixies tracks – more than impressive. Roxy’s masterful “If There Is Something” and The Velvet’s anarchic “White Light/White Heat” could have been tailor-written for Seventies Bowie. But better are gems like the lesser-heard Walker Brothers “Nite Flights” and the whacky 1969 fruitcake song that is “I Took A Trip On A Gemini Spaceship”.

But you’re also struck not so much by the excellence of the originals but hearing (in your head) how good his own interpretations were - “Sorrow” and “Wild is The Wind” in particular – taking ordinary songs and making them into something extraordinary. Compiler inclusions like “Knock On Wood”, “Around And Around” and “Dancing In The Street” are cliché for sure and fans would have probably have preferred “All The Young Dudes” or his version of The Who’s “Seeker” or Lennon’s “Working Class Hero”. In fact what would have rocked is the originals on CD1 with his versions on CD2 – but I’d think we’d have been looking at a licensing nightmare on that one.

As it is “Bowie Heard Them Here First” is a superb CD – not flawless for sure – but amazing in its depth and scope. A little like the great man himself...

This review is part of my SOUNDS GOOD Music Book Series. One of those titles is CLASSIC 1970s ROCK - an E-Book with over 260 entries and 2450 e-Pages - purchase on Amazon and search any artist or song (click the link below). Huge amounts of info taken directly from the discs (no cut and paste crap). 

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Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

Spines of Exceptional CD Remasters

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