David Bowie – ‘Sound And Vision’ Box Set Review

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In 1989, following on from all sorts of lazy collections that barely scratched the surface of Bowie’s genius (seriously – how do you summarise such a frantically creative body of work with one LP?), Rykodisc finally took it upon themselves to create a true representation of Bowie’s work between 1969 and 1980. The resultant ‘sound and vision’ box set combined three CDs of material with a fourth disc of video (the long departed CD-V format) and covered everything from rare demos and b sides to blistering live tracks and alternate language versions (such as ‘Helden’, a German language version of ‘heroes’). With the visual cd somewhat disappointing, the decision was taken in 2003 to reissue the set without it, replacing it instead with a fourth CD that covered the period right up until 1997 (the remaining years covered by the album and bonus disc collating David Bowie box set (which covered ‘Outside’ – ‘Heathen’). Long out of print, that box set was recently seen commanding ludicrous prices on sites such as Amazon and Ebay and so Parlophone, never ones to miss out on a good thing, have repackaged the set (it now comes in a slip-case covered fat box) and released it at a fantastically low price (£17.99 at time of writing) whilst maintaining all four discs and the detailed, biographical booklet.  In short, for Bowie fans and newcomers alike, this is an irresistible package that provides a genuine insight into Bowie’s remarkable development as an artist over almost three decades.

With four discs to play with, the compilers of the set clearly went to town trying to offer as many alternate versions, rarities and other gems as possible in order to present a detailed picture of Bowie the artist. Disc one covers 1969 – 1973 offering up some early bedroom demos (‘Space oddity’), b sides (including an awesome cover of Chuck Berry’s ‘round and round’) an outtake (the immensely popular ‘John, I’m only dancing’ from the Aladdin Sane sessions) and a plethora of album cuts from ‘space oddity’, through to the Ziggy Stardust soundtrack. It charts a period of immense artistic growth, from the proto-metal sturm und drang of ‘the man who sold the world’ to the sequins and glam monster that was Ziggy Stardust. Disc 2 sees Bowie struggling with the fall-out from Ziggy, experimenting with covers on ‘Pin Ups’, getting paranoid with Orwell on ‘Diamond Dogs’, messing arouns with ‘plastic soul’ on ‘young Americans’ and eventually reinventing himself in a haze of cocaine and misery on ‘station to station’ (although the best tracks from this album don’t show up until disc three, when they are unleashed in all their twisted, live glory). The revamped version even fits in material from the Berlin trilogy, offering cuts from ‘Low’, ‘heroes’ and ‘lodger’. As such disc two is a strangely scattershot mix of music, much as the albums from that period are scattershot, and whilst you can forgive the albums shifting wildly from genre to genre, it works less well in compilation form. Nonetheless there are some gems including the previously unreleased ‘1984/dodo’, a couple of outtakes and different mixes and a blistering version of ‘cracked actor’. All in all, disc two does a better job of charting this turbulent period than any other compilation ever could and it paves the way for disc three’s excessive celebration of David’s commercial peak, but it’s possibly the most diverse disc of the lot.

Starting with cracking live versions of ‘station to station’, disc three tracks Bowie’s rise to mega-stardom as he created epic soundscapes with Robert Fripp (on ‘scary monsters’) and, eventually, sent a bullet through the charts with the monumentally huge ‘let’s dance’. The disc is completed with soundtrack efforts and b sides’ and then we’re into disc 4 which charts Bowie’s disastrous slide into mediocrity with ‘tonight’ and the disastrously misnamed ‘never let me down’ each of which are wisely represented by a single track. The wilderness years of Tin machine are, however, far better represented (and wisely so for the Tin Machine project is much underrated) with no fewer than six tracks. Finally the disc gives us Bowie’s resurrection with tracks from ‘black tie, white noise’ and the excellent ‘Buddha of suburbia’ soundtrack – albums which paved the way for Bowie’s excellent run of albums in the late 90s / early 00s and cemented his reputation as an artist whose ability to remain relevant in multiple musical climates is unsurpassed.

Overall ‘Sound and vision’ represents remarkable value for money. The booklet provides plenty of information, the discs chart the varied career of one of the world’s most fascinating and intelligent artists and the packaging, whilst shrunk from the original box’s form, feels anything but cheap. For newcomers it provides the perfect summation of a career that never once stood still, whilst the b sides, unreleased rarities and live cuts make the box set a most welcome addition to the collection of even the most committed fan. In short, if you’ve never heard Bowie buy this now, and if you’re a Bowie fan and don’t already have it, remedy the situation forthwith, this is a wonderful value box set that is more than worth the time and money.

DAVID BOWIE SOUND+VISION Tracklisting:

CD1:

1/ Space Oddity (original demo 1969)

2/ The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud (rare B-side version 1969)

3/ The Prettiest Star (single version 1970)

4/ London Bye Ta-Ta (stereo mix recorded 1970)

5/ Black Country Rock (from The Man Who Sold The World)

6/ The Man Who Sold The World (from The Man Who Sold The World)

7/ The Bewlay Brothers (from Hunky Dory)

8/ Changes (from Hunky Dory)

9/ Round And Round (alternate vocal take 1971)

10/Moonage Daydream (from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars)

11/John I’m Only Dancing (Aladdin Sane outtake 1973)

12/Drive-In Saturday (from Aladdin Sane 1973)

13/Panic In Detroit (from Aladdin Sane 1973)

14/Ziggy Stardust (live from Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture 1973)

15/White Light/White Heat (live from Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture 1973)

16/Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide (live from Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture 1973)

17/Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere (from Pinups 1973)

18/Sorrow (from Pinups 1973)

19/Don’t Bring Me Down (from Pinups 1973)

 

CD 2:

1/ 1984/Dodo (recorded 1973)

2/ Big Brother (from Diamond Dogs 1974)

3/ Rebel Rebel (rare single version 1974)

4/ Suffragette City (from David Live 1974)

5/ Watch That Man (from David Live 1974)

6/ Cracked Actor (from David Live 1974)

7/ Young Americans (from Young Americans 1975)

8/ Fascination (from Young Americans 1975)

9/ After Today (Young Americans outtake 1975)

10/It’s Hard To Be A Saint In The City (recorded 1975)

11/TVC15 (from Station To Station 1976)

12/Wild Is The Wind (from Station To Station 1976)

13/Sound And Vision (from Low 1977)

14/Be My Wife (from Low 1977)

15/Speed Of Life (from Low 1977)

16/”Helden” (German version of Heroes – 1989 remix)

17/Joe The Lion (from Heroes 1977)

18/Sons Of The Silent Age (from Heroes 1977)

 

CD 3:

1/ Station To Station (from Stage 1978)

2/ Warszawa (from Stage 1978)

3/ Breaking Glass (from Stage 1978)

4/ Red Sails (from Lodger 1979)

5/ Look Back In Anger (from Lodger 1979)

6/ Boys Keep Swinging (from Lodger 1979)

7/ Up The Hill Backwards (from Scary Monsters 1980)

8/ Kingdom Come (from Scary Monsters 1980)

9/ Ashes To Ashes (from Scary Monsters 1980)

10/Baal’s Hymn (from Baal E.P.)

11/Drowned Girl (from Baal E.P.)

12/Cat People (Putting Out Fire) (soundtrack album version)

13/China Girl (from Let’s Dance)

14/Ricochet (from Let’s Dance)

15/Modern Love (Live) (B-side)

16/Loving The Alien (from Tonight)

17/Dancing With The Big Boys (from Tonight)

 

CD 4:

1/ Blue Jean (from Tonight)

2/ Time Will Crawl (from Never Let Me Down)

3/ Baby Can Dance (from Tin Machine)

4/ Amazing (from Tin Machine)

5/ I Can’t Read (from Tin Machine)

6/ Shopping For Girls (from Tin Machine II)

7/ Goodbye Mr. Ed (from Tin Machine II)

8/ Amlapura (from Tin Machine II)

9/ You’ve Been Around (from Black Tie White Noise)

10/Nite Flights (Moodswings Back To Basics Remix Radio Edit)

11/Pallas Athena (Gone Midnight Mix)

12/Jump They Say (from Black Tie White Noise)

13/Buddha Of Suburbia (from The Buddha Of Suburbia)

14/Dead Against It (from The Buddha Of Suburbia)

15/South Horizon (from The Buddha Of Suburbia)

16/Pallas Athena (Live as Tao Jones Index)

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