Friday, 12 October 2018

David Bowie - Loving The Alien Box Set

Here we go again.

Included in the box set are:-

Let’s Dance (1983)
Live In Vancouver from the Serious Moonlight Tour (1983)
Tonight (1984)
Never Let Me Down (1987)
Never Let Me Down new 2018 Remix (2018)
Live in Montreal from the Glass Spider Tour (1987)
Bowie Dance - Dance, extended and 12” mixes
Re:Call4 - single editions, alternative mixes and ‘b’ sides

(Click on the album title for in depth, individual album reviews).

Now, I am certainly no “audiophile” as readers of my reviews will know. I like my music big, bassy and powerful. For that reason I loved the “New Career In A New Town” box set. I absolutely adored the latest 2017 bassy remastering of “Low” and even more so Tony Visconti’s magnificent remix of “Lodger”. I also have no problems with the 1999 remasters of Bowie’s work on the whole, and I find the RYKO remasters lifeless and tinny. So, this is the direction I am coming from. If you disagree, and there are undoubtedly many out there who will, it is probably best to ignore my review!

“Let’s Dance” is remastered nicely for me - full, punchy and bassy. I feel it has been considerably enhanced and sounds a more muscular album now. That, for me, is a good thing. It is actually on of the Bowie albums I return to the least, so this is a good way of getting reacquainted with it again. (I have reviewed all these albums under their individual listings, with regard to the actual music contained on them. This review is more about the remastering).

“Tonight” is an album I have always had time for, despite the criticism that follows it around. It also sounds excellent here. The sound on “God Only Knows” and “Loving the Alien” is superb, and also on the most underrated “Don’t Look Down”. Again, nice and balanced, breathing sound, but bassy too. Great stuff. The lesser-known tracks on the old “side two” sound great too. This remaster gives albums like this a new life.

“Never Let Me Down” has always been somewhat unfairly treated. I have always quite liked it, perverse as though that may sound to many people. The sound on the 1999 version was always fine, for me. Here it is less harsh, nice and thumpy in places, although some of the excesses of eighties production will obviously always be there. Nobody can tell me that "Time Will Crawl" isn't a great track, though. The 2018 remix of it is exceptionally enjoyable. It is great to hear stuff like this - “Zeroes", “Beat Of Your Drum”, “Day In Day Out” are all given new life. In fact they all are, even the lesser tracks like “Shining Star” and “New York’s In Love” are positively revelatory. The posthumous work done by Bowie’s mates on this is respectful and innovative. You feel he would have approved, as he was never happy with the original album.

The live material is wonderful. Both have truly excellent sound quality and it is good to finally get offical, good-sounding live material from these two tours. It is interesting to hear the different styles in which songs were played, for example the saxophone on “What In The World” and “Breaking Glass” from the “Serious Moonlight” gig. It is good to see a saxophone-drenched “Sorrow”, the difficult to play live “Young Americans” and “All The Madmen” getting airings for the first time officially on a live recording. Add these to last year’s “Cracked Actor” and this year’s “Welcome To The Blackout” and it has been a great period for Bowie live material, after all those years of surviving with “David Live”, the “Final Ziggy Concert”, “Santa Monica” and “Stage”, we now have so much more to enjoy. “Young Americans”, by the way, is played much better at the “Glass Spider” gig than the “Serious Moonlight” one. For me, it is rewarding to hear my favourite Bowie song of all time given a decent live performance.

As for the “Dance” mixes. They are interesting and quite enjoyable to listen to, with dubby bits on some of them, although there are other versions available on the downloadable mini singles, some of those are included here, but certainly not all of them.

With regard to the Re:Call material, I have no interest in single versions of any songs, to be brutally honest. I can’t see the point and they are all invariably superior in their album format. Well, in my opinion anyway. I do not have those sort of completist instincts. It is good to get remastered versions of obscurities like “Julie”, “Girls”, “Underground” and the excellent “This Is Not America”. I am completist when it comes to those, however.

Overall this is, as all the other Bowie box sets were, thoroughly enjoyable.


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