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David Bowie (Deluxe Edition)

David Bowie

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Album Review

David Bowie’s debut is the last of his albums to receive a deluxe reissue, perhaps because it would seem to be the last anybody would want expanded to a double-disc set. Roundly dismissed as theatrical twaddle in the vein of Anthony Newley, the 1967 album has its share of period charm, caught somewhere between the psychedelic swing and stuffy West End musicals — not quite the formula for major pop hits in 1967, nor is it necessarily an indication of what Bowie would later do, but it’s a fascinating, highly enjoyable debut, particularly in this generous 53-track, double-disc deluxe edition. The first disc contains the original stereo and mono mixes of David Bowie — the latter not easily available in decades, offering mixes that are sometimes quite different — while the second collects all the alternates and ephemera of the era: non-LP singles and single versions, sometimes drastically different, of album tracks, unreleased stereo mixes and alternate takes along with Bowie’s first-ever BBC session, also dating from 1967. If the album proper does sometimes seem a little constrained, too successfully appealing to the middlebrow, the music on the second disc is wildly lively and often much hipper: it has Bowie’s cheerfully silly “The Laughing Gnome,” which spins Syd Barrett whimsy further toward children, and it has his first great songs, the hazy swirling “In the Heat of the Morning” and fizzy “London Bye Ta-Ta,” it has the snappier single version of “Love You Till Tuesday,” along with that excellent first BBC session, which is muscular in a way the studio sessions aren’t. Then again, those highly produced original sessions — featuring such British studio stalwarts as Big Jim Sullivan and sometimes engineered by Gus Dudgeon or produced by Tony Visconti — are quite appealing, exemplary examples of the studio sound of London in the ‘60s. And in a way, having so much of these formative recordings in one place winds up enhancing the stature of David Bowie’s debut rather than diminishing it: sure, he’s gangly and awkward, too indebted to his peers, creating music too stuffy for the kids and too odd for adults, but it’s possible to hear the first real flowering of his talent here.

David Bowie (Deluxe Edition), David Bowie
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