This 3-CD mini box set, with an expanded collection of Bowie's rejected 2000 era album by the good folks at Virgin Records needs no introduction to most Bowie fans. An early version of it in some sort of assembly was leaked onto the internet in March 2011. 3 of the tracks were previously used up as B-sides extras in September 2002.
In total the entire set features just 14 songs with most of them presented in 3 versions in different mixes and/or arrangements. But do we really need that many alternates and the quick answer is no and to be honest perhaps it's one disc too many in that respect.
Originally these songs as recorded as far back as May 1964 with Liza Jane (CD2 only) sounded very different and almost amateurish in most instances compared to the highly polished versions as recorded with Bowie's stellar band in 2000. Of course, that's to be expected given the huge advances in recording technology over the ensuing years, which was perhaps Bowie's principal reason for wanting to have another shot at them and see what improvements could be made. That said, there's really not very much of any kind of radical overhaul of the general tempos, chorus arrangements or presentation of the majority of the songs. However, several of them sound as if they're taken at a slower pace and the backing vocals content on a few of them has been ramped up considerably, too.
It's also very evident that Shadow Man was given a considerable workover and even though we heard that previously on 2014's Nothing Has Changed. collection, here it is, at last in its proper place. We also know Conversation Piece with it's excellent new string arrangement by Visconti following inclusion on the extras section of the Heathen album of 2002. Basically, all the songs have been given a new lease of life (obviously) and there's winners and losers in this exchange. Some are great, such as London Boys which gets an excellent Bowie vocal and still replete with that quavery, cheap sounding 60's organ.
Some will never be any good no matter what Bowie did to them, namely Baby Loves That Way and do I detect a sort of country and western violin on that - yet weren't we led to believe that Bowie detested c&w?
Whilst the lyrics to several of the songs are victims of their era and probable capabilities of their progenitor, none of them make for a laughing stock as there's no real clunkers here, such as 'The Laughing Gnome' etc. And let it be said that none of the original recordings of these songs ever featured a drummer as good as Sterling Campbell.
I like this collection and glad it's escaped from indefinite storage in a vault. OK, it's never a Ziggy Stardust, but nobody said it was, so I'll easily manage to just enjoy it for what it is.