David Bowie – [2CD]

David Bowie – [2CD]

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Artist: David Bowie
Album: Legacy (2CD)
Label: Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music
Over the last forty years, there have been a multitude of “Best of David Bowie” compilations to his new release racks. To date, this critic counts eleven good, sturdy ones, but the methodology for making them has always been the same: “ensure that the core of around ten classic tracks which appeared on ChangesOneBowie (the first Bowie hits comp) are present, then mix and match a list of singles which flow reasonably well together and release – regardless of whether or not anyone would mistake the set for complete.” Every time young and curious listeners will get hooked on whichever comp they pick up (for this critic, it happened to be ChangesOneBowie first, followed by Sound + Vision), and then begin pulling different studio albums from different eras in the singer’s catalogue. It’s for that reason the different greatest hits packages have been a great sales tool, in Bowie’s case; they’re a cost effective gateway which gets put on new release racks and so generate fresh interest. Complaining that “there was a new hits comp released last year” is irrelevant because they’re really only intended to sell other records and now, after the singer’s death, that’s all they CAN do.

With all of that opinion now a matter of public record, all that reains is to decide if Legacy is an effective product, and it is – for the most part.

Picking one’s way through Disc One proves to be no chore as they find a succession of Bowie’s classic songs including “Space Oddity,” “Changes,” “Starman,” “The Jean Genie,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Young Americans” and “Fame” lined up neatly for instant gratification and universal approval. Each plays and feels as good as ever. The 2016 mix of “Life On Mars” follows in the tradition of issuing one ever-so-slightly different variant of an established favorite in the mix (as was the case with the Sax version of “John I’m Only Dancing” on ChangesOneBowie, the version of “Heroes” entitled “Helden” on Sound + Vision, the unique editted version of “Under Pressure” on Best of Bowie from 2003) for long-time fans to grumble about, but the only real problem at any turn here is with “Ziggy Stardust.” On “Ziggy Stardust,” what listeners find is a track where remastering using twenty-first century standards reveals flaws in the original production; at the 1:16 mark, the doubled vocal for the chorus fades up awkwardly through the left channel while the right channel chimes in brightly and on cue. Now, under normal circumstances, most people would either 1.) not notice this or 2.) not care – but Bowie fans are a minutiae-minded sort. Many will notice and not be able to overlook or look around this flaw – in fact, many may stop reading this review right here, and find themselves unable to hear about Disc Two, out of fear that more flaws may be found there.

Journalism means risk. I continued through Disc Two to see what I might find there.

To be perfectly truthful, the only flaws on Disc Two are ones which revolve around selections that are a matter of personal taste and nothing else. For example, I have never understood why Bowie’s duet with Mick Jagger on “Dancing In The Street” always get included in these sets; with a songbook so celebrated to work with, why fill space with a novel cover? Also, the track that Bowie did with Pat Methany Group, “This Is Not America,” could have been subbed for almost anything else and no one would have noticed – maybe including ”The Heart’s Filthy Lesson” (which was a better single from Outside than “Hallo Spaceboy” – which DID get included) could have gotten put on then. Such complaints may seem ridiculous to readers who aren’t Bowie fans, but fans can relate to this kind of criticism. They’re valid points even if they’re nothing more than quibbling.

All that said and, still, Legacy ranks as a decent comp which serves its purpose: to appear on new release racks and hook some new young fans. And those new fans will be inspired to find more music and buy more albums which is (again) the point. Such discussion may come off like crass commercialism, but how could it not, really? Legacy is a hits comp after all, and serves its purpose well. [BILL ADAMS]



Legacy is out now. Buy it here on Amazon.

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