The Singles Collection
1993: EMI 7243 8 28099
I&146;m actually not a Bowie fan and never have been; I bought this compilation so I could revel in the two Bowie tracks that truly grabbed me and then explore some of the ones that had brushed me attractively in passing.
The solid two are Golden Years and Fame. Dont think that pegs me as only being aware of Bowie during that era: Ive checked his stuff out over the years, but the overwhelming majority of it (and there is a LOT of that) seemed to never go anywhere with its idea in a musically compelling way (whatever the lyrical content). I suppose that could be contrasted with Paul McCartneys work, which often has consisted of great little ideas that tell their little joke and then are done, and which are then either painfully stretched out to pass as a song or slapped up against a bunch of others to make a pastiche such as Band on the Run. And maybe its of the same strange ilk as the oeuvre of the Rolling Stones, which seems to sell millions of copies according to reports but I personally havent heard since their 1980s stuff.
However you slice it, its still pretty thin stuff even though whats going on in the creator and the creative process is obviously one hell of a drama (no, make that *two* hells of a drama, at times) and the persona changes certainly keep things worth checking out at least once to see whats going on; unfortunately, the vehicle far too often has more substance than its content does, to my ear anyway, with Bowies copious work.
Probably the tracks that almost grab me, and which keep me coming back to check on them in case they really do make the connection in full eventually, are Beauty & the Beast, Ashes to Ashes (which unquestionably holds appeal and resonance and fascination for anyone interested in Bowie, but which maybe still doesnt quite grab me as a song on its own), and Fashion (DAMNED catchy and slick, but what does it amount to after the impressions are made?).
Its no coincidence that only my two standout tracks appear on the first of these two discs and that no other track on that disc grabs me at all: earlier Bowie leaves me downright wincing, most of the time, although Rebel Rebel has a certain time-stamp appeal that cant be shaken off and Young Americans does herald some of the dramatics to come on Disc 2 and his subsequent career phase(s), but everything else on Disc 1 (and I *do* mean everything, the classic/iconic hits included) just seems painfully a product of its moment in Rocks vibrant developmentvital and visceral and brilliant then in its newness but shoddy, high-pitched, and thin in content now (and probably even once meatier stuff was being recorded a decade and a half later). Again, though, that IS qualified by an acknowledgement that lyrically Bowie can really go some interesting places its just that he doesnt always manage to take *us* along with him successfully in doing so.
All that said, Golden Years is just about perfect as recordings go.
Comments © 2019 Mark Ellis Walker, except as noted, and no claim is made to the images and quoted lyrics.