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Who Can I Be Now? 1974 to 1976
12CD, Box Set
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Who Can I Be Now? [1974 - 1976]
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Parlophone Records are proud to announce DAVID BOWIE WHO CAN I BE NOW? (1974 1976), the second in a series of box sets spanning his career from 1969.
The follow up to the awarding winning and critically acclaimed DAVID BOWIE FIVE YEARS (1969 1973) will be released on 23rd September and will contain the previously unreleased album from 1974 called THE GOUSTER .
The twelve CD box features all of the material officially released by Bowie during the so-called American phase of his career from 1974 to 1976.
The box set, which is named after a track recorded in 1974 but not officially released until the 1990s, includes DIAMOND DOGS , DAVID LIVE (in original and 2005 mixes), YOUNG AMERICANS and STATION TO STATION (in original and 2010 mixes) as well as THE GOUSTER , LIVE NASSAU COLISEUM 76 and a new compilation entitled RE:CALL 2 which is a collection of single versions and non-album b-sides.
All of the formats include tracks that have never before appeared on CD/vinyl/digital as well as new remasters.
Exclusive to the box set is THE GOUSTER previously unreleased as a complete album it was recorded at Sigma Sound, Philadelphia in 1974 and produced by Tony Visconti. The album was mixed and mastered before David decamped to New York to work with John Lennon and Harry Maslin on what became the YOUNG AMERICANS album. THE GOUSTER contains three previously unreleased mixes of Right , Can You Hear Me and Somebody Up There Likes Me .
For the 2016 release, Tony Visconti has overseen the mastering from the original tapes and photos taken by Eric Stephen Jacobs have been put together for the sleeve based around one of David s original concepts for the album.
Also exclusive to the package is the remastered DAVID LIVE (original mix) , the 2010 Harry Maslin mix of STATION TO STATION (previously only available on an audio only DVD in 5.1 and stereo as part of the STATION TO STATION Deluxe box set in 2010) and RE:CALL 2 .
RE:CALL 2 features the original single mix of Rebel Rebel , which has only featured on a 40th anniversary picture disc in 2014 since its original release on single in 1974, and a previously unreleased on CD Australian single edit of Diamond Dogs , the only place in the world that this edit was issued. Also appearing on CD for the first time is the single edit of the live version of Rock n Roll With Me , which was issued to radio stations in the U.S. to help promote the DAVID LIVE album.
RE:CALL 2 features newly originated artwork with 1975 in-studio images from the STATION TO STATION recording sessions by David s friend and backing vocalist Geoff MacCormack aka Warren Peace.
The alternative cover for the 2010 mix of STATION TO STATION by Harry Maslin, features the originally intended colour sleeve for the album that never got further than a few colour proofs and was replaced by the more familiar black and white image.
The box sets accompanying book, 128 pages in the CD box and 84 in the vinyl set, will feature rarely seen and previously unpublished photos by photographers including Eric Stephen Jacobs, Tom Kelley, Geoff MacCormack, Terry O Neill, Steve Schapiro, and many others as well as historical press reviews and technical notes about the albums from producers Tony Visconti and Harry Maslin.
The CD box set will include faithfully reproduced mini-vinyl versions of the original albums and the CDs will be gold coloured rather than the usual silver.
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I would rather that they replaced this with the 5.1 on a SACD. Don't get rid of your 5.1 remix if you like it.
The brickwalled live show that was in the "Station to Station" boxed set is also included here as well. I am troubled by the fact that they didn't go back to remaster it with some dynamics intact.
How's the sound? It varies from very bad (the STS material live 2 disc set)to the exceptional good (just about everything else). Are these better than the RCA CDs for those that are reissued here and are these better than the Ryko, earlier EMI discs?). They are different, yes and yes. The remastering by Ray Staff is pretty darn good. If you didn't like what he did on the previous set, you probably won't change your opinion. For the record the bad remasters are by Brian Gardener from the previously reissued "Station to Station" boxed set. If you like the RCA era mastering on the "Station to Station" boxed set, you should keep it because it isn't included here. To be honest I do still prefer the RCA "Diamond Dogs" to the master here.
We also get the ReCall disc which gathers together edits, single mixes and a live track that was (as I recall). B-side. I'd rather have unreleased stuff or even the Ryko bous tracks (where applicable) but it's clear that isn't in the cards for these sets.
The small hardcover book included is, like the previous set, handsomely done. There are sections written by Tony Visconti on making the various albums he was involved with, great photos.
The hard shell square box is sturdy and the packaging for each individual album is pretty good. Replicas of the original inserts are included and each disc is in a thin plastic sleeve to protect it from scratches (mine also came with free fingerprints on a couple of discs as well).
Overall, this set is very good but there are areas where it could have easily been improved--the Gardner remasters should have been redone particularly the brickwalled live album from the "Station to Station" boxed set).
A suggestion to whomever is curating this set--add value by including previously unreleased session tracks in addition to the single edits/mixes. While these sets are nicely mastered (for the most part), there are curious decisions being made. If I put this set together, I would have gone with unreleased tracks and remastering on ALL the albums (and maybe a high resolution download like the McCartney sets) to provide additonal value to fans who have purchased these many, many times before.
One thing to note: the LP box DOES NOT come with any digital content or download codes. If you want digital versions you'll have to look elsewhere, and I can't comment on them so all the notes below apply strictly to the vinyl version.
A few personal notes on my impressions of the individual LP records in the set: [For those that care about such things, I did all my listening through a Linn 'table and either a Primaluna amp and Focal speakers, or an Audeze amp and headphones.]
-Diamond Dogs: I never really connected to the sonic presentation of this album before now. I've had an original French LP pressing for many years, plus various CD issues, and this is the first time I can say this album really reached me on an emotional level. I credit the mastering and pressing of this LP with revealing the true genius of this masterpiece album to me. Also, the last line of Tony Visconti's essay on mixing it (from the book) brought tears to my eyes as I listened to Sweet Thing/Candidate.
-David Live: There are two versions of this album contained in the set. The first is a double LP faithful to my original US pressing, with a slightly muddy mix and lots of errors in the cover text (song titles incorrectly worded, wrong recording dates, etc). I love it for that --this was actually the first Bowie LP I fell in love with many years ago-- and it does sound better than my original in every way. The second version is a triple LP with more songs, correcting the errors in the text, and a VASTLY clearer sonic picture. If you've ever seen a Criterion Collection mastering of a favorite movie after watching a standard DVD, you'll know what I'm describing. See the attached photos for a better idea, the visual aspects mirror the sonic ones to a large degree. I can see myself listening to both of these LPs very often depending on my mood.
-The Gouster: I can see why Bowie didn't release this at the time-- it never would have sold well. It's kind of bleak and maddening, but I really like it anyway. It feels more personal and less glossy than Young Americans, with some really amazing "Philly Soul" musical backing and some reaching and soulful vocals by David and the excellent backup singers. It reminds me a lot of the Detroit Mix of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" or the Jamaican version of the Wailers "Catch a Fire"-- raw, dark, dry, emotional versions of albums whose original release was much more polished and commercial. I'm glad to have it and I'll enjoy exploring it for many years to come.
-Young Americans: This was never my favorite Bowie record. Other than the two singles-- which are brilliant-- it always sounded flimsy and washed out to me. While it's still not my favorite, I now have a much better impression of it because of the context provided by the book (and listening to The Gouster), as well as the far superior sound of the LP pressing (my original US LP sounds pretty terrible, with thin flat images and an unpleasant harshness). I now feel like I finally "get" this record, but I still think the version of Across the Universe sucks.
-Station To Station: Another one with two versions. The original is one of my favorite Bowie albums: dark, mysterious, groovy, weird, amazing. The LP is fabulous in every way, and blows the doors off my original. The other version is Maslin's 2010 remix that I presume was made so they could do the 5.1 mix for the DVD release at that time. It sounds more "digital," less muddy, and David's vocals are way up front. It's a completely different experience from the original mix, and though I do enjoy it as an alternate version, I don't feel it's as successful or vital as the alternate mix of David Live. As a visual reference for the sound, just look at the cover art: color vs. B&W, gloss text vs. matte, full-frame vs. matted in.
-Live at Nassau Coliseum: What a great show! Bristling with energy and played by a great band. We're so lucky they captured this, and I've been playing the download I bought a few years ago A LOT. I'm super stoked to have it on high quality vinyl, even though it's not the best sounding recording ever. They did a good job with the sonics on the LP, and the cover art is really lovely. I do wish they could have included the full length version of Panic In Detroit (I like drum solos), but I understand why they used the edited version for time reasons. This is really a treasure!
-Re:Call 2: Alternate mixes can be either fascinating or tedious. Luckily in this case it's the latter. I started this one on side 2 thinking I didn't have the patience for two versions of Rebel Rebel and the other stuff on side 1, but after reading the excellent notes in the book I turned it over and really enjoyed side 1! Each song on this collection stands on its own as a unique version, and most of the differences are not subtle. Very worthwhile indeed.
I really didn't expect this box to be a major event for me (though I was excited about it), but it's shed so much light on this strangely transitional period of Bowie's music.... After just one weekend with it, I'd rank it with the Beatles' Anthology releases for bringing me a new understanding of music history and a new appreciation for things I'd previously misunderstood. There's also a fair amount of "recording nerd" info if you're into that sort of thing.