As many artists had seen their old BBC Radio performances repackaged for consumers throughout the ‘90s, Bowie was an obvious candidate for similar treatment, having made several appearances on the station on his way up to discovering himself. A sampler appeared earlier in the decade (right around the time of various issues of the Santa Monica radio simulcast from 1972), but it wasn’t until 2000 when the real thing appeared.
Bowie At The Beeb is an impressive collection, with two full discs offering selections from all his known (and available) radio appearances, starting from the pre-Ziggy era and moving all the way up to the heyday, with only a few omissions for contextual sake. (There was a glitch on the first copies, which had the same version of “Ziggy Stardust” included twice; the label thoughtfully sent a single-track CD with the correct version to anyone who e-mailed a request for one.) If anything, it may give people reason to seek out some of those early albums.
In addition, most of an excellent fan-club performance from 2000 was included as a bonus of sorts on set’s initial release. With a crackerjack band helping cover his entire career, and even including some odd choices as “This Is Not America” and “Absolute Beginners”, it puts his work in a new light.
Bowie also took the opportunity of a new century to look back in another way. Having already marketed separate hits collections roughly covering the periods previously summarized by the Changes albums, his more obscure instrumental work was highlighted on All Saints. This interesting idea stemmed from a Christmas gift the man himself gave to friends a few years earlier; while that was a two-disc set, the official version collected the key tracks from Low and “Heroes”, along with surprises from The Buddha Of Suburbia, bonus tracks from the Berlin era and even one of the movements from the Low Symphony as interpreted by Philip Glass. The result was a disc full of background music, and that’s meant in a good way.
David Bowie Bowie At The Beeb (2000)—3½
David Bowie All Saints (2001)—4