Wednesday, June 24, 2009

David Bowie 12: Changesonebowie

By the mid-‘70s, it had become common for a major artist with several hit singles and albums under his or her belt to release a “greatest hits” album. Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, the Eagles and the Carpenters were just some examples of performers who were doing just fine on their own but saw their royalties skyrocket when their hits albums shot to the top of the charts and stayed there.
For all his projected perversion, David Bowie was hardly the exception to the marketing norm. His label had been carefully backing his singles with various album tracks, to the point where someone who only bought 45s would have collected all the lesser-known tracks worth having as B-sides. All of which makes Changesonebowie all the more impressive for providing a cohesive (and chronological) review of David Bowie since his emergence as a major artist.
Beginning with “Space Oddity”, the album presents the Bowie familiar to top 40 radio listeners. To add a level of consistency it used similar packaging to Station To Station (namely, run-on titles and a stark photo) to present the key album tracks and most of the hits in order. It gets points for including “John I’m Only Dancing”, a great track that died on the charts, but demerits for also including all six minutes of “Diamond Dogs”. The flow on side two, from the decadence of that track and “Rebel Rebel” through the funk of “Young Americans” and “Fame” to the funk (again) of “Golden Years”, makes the trajectory seem so much more natural than if you’d bought the albums one at a time upon release. It’s a testament to Bowie that these songs all hang together so well.
If you were going to delve into the original albums based on this sampler, you’d be in for a surprise. It might even be a pleasant one. However, unless you bought this album used on vinyl, you might not know it existed. When Rykodisc picked up the Bowie catalog in 1990, they put out an expanded CD called simply Changesbowie—a nice idea that included some post-1976 tracks, but also replaced one key hit with a modern remix called “Fame ‘90”. And since then, various single-disc hits collections have sought to retell the story. This one is still the king, and was made available again as is for its 40th anniversary.

David Bowie Changesonebowie (1976)—4

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