With the popularity in my household of “Hours…” that year, the thought finally occurred to round up all of the Rykodisc albums that I did not yet have in order to get their bonus tracks, which were conspicuously absent from the new 1999 Virgin pressings superseding them in the marketplace. I could see those becoming more expensive that I would be comfortable with a few years down the line unless I acted quickly. So I made efforts to buy the four remaining discs online, which in 1999, meant eBay. I purchased all of the albums below in a feeding frenzy that took no longer than a month or two. None of the purchase prices were inhospitable to me. I don’t remember anything being above retail had these title still been available in stores.
Finally hearing the 1969 album, which had undergone much revision of titles and covers over the years, was a somewhat non-plussing affair. Sure, “Space Oddity” was a terrific single, but apart from “Memory of A Free Festival” or “The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud” there was not a lot to write home about from here. The single mix of the former was an interesting way to edit down a long album track that no-one much does any more, but James Brown had made it an artform in the 60s-70s. The track was split into a “part one” and “part two” on either side of a 7″ single.
The first live album had the excellent “Time” and an Ohio Players cover added to the program. It was interesting to hear the rare US single version of “Rebel Rebel” be the version of the song played live here. The vocals were pretty rough and the circumstances by which the album had been recorded in 1974 [the band discovered that the gig was being recorded without a recording session payment so they called a wildcat strike until Bowie paid them out of pocket but the damage was done]. The thing I take from this one was the piano of Mike Garson; always a pleasure to hear.
The second double live album from just four years later has its detractors, but I would not be one of them. True, the sequencing was wonky [the songs were originally arranged in chronological order of release until the 2006 RM], and the audience presence was minimized to the point of sterility, but Bowie’s vocals are worlds superior to “David Live.” He was really working from a place of strength here and it was a pleasure to hear him in full Scott Walker mode. Brecht + Weil’s “Alabama Song” was the bonus track here.
The final Rykodisc edition was the 1983 live album of the 1973 tour that I had never heard. Everyone says that the Santa Monica bootleg from the US tour was superior, but I’ve not gotten that one. It’s a snapshot of a significant era for Bowie but aside from the superb medley of “The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud/All The Young Dudes” there are no other moments of surprise or grandeur here for me. I still love the cover, though.
Now that I had almost every Bowie album, the next step also occurred. Getting all of them. Even the ones I had avoided for over a decade!