Bowiephiles were abuzz last Friday when the news of his fifth all-encompassing ultrabox covering the years 1992-2001 of his career dropped after years of speculation. These massive boxes were an annual event from 2015-2018, but went on hold for three years. Possibly down to contractual issues as his catalog is always moving from label to label.
Most of these boxes have had some sort of rare or chimerical album included in them that never existed previously. Some were like “The Gouster,” a theoretical vision of what might have been the rough draft for “Young Americans.” Then there were the “remixed by Tony Visconti” efforts. Then the re-recording of “Never Let Me Down” to attempt to hose off the mid-80s stench of it. All of these were a bit precious for me. I’m happy to live with the released canon of work as it reached ears the first time.
The period of the new “Brilliant Adventures” box was always going to be featuring the semi-legendary “Toy” album that Bowie recorded in the late 90s after getting the urge to revisit some of his earliest songs. He let it be known that this was to be his follow up album to “…Hours.” But EMI/Virgin didn’t see that as a viable thing and refused to release it. Leaving Bowie to scrap the notion and re-use some of the new songs that were going to be a part of it on his next album, “Heathen.” Some of these tracks recorded for the sessions snuck out on B-sides, or the bonus disc with the deluxe “Heathen.”
So now the fifth Massive Box O’Bowie® is coming out on November 26th with eleven CDs for $159.98. If I didn’t already own lots of Bowie CDs each of these sets would have been a must buy.. Especially as they are salted with rarities and whatnot, but I’m just too old and poor to drop three figures a year on having a more perfect Bowie collection. This time, one of the high-value baits for that box is the inclusion [finally] of the “Toy” album. Possibly in a form slightly different to what might have been mooted back in 1999 since two of the new songs for “Toy” were made part of his “Heathen” album. And three other tracks appeared on the “Nothing Has Changed” 3xCD collection.
I would not be buying “Brilliant Adventures” even for this very real album added as bait. Normally I would have been content at missing out on “Toy” after all of this time, but the Bowie Estate sometimes works in mysterious ways. Because “Toy” is getting a separate release outside of the big box a few weeks later, on what would have been the day before Bowie’s 75th birthday. But the new wrinkle is that the version of “Toy” will be a small box in itself, with three CDs worth of extra materials not in “Brilliant Adventures.” Is this consideration or maximizing profit? Maybe that latter, but I’ll take what I can get, since I’d be interested in finally hearing this actual “lost” album in its now official form. Here’s what’s in store.
David Bowie: Toy:Box – US – 3xCD 
Disc One – “Toy” album
- I Dig Everything
- You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving
- The London Boys
- Karma Man
- Conversation Piece
- Shadow Man
- Let Me Sleep Beside You
- Hole In The Ground
- Baby Loves That Way
- Can’t Help Thinking About Me
- Silly Boy Blue
- Toy (Your Turn To Drive)
Disc Two – Alternatives + Extras
- Liza Jane (4.46)
- You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving (alternative mix)
- Baby Loves That Way (alternative mix)
- Can’t Help Thinking About Me (alternative mix)
- I Dig Everything(alternative mix)
- The London Boys (alternative version)
- Silly Boy Blue (Tibet version)
- Let Me Sleep Beside You (alternative mix)
- In The Heat Of The Morning
- Conversation Piece (alternative mix)
- Hole In The Ground (alternative mix)
- Shadow Man (alternative mix)
- Toy (Your Turn To Drive) (alternative mix)
Disc Three – Unplugged + Somewhat Slightly Electric
- In The Heat Of The Morning (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- I Dig Everything (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- You’ve Got A Habit of Leaving (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- The London Boys (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix) (
- Karma Man (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Conversation Piece (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Shadow Man (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Let Me Sleep Beside You (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Hole In The Ground (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Baby Loves That Way (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Can’t Help Thinking About Me (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Silly Boy Blue (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
- Toy (Your Turn To Drive) (Unplugged & somewhat slightly electric mix)
The 3xCDs will ship in a large, 10″ presentation box with three CDs and a large, 16-page booklet of liner notes and photos. The first disc will be the 12 “Bowie revisited” songs plus the new, title track: “Toy [Your Turn To Drive].” The second disc has alternative mixes from the sessions back in the day, plus two more older songs recorded as potential B-sides: “Liza Jane” and the excruciatingly great “In The Heat Of the Morning.” The latter is my all time favorite Bowie song from this period! Disc three is more of a modern ringer. When recording,guitarist Earl Slick suggested to producer Mark Plati the idea of overdubbing acoustic guitars on the tracks, Keith Richards style. Bowie heard one of the mixdowns and liked the notion of a stripped down approach and suggested further mixing which has been finished twenty years later.
We are grateful for the CD box, but there’s also a 6×10″ version of the ‘Toy:Box” to help contribute to the “vinyl bubble” so that was where the size of the presentation box obviously came from. The list price for the 3xCD set is $39.95. A bit rich for my blood, but there are good deals out there that bring it into my comfort zone if you look around. The 10″ version is much pricier at $124.99. Close to the list price of the 11 CD “Brilliant Adventures” box if you’re game to drop three figures on some Bowie.
Pre-Order 10″ LP
I’m just intrigued to hear this much-vaunted release since I have most of the early songs that comprise its contents. A lot of them have real promise, but Young Bowie was really channeling Anthony Newley at that tage of his career [though he’d always have a penchant for such hijinx] and I’m interested to hear the older, wiser artiste revisit them. Join us in January [fingers crossed that I actually pre-order this…] for a look-see.