DAVID BOWIE Best Of (2002 UK 39-track 2-CD album set. Viewed as a complete hits package the talent and genius of Bowie is clear. Hits pour out of the speakers from the early Space Oddity to 2002s Slow Burn plus a few alternate versions. Housed in a picture sleeve)
Pretty self-explanatory stuff, this, since Best of Bowie
collects most of Bowie's hits and a few of his more fetishised songs onto two CDs, rendering previous compilations--notably 1990's ChangesBowie
--redundant. Of course, it's fantastic. For this is Bowie's pop genius shrink-wrapped: music notable for both its pretension and its accessibility, brimming with unignorable power and bespangled absurdity. Racing through these 39 songs from "Space Oddity" to "Slow Burn" (from 2002's relative return-to-form Heathen
), the surprise is how coherent they sound next to each other. For someone so often portrayed as an artistic shape-shifter, it's the consistency of Bowie's vision that's most apparent, how he stamps his identity on every trend he comes across.
Like the Rolling Stones' similarly enjoyable 40 Licks, things do get a bit sticky towards the end of Disc Two, though there's mercifully nothing from the two Tin Machine albums. Obsessives should note, too, that the tracklisting of Best of Bowie varies from country to country: the albums have been compiled according to the most popular songs in each territory. Wonder which lucky place got "The Laughing Gnome" included on their version? --John Mulvey