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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 17 September 2002
In my opinion this is David Bowie's most underrated album. A clear leap in class from his early recordings it contains moments of great beauty, sadness and intensity.
Although the title track is perhaps over familiar these days it's still an effective track - the central message of a space traveller choosing to abandon earth is actually pretty powerful and gets lost in the gentle melody of the song. And that's just it - these aren't the gentle harmless folk songs that they are so often described as. "Cygnet Committee" is right up there with not only Bowie's best work but the best work of any artist ever. A lyrical masterpiece and powerful story - it is no exageration to say that it out Dylan's Dylan! Similarly "The Wild Eyed boy from Freecloud" draws you in to the narritive and "In memory of a free festival" is a beautifully nostalgic and touching look back on the end of an era. "Letter to Hermione" is a rare beast - a song where Bowie bares his soul and it is all the more poignant and effective for it. If you don't believe me then it is worth comparing it to the rather listless "Janine" - possibly the only weak song on the album.
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This EMI Collector's Limited Edition 2-Disc reissue is a 40th Anniversary celebration of Bowie's long forgotten and criminally underrated 2nd album from 1969 - "David Bowie" - later more commonly known as "Space Oddity". There's a lot on here so let's get to the Major Toms...

UK released October 2009 - "David Bowie" on EMI DBSOCD 40 (Barcode 5099930752221) is a 2CD 40th Anniversary" reissue and breaks down as follows:

Disc 1 (46:12 minutes):
1. Space Oddity
2. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed
3. Letter To Hermione
4. Cygnet Committee
5. Janine [Side 2]
6. An Occasional Dream
7. The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
8. God Only Knows
9. Memory Of A Free Festival
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album "David Bowie" issued 14 November 1969 on Phillips SBL 7902 in the UK. Released in the same month in the USA but with slightly altered artwork (the photo on the cover is used as the 1st page of the booklet), the US version was re-titled as "Man Of Words/Man Of Music" and issued on Mercury SR-61246.

Disc 2 - BONUS MATERIAL - (63:47 minutes):
1. Space Oddity (early 'Demo' version featuring duet vocals with John "Hutch" Hutchinson, recorded January 1969)
2. An Occasional Dream (early 'Demo' version also featuring duet vocals with John "Hutch" Hutchinson, recorded March/April 1969)
3. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (this is an alternate version put out as the non-album B-side to "Space Oddity" issued in July 1969 as a UK 7" single on Philips BF 1801. It contains the Paul Buckmaster spoken intro and less brass and strings - none of which are on the LP version)
4. Let Me Sleep Beside You
5. Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed
6. Janine (tracks 4 to 6 were recorded live for the Dave Lee Travis show on the BBC's Radio 1 on 20 Oct 1969 (broadcast 26 Oct). 5 and 6 have been issued before on the 2000 CD set "Bowie On The Beeb..." but 4 is previously unreleased)
7. London, Bye, Ta-Ta (Stereo Version) (recorded in January 1970 in Trident Studios as a follow up single to "Space Oddity" but shelved, this version first appeared on the "Sound + Vision" 4CD Box set in 2003)
8. The Prettiest Star (Stereo Version) (released as a UK 7" single in March 1970 on Mercury MF 1135 but only in MONO - this STEREO version first appeared on the 1997 compilation "The Best Of...1969/1974")
9. Conversation Piece (Stereo Version) (the non-album B-side to "The Prettiest Star" 7" single which was only ever issued in MONO - this is a previously unreleased STEREO version)
10. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 1)
11. Memory Of A Free Festival (Part 2) (tracks 10 and 11 are the A&B of the June 1970 UK 7" single on Philips 6052 026. This is not the LP track, but a re-recorded version then split across two sides of a single. These first appeared on the Ryko CD version of "Space Oddity" in 1990)
12. Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud (Alternate Album Mix)
13. Memory Of A Free Festival (Alternate Album Mix) (previously unreleased version that is over 2 minutes longer)
14. London, Bye, Ta-Ta (Alternate Stereo Mix)
15. Ragazzo Solo, Ragazza Sola (Full Length Stereo Version) (the 1970 Italian version of "Space Oddity". It translates into "Lonely Boy, Lonely Girl". The single mix turned on the "Bowie Rare" LP in 1983, but this version is previously unreleased)
[Note: 1, 2, 4, 9, 12 to 15 are Previously Unreleased]

The British album (on which this release is based) originally came in a fetching gatefold sleeve (now a hugely collectable £400 vinyl rarity in mint condition) and it's this artwork that's used for both the back and front cover of the tri-gatefold digipak. Different Trident Studios Master Tape boxes are pictured under each see-through CD tray, while the 32-page booklet is a feast of memorabilia from fans and collectors - rare picture sleeves, trade adverts, period photos - all topped off with a fantastically detailed essay by noted expert KEVIN CANN.

If I was to have a gripe about the booklet and the packaging, it would be this - on the back of the UK success of the "Hunky Dory" album in September 1972 (reached number 3 in the UK charts), the "David Bowie" album was then reissued in November 1972 on RCA Victor LSP 4813 as "Space Oddity". It came in different artwork and was given an inner lyric bag and a foldout poster. I mention this because for such an extensive and superbly annotated booklet, none of this is printed or pictured - an odd omission?

But it's a minor point because the real sparks are to be found in the SOUND. Remastered from the first generation master tapes by PETER MEW at Abbey Road with help from TRIS PENNA and NIGEL REEVE - the audio is FABULOUS. I've sung the praises of Peter Mew's work before (Jethro Tull's "This Was" and Dr. Feelgood's "Down At The Jetty" jump to mind - see reviews) and having years and hundreds of credits to his name, he knows his way around a tape or two. I've never heard the track "Space Oddity" sound so clear and full - it's a superlative job. The clarity on the two newly found demos at the beginning of Disc 2 is incredible also - especially given their vintage and crude recordings.

The music itself is an acquired taste. Not quite the Sixties pop of his debut or the Seventies rock brilliance of "Ziggy" and "Hunky Dory" which was just around the corner, it's a man finding his artistic feet - ideas are everywhere - and it's even quite folky in places. It won't be everyone's cup of tea for sure, but if you've the inclination, it's a rediscovery well worth making...

To sum up - this is a superb reissue - and it's the dogs bollox where it matters the most - in the sound department.

Far above the world - sitting in his tin can - Major Tom is grinning...
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on 15 October 2009
Bye bye love, hello superstardom. This chapter of Bowie's music career is so pivotal.
Kenneth Pitt's influence is cast aside and David's intense love affair with Hermoine sadly ends... lonely boy becomes the nucleus of Ziggy - isolation and artistic rediscovery and the future. Not just the future of 1970s pop, but a snapshot of another strange universe or, at least the beginning of what would become an alien meets superstar phenomenon.

Yes, the record companies do cash in on these re-releases.
And yes, you may be thinking I already have Space Oddity on vinyl, CD, and/or the BBC Sessions.
If so, sell your old copies and keep this definitive version.

Not only is the original album (disc one) beautifully remastered, but also disc two is worth owning for:

The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud in all its orchestral glory (as described by Tony Visconti in Nicholas Pegg's book) sounds amazing, as if a 50-piece ensemble in the studio surrounds you. Why this wasn't used as the selected take originally may have been down to technical/quality reasons. It sounds perfect to me now, convincing me that some real dedication has gone into this release.

Memory Of A free Festival - there really is a party. This sounds like a spaceship landing at Woodstock! Okay, more like Lou Reed's `Kicks' with the background chatter/celebrations going on before take-off. The original version has these sounds electronically treated. This works well and runs in at 9min, 25secs about the same as Cygnet Committee.

Regazzo... beautiful full version on CD at last.

London Bye Ta Ta - this second take is an upbeat contender follow-up to the Space Oddity single. If only. Again the echo on Bowie's vocals made me think of what might have been. Thank God for Starman.

Only time will tell how many times I replay this second disc, its easy to get excited over newly unearthed material. But I reckon the alternate takes will replace the originals on my playlist.

For this price, to listen to David and Visconti's original vision is worth every penny.

Great new remastering takes you there to 1969 to experience this album just as it should have been.

A final note on the booklet included with this release. If your eyes are up to it - I needed a magnifier to read it.
There's an interesting diary of events covering the era around the recording - with pictures, facts and figures for anyone who, like me, can never get enough Bowie trivia.

This was an interesting period of transition (Mick Ronson makes his Bowie debut on the Memory parts 1 & 2), though it gives no real hint as to the direction this band would take next with TMWSTW

The sun machine is coming down again after 40 years. And the party continues...
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on 22 October 2009
There is no point in reviewing the album. It is of its time.

It's only worth talking about this reissue.

This has had a couple of CD issues - the Ryko, and the original EMI.

The Ryko had some extra tracks, the EMI was bare bones. (Ryko extra tracks were Conservation Piece, and two of the Memories of a Free Festival tracks. Also note, the short "Don't Sit Down" was also on the Ryko, it runs for all of 39 seconds).

So I'll only talk about this disc in the context of those two previous releases.

Basically, it's very very simple. THIS version is worth a tear or two. Tears of joy. The bonus disc is full of glorious early Bowie, and the original album has never - ever - sounded this good. Yes, a couple of the bonus tracks were already included in the original Ryko disc - but even they sound better.

And then you have the booklet - which is pure magic.

Downsides? No lyrics. So hold on to your Ryko (why do they omit the lyrics?!?!?!)

Look - this is an ESSENTIAL buy. I don't care that it's been reissued twice on CD. It doesn't matter. For better or worse - this is the best yet. And if you can accept this era Bowie, you have to have it. Why? Because it sounds wonderful. And the package is terrific.

I could apologize (who wants to buy this yet again?!?!?!?) But I don't make these things, I only buy them.

Worth getting? For a Bowie fan yes. A resounding yet. If you don't own it yet.... well now is the time.

I am as cynical as the rest. I'd love to slate this release as more gouging. But now is not the time. This is a wonderful release.

Game over.
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on 19 October 2009
This is all about the cover - the music you know so well already.

As a thirteen year old Bowie fan back in 1973 I (like many others) purchased the RCA 'Space Oddity' vinyl lp. with its Ziggy style cover which I never thought was a great Bowie image (prefered the back cover photo really). I knew it was a reissue of a previous release - it says so on the cover, but search as I tried in the mid-seventies I never knew what the original Philips cover looked like.
Eventually, in 1978, after 6 years a Bowie fan, the Rare record stall in Manchester Underground Market (both stall and Market now long gone) had a copy on the back wall - it became like a holy grail to me, but was way out of my league price wise - I often used to walk past the stall just to gawp at the cover of this (and the other holy grail - the dress cover MWSTW on mercury) and dreamt of one day winning enough money to buy these out of reach luxury items.
Many years later (about 1990 I think)I was in the right place at the right time with the right cash and finally managed to purchase a copy of the Philips 'David Bowie' album for a bargain £75 at Piccadilly Record Fair (ahh - happy days...)- the reason the cover is so important is it shows the Bowie who wrote and recorded these songs - slightly hippy; slightly pre-fame Bolan; a lot Scott Walker; the songs make more sense without the Ziggy pictures - Bowie was not that character yet - and the back cover by George Underwood (who had incidently previously designed Tyranasaurus Rex's 'My People Were Fair' cover) was so important to help the imagery of the songs / lyrics.

Cut a long story short - this is a great vinyl reissue at last - titled as it should be 'David Bowie'- not 'Space Oddity' and packaged in the gatefold sleeve - Compared to the original Philips cover it has been very well done - typography in the right place; inner gatefold lyrics and credits identical; no barcode to spoil the images - my only gripe is the back cover is slightly enlarged and some details from round the edge have been lost - but a very minor gripe that is. I like the 'Bowie/Philips' style record label too -

.....If only they'd reissued this like this in November 1972 it would have saved me so much time and money !.....but with an artist who's image is so important to their output it's great to finally have this record looking like it should. The reissue Cd is nice too but this is the real deal
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on 19 March 2002
If you're wanting 'Ziggy' or 'Thin White Duke' don't go here. If you want Bowie at his early creative freeflow, then "Space Oddity" is a great pit-stop. The title track (different from the original more acoustic Phillips version) is sublime and orchestra-rich. This version here was subsequently re-released in 1975 and became Bowie's first and most worthy Number 1 single in the UK. The balance between farewell to the 60s and hello 70s and beyond is most evident with "Letter To Hermonie" and "Memory of a Free Festival." The only missing item from the RCA pressing is the sleeve cover which RCA decided was best showing a still of Bowie from the "Space Oddity" video and the title shown on the cover in 'Apollo' styled lettering. The cover now is a mix of the photoshoot used for the 'Phillips' pressings (when the LP was titled "Man of Words, Man of Music"). This CD not only benefits from being remastered at 24-bit, the whole concept works and is a pillar amongst the great 1969 to 1971 albums, recorded by Bowie; Moody Blues; Joni Mitchell; and Cat Stevens - to name but a few. Unfortunately missing from this CD pressing is "Velvet Goldmine" which was recorded during the same sessions but is still available on compilations and as an extra track on the 1975 "Space Oddity" maxi-single release. "Velvet Goldmine" was not included on the original Phillips or RCA pressings, but did surface as a bonus track on the early 90s CD release. Nevertheless, this is Bowie in all his early images and lyrical flows. Brilliant time capsule, brilliant CD.
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on 25 March 2013
Have to say there are loads of gems stacked up on this CD I bought it because I was suddenly transported in time by the title "Memory of a free Festival" for 2 reasons as it happens, 1 I had in mind a free concert I went to In Happy Valley In Old Coulsdon Surrey in the late 70's I think (not the same one Bowie had in mind) amongst others on the day we had Harpers Bizare and they were just as it said on the Tin, no the real memory was Colin Scot singing toons like "My Rain" and "Hey Sandy"
Secondly Bowie plays a Rosedale Chord organ as sold at F W Woolworth many moons ago and I actualy had one at some stage and was amazed anyone could actualy get a decent tune out of it.
Other Favourites include "Letter To Hermione" a lady Bowie once idolised so much he carried her ballet shoes, Also the Dark "Cygnet Committee" I have been a closet member ever since I first heard it, Lastly the Inspred and curious story of "The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" many fans of Ziggy would be surprised by some of this early material "God Knows I am Good" fits in to this unexpected tale category.
I think Bowie of this period, was in one of his most crative song writing phrases he was to go on to so much more.
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on 1 November 2013
My first impressions of the remastering on this release were positive, but listening closely is a different matter. CD1 is peppered with gliches from somewhere in the production process, ranging from small clicks to full-scale spikes! Very annoying if, like me, you listen on headphones.
(What is it with EMI? Remember the Ziggy2002 channel-swap fiasco?)

Hard-core fans will rightly buy this 40th Anniversary Edition for the bonus disc. For 'early Bowie' addicts it is an essential purchase.

Buyers wanting the original album should stick with the Space Oddity 1999 remaster. It sounds about the same as this, plus it's cheaper, relatively error-free, and (essential for newcomers to this album) it includes the lyrics.
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on 14 October 2009
I'm very happy with the mastering on this, especially after how bad the ziggy 2cd was
i heard hiss on at least one of the tracks on disc 2 so its not been butchered with no-noise yay!

the italian space oddity has a diff vocal take than the version on the "rare" LP
the S.O. demo is indeed diff to the Sound and vision box set, Hutch sings the 1st verse alone and theres other small differences

the thing i'm most happy about is the quality of P-Star, London Bye Ta Ta and the b-side version of freecloud
they totally wipe the floor with my horrible Tinny Ryko 6LP sound and vision box

the one remaining hole in my collection now is a decent sounding MWSTW, i was going to spring for an old LP but , i guess its now possible that they'll give us a nice CD version like space oddity at some point
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on 9 October 2015
40th Anniversary of Bowie's Space Oddity single. This was Bowie's slow climber to get to No.1 in the charts, released in 1969 and got to No.5 but was re-released in 1975 where it went to No.1 in the singles charts.
The A-Side has quite a colourful picture which looks like an amateurish hand drawn cover with a period picture of Bowie added in. You certainly will not be buying the single for the super art-work!
The B-Side has a period picture of Bowie with his long shaggy hair and that side has the track The Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud. Lets face it we are buying it for the collection all be it 40 years later! Don't you just love marketing!!!
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