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on 2 March 2010
If I were only reviewing the music, I'd give this release only 2 or 3 stars. But as a package, this is an excellent reissue and belongs in every Bowie fan's collection.

Bowie's 1967 debut album is not for everyone -- or most people, really. Pulling a u-turn in 1966, Bowie left his Who and early Kinks-aping string of singles in 1965/66 (as heard on Early On (1964-1966)) and turned into a writer of vignettes about people's lives. The leap from "I Pity the Fool" to "Uncle Arthur" was as big as the leap from "Rebel Rebel" to "Young Americans" a few years later both in terms of songwriting and sonics. Gone were the rave-ups and white blues timbre of his earlier singles. In were highly-mannered, cockney vocals and tightly arranged pop songs of a style that was dated even in 1967. Still, Bowie's debut album contained a number of songs that hold-up well over time, notably "Silly Boy Blue", "Sell Me a Coat", and a few others. This album can be heard in both its original stereo and mono mixes on the first disc of this set.

Disc two is where most fans will spend their time, as it charts Bowie's growth over the course of 1967 and 1968 and towards his next solo LP. It starts with singles from the same period as the 1967 debut, including new first-time stereo mixes of the absurd but enjoyable "Laughing Gnome" and surprisingly resilient "Gospel According to Tony Day", and moves on to several excellent singles and would-be singles, including "In the Heat of the Morning", "Let Me Sleep Beside You", and the legendary original version of "London Bye Ta Ta", a track Bowie arranged and recorded twice as a potential single (in 1968 and 1970) but never released until years later. A version very similar to this one (but not identical) has circulated among collectors for years, but never in comparable audio quality, so this is a real highlight of the set.

Spanning disc two is a real progression in terms of Bowie's style and quality of songwriting. In addition to the highlights noted above, there are also a few historically interesting missteps, like "When I'm Five" (which Bowie promptly gave away to the Beatstalkers, a semi-forgotten Scottish band) and "Ching-A-Ling". The latter is interesting both because it's the first time we've had the complete track available in stereo (most available versions excise the first verse, which is ironically the only one Bowie sings) and because the track's coda was put to better use on "Saviour Machine" a few years later.

Finally, we get the complete December 1967 BBC session. While this session is inferior to the 1968 session that opens Bowie at the Beeb (1968-1972) - 2 CD Set, it's presented in excellent sound quality and features an early version (with different lyrics) of "In the Heat of the Morning".

All in all, this is a great set with lots of care and thought evident in its assembly. If you're looking for The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars: Remastered, you'll be disappointed. But if you're a Bowie fan interested in his early years and trying to track down a few great forgotten singles and rarities, this is highly recommended.

(For collectors -- this set includes most but not all of the material from 1997's excellent The Deram Anthology: 1966-1968. Most of what is missing is non-essential -- original mono versions of a few of the singles and some remixed and/or edited versions of tracks prepared for the David Bowie - Love You Till Tuesday [DVD] [1969] film. Perhaps the only track from the 1997 collection truly missed here is the early version of "Space Oddity", although even this appears only in a "film edit" on The Deram Anthology).
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on 25 October 2010
Bizarrely, this was the first Bowie album I heard & got to love when I was 13 or so. I guess like most music 'when you hear it' has a bearing on your view of it. I also love punk rock,but maybe it's because I was there! I loved this album & I still do 33 years later. It's a nearly joyful listen throughout & always makes me smile. Songs like when i live my dream, rubber band, in the heat of the morning & karma man, may be considered twee by some but they are infectious & 'good songs' The standout classic is 'London Boys' recently covered by Marc Almond on his 'Stardom Road' cd, this song is in my top 20 Bowie of all time. I have everything that the great man has ever recorded but still enjoy this album from beginning to end. Imagine my shock on hearing Ziggy...(the next album I got my hands on), it was that one that seemed strange & un-Bowie like to me...I must confess that I was only really convinced by 'Starman' at first & took a while to 'get' the rest. No coincidence, as Starman is very much in the vain of this, his first really good album! Get it, I promise you that if you're open to it, you will love it from start to finish.
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on 8 February 2010
Whilst this album will not be to everybody's tastes due to it's sheer eccentricity and whimsy, best explained in other reviews here, I have to say that this is a superb repackage. The sound quality is excellent. The remastering is of the highest order - no unnecessary pumping or squashing of the dynamics that is sadly inflicted on too many albums today in order to make them "louder" hence the music here breathes as it should. It was always a very well recorded album thanks to producer Mike Vernon and legendary engineer Gus Dudgeon. So this really does sparkle.

The accompanying booklet is richly detailed with recording dates and a most interesting timeline that helps place this album and singles into the context of the times. It's great to finally have the early BBC sessions and the new stereo remixes are brilliant. After 43 years, the Gnome finally laughs in true stereo!

I give this 5 stars because this is how such reissues should be done. Genuine time and care went into making this the final word on this album. The music may indeed not be everybody's cup of tea but I guess if you're reading this, then you are interested and have knowledge of how strange this album is. Great value for money. Couldn't ask for anything more from a reissue.
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on 6 April 2010
Without rambling on and cutting to the chase....this deluxe edition is worth every dollar/pound!

The recordings sound fresh, clean, warm and certainly are a credit to those responsible for the remastering.

This is not a period of Bowie music that everyone is familiar with but it does give fans old and new an understanding of where Bowie started off just prior to breaking through with Space Oddity.

Stand out tracks from the original album are: Silly Boy Blue & Sell Me A Coat. Stand out rare/hard to get versions that put a smile on my face were CHING-A-LING, WHEN I'M FIVE and LONDON BY TA-TA. Having these included in this issue is awesome!

There is a wealth of collected versions (mono & stereo & alternate recordings) that make this double disc release a must.

Don't delay, add this deluxe 2 CD issue to your collection and enjoy a chapter of Bowie music that seldom gets a listen.
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on 9 October 2010
I first heard some of this album material on a much inferior cd, with terrible sound, but even then the quality of some of the songs broke through. Quite a different kettle of fish here, the recording is exquisite and really brings out the detail. This really is a five star compilation of Bowie's Decca material, with a definitive airing of this eponymous album. A labour of love indeed with excellent sleeve notes/booklet inside and stereo and mono versions for the completist. If you haven't heard this album before, don't expect Starman or Jean Genie. These early songs are imaginative little short stories, with a dark fairytale feel (think Grimm rather than grim), the lyrics are clever and sometimes startling as they work on several ambiguous levels of meaning. The strings won't be to everyone's taste but they suit the material more than furious rock guitar would have, let's face it. Tracks like The Laughing Gnome split the fans - either entertainingly whimsical or irritatingly twee depending on the fence spot you occupy. The London Boys is a dark classic treasure, a genuine artefact of sixties London mod culture and the days Bowie hung out with the likes of Marriott and Bolan. The Gospel According to Tony Day is a song in a similar ilk. The material may sound odd to modern ears but can be amazingly catchy - I'm surprised they did not release Sell Me A Coat as a pop single for example - and of course there is the well-known Love You Till Tuesday. However there is an unsettling theme to much of this material too, as Bowie deals with subjects like child abuse and murder - horror fans should give Please Mr Gravedigger a listen. So it was definitely worth unearthing this material for a high quality compilation and the whole classy package is made complete by unreleased songs like London Bye Ta-Ta and five tracks recorded for Radio One's Top Gear programme.
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on 25 January 2010
When Ziggy Stardust rode high in the charts, Bowie's old record company, Decca, reminded everyone that Bowie had been with them first and started the first of countless reissues of this album and its associated outtakes. The Laughing Gnome even made it to number 6 in the charts when rereleased in 1973, to Bowie's embarrassment, and this decidely uncool material became Bowie's equivalent of naked baby pictures being shown to countless prospective girlfriends. As a consequence of Bowie's subsequent fame, Decca continued to either dupe or delight (depending on your opinion) the more curious fan with these songs of Edwardian whimsy and nursery rhyme simplicity. There cannot be any Bowie fan alive who has not heard at least some of this material and as a result it is arguable that these songs have made their way into as many budding popstar's formative playlists as the Velvet Underground's Banana Album. However, there is a strong case for looking a little more carefully at this material: how could the man who changed British music forever make this cringe-inducing nonsense? And why were these albums not thrown away on a first hearing but cherished as a guilty pleasure by all who bought them?

For a start, the production values of this album are actually very high with most songs benefitting from orchestral arrangements. There are more than a few beautiful melodies and hooks that get inside your head. Also, what Bowie was doing in 1967 was not a million miles from the cutting edge. It was released on the same day as Sergeant Pepper which was another album of Edwardian foppishness which was a significant trend of mid-60's London. There are also, perversely, many dark themes which Bowie would exlore more lucratively in future years: the dystopian futures of Diamond Dogs and the Man Who Sold the World are evident in We Are Hungry Men; essays on isolation and loneliness are found in The London Boys and the Gospel According to Tony Day; Lesbianism and Child Murder are incredibly the subject matter of She's Got Medals and Please Mr Gravedigger (which would have sat comfortably on Nick Cave's Murder Ballads album). Even the Laughing Gnome has gay references. Most of all though, what is remarkable about this album is that Bowie is hardly celebrating swinging London but instead offering on numerous tracks a powerful critique of the shallowness of friendships, the superficiality of the various 'scenes' and the hollow comfort of drugs. All of this is in stark contrast to the jolly melodies which accompany the subversive lyrics.

There is a sense in which Bowie is being pulled in a variety of inconsistent directions though. There are straight love ballads (When I Live my Dream), comedy songs (Rubber Band), hippy/folk numbers (Come and Buy My Toys, Karma Man) and genuinely serious efforts at rock/pop singles (In the Heat of the Morning, Let Me Sleep Beside You). What nobody knew was that in time he would work his way through all of these genres to much greater acclaim than he received in 1967. Moreover, he would even go so far as to revisit many of these songs towards the end of his career and finally embrace them as a legitimate part of his mature body of work. Sadly the 'Toy' album which was planned to perform this function in 2001 was aborted but this is of little consequence when the best recordings of this material was already in the can in 1967.
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on 6 June 2010
Bowie called this his Anthony Newley period, many have said he sounds more like Tommy Steele (Tommy Steele from Mars) but unlike the songs of Newley or Steele many of Bowie's songs from this period had dark undertones and they contained the future gene. FLASH BANG WALLOP or HALF A SIXPENCE they most certainly are not. David's pre 1969 period is one of music's best kept secrets; you won't find any of these sometimes zany sometimes magnificent songs on any of the later compilations, but there are several that cover this elusive little pocket of his career. This album is now the gold standard; it contains everything he did during this period now remastered again.

I fisrt heard these songs in the mid seventies on his original compilation double IMAGES and I wouldn't have given them a chance to get into my head if they were not the work of a contemporary artist like Bowie. Sure there are happy chappy things like THE LAUGHING GNOME (a re-released hit in the seventies) childhood memories like the magical THERE IS A HAPPY LAND and blokish stuff like LONDON BOYS and THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO TONY DAY. The Newley inspired WHEN I LIVE MY DREAM belongs in one of those British sixties musicals, and it makes you wonder how his career would have developed had the film industry come calling at that time. It's all rather quaint but the songs are strong, this is not a case of a new artist cutting his teeth with mediocre material. The tune of SHE'S GOT MEDALS may be jolly but the words are about a shady young woman who fakes her gender to join the regular army ("Don't ask me how it's done") then fakes her own death in the aftermath of a bomb explosion ("She got pretty tierd of picking up girls"). Androgynous misfits in apocalyptic situations; Now where do you suppose he was going with that?

But it is the musically more innovative songs here that are the true promise of things to come. Notably LET ME SLEEP BESIDE YOU and the incredible KARMA MAN which remains one of his best songs. It's subject matter is way of the Richter for its time, and musically it was a delightful fusion of past and future. Both songs appeared first on 1970's THE WORLD OF DAVID BOWIE as previously unreleased material. Most of the other songs here made his eponymous debut released in 1967, and all were combined on IMAGES a few years later. I think my heart would have broken if I'd watched stuff like that drift by unoticed, but perhaps the mainstream wasn't ready for the likes of Karma Man at the time, but in just a few years his look and music would inspire a generation that had just missed out on the Beatles and the Stones.
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Please note: Amazon appear to be bundling reviews of David Bowie's Deram album entitled David Bowie and ones on RCA (AKA "Space Oddity") with the same title. This is a review of the Deram one from 1967. I will be reviewing the Space Oddity recording in due course and append the same caveat.

Although I have always enjoyed listinging the David Bowie's music (certainly the 1970s stuff), his death has led me to start exploring his work from the beginning.

Here is the self titled debut album released in 1967 when David Bowie was only 20. It was not a great commercial success and Decca/Deram dropped him. His subsequent work is very different and it is hard to link it with the music he made in the following decade. So should anyone take time to find out what it is like?

After listening to this album four times this weekend, the answer for me is emphatically yes. Yes it is different to what Bowie did the following decade but then the 1980s and later work is equally different and no-one suggest that we should not listen to that.

Furthermore, it IS a very good album in its own right. The album has a superficially breezy quality as if David Bowie is assuming a Tommy Steele or Tony Newley persona. However, the words are of a much darker hue and there are some rather disturbing lyrics concerning child murder, alien invasion etc.

The production values are also very high. Decca hired a number of very good session players. David Bowie said that his own musical knowledge was limited (derived from a crash-reading of the Observer's Book of Music) and he expected the session musicians to leave in disgust and the silly things he asked them to do. They didn't and it is clear that David Bowie had a fantastic instinct for experimentation in sound and harmony which makes this a far more creative experience that you might initially think.

The album is also quite cheeky. He shamelessly nicks the riff from the Spencer Davis Group song, Gimme Some Lovin' in Join the Gang. I think that the Who (in Sell Out and Who By Numbers) tapped into the same influences that Bowie was using on this album.

So yes, if you don't know this recording, I would definitely recommend listening to it.
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on 17 January 2010
For those Bowie fans who have the original vinyl, reissued vinyl, cassette, CD, Deram Anthology CD etc - the great news is the re-mastering and overall sound on this is CD is STUNNING...

Much has been written about the style of this album over the last 44 years which I will not regurgitate (Anthony Newley mimic, Pink Floyd influenced, Tommy Steele wannabee). What is valid is that it splits the Bowie fan base like Marmite - people seemingly love it or hate it which is probably down to the fact that he is largely backed by an orchestral arrangement.

At the time of writing this album (and the included "bolt-on" songs) Bowie was being persuaded by his manager to write music from what he was observing rather than the "Love, love, love" route of the Beatles. He had been handed a copy of the Velvet Underground album and this influence is clear to hear throughout and on the bonus tracks (yes, Laughing Gnome has a similar riff to "Waiting for the Man"!)

The result is each song is a small cleverly woven story with a subject matter featuring stress or isolation (Uncle Arthur, Rubber Band, She's Got Medals, Little Bombardier, Maid of Bond Street), childhood simplicity (There is a Happy Land, Silly Boy Blue, Come and Buy my Toys, When I Live my Dream) or the simply bizarre.

Bowie's vocal accents change throughout the album (South London, American, upper crust English) and it's the first time he takes on different personas to get his clever lyrics over.

The album can have that "What the...?" on first listening but most people that I know that own it grow to love it on repeated listening, mainly because the songs come to life and undoubtedly could have gone on to form concept albums of their own.

The mono version has been included so that the listener can recreate how it first sounded on release, the remixes are cleaner and clearer, the bonus tracks and BBC stuff are necessary for those who were unable to pick them up on bootlegs.

Overall, the verdict must be for the curious "Give it a go" - it will grow on you and there are some beautifully simple songs such as Let Me Sleep Beside You, The London Boys and In the Heat of the Morning which will stay with you forever.

It's NOT Ziggy Stardust but it was written only 5 years before it...
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on 15 January 2010
Well not quite I suppose. David Bowie (formerly Jones) was knocking about with some mod-esque bands a few years before this was originally released. Nothing really broke through but for a real beginning you must buy David Bowie Early On (1964-66) available on amazon as an import.

So what do we have here then? Basically, Bowie was touted as the next Tommy Steele / Anthony Newley, by his then manager. Fortunately he still had a modicum of control over his output, particularly lyrical content and although the album has a Tommy Steele feel about it the lyrics are very risque and/or philosophical for the time.

Please Mr. Gravedigger is about a child-killer who feels no remorse about stealing from the grave of the child he murdered.

Little Bombardier is about a lonely old man who is accused (falsely maybe?)of being a paedophile.

We are Hungry Men is about an over-populated world (similar to Logan's Run)

Uncle Arthur is about a slightly incestuous middle aged man still living with his mother.

and She's Got Medals is about a cross-dressing woman posing as a man in the army.

So...........for 1967 a most bizarre album!!!

There are some great tunes to be found and some darker moments too. Personal favourites are Join the Gang (about swinging London in the 60's) and When I live My Dream (which is actually quite a sweet love song).

But for those currently in the sixth form who think Bowie is the greatest thing since Nirvana, this album has very little to do with Ziggy Stardust or Station to Station. But for a fascinating insight in to the most influential British musician EVER, this will be a god-send.
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