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David Bowie: Five Years 1969-1973 [Nine-CD] [Box]

Album Reviews:

Pitchfork (Website) - "The young singer/acoustic guitarist behind these songs obviously has a mountain of charisma, a gift for hooks, and a taste for the language of experimental science fiction..."

Album Notes

The first in a series of career-spanning comprehensive box sets, Five Years 1969-1973 chronicles the beginning of David Bowie's legend by boxing all of his officially released music during those early years. This amounts to six studio albums -- 1969's David Bowie (aka Space Oddity); 1970's The Man Who Sold the World; 1971's Hunky Dory; 1972's The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars; Aladdin Sane, and Pin Ups (both from 1973); a pair of live albums (Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture Soundtrack and Live in Santa Monica '72, both released long after these five years) and a two-CD collection of non-LP tracks called Re:Call, plus Ken Scott's 2003 mix of Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust. That list suggests how "officially released" is a guideline that's easily bent. Live in Santa Monica '72 is a bootleg that became canonical in 1995, and the soundtrack to Ziggy Stardust didn't appear until 1983, but both are welcome because they either showcase the Spiders from Mars at their prime (Santa Monica) or at their end (Ziggy). Considering the number of edits, alternates, and B-sides Bowie released during this period, Re:Call is also a needed supplement, but it has some willful blind spots due to that "officially released" maxim: namely, any outtake released as a bonus on the Rykodisc reissues of the early '90s, including such major items as "Lightning Frightening," "Bombers," and "Sweet Head." Such absences are an irritant but not a major one because the box itself is quite handsome -- whether in its CD or LP incarnation, each record is packaged as a replica of its original release -- and the remastering is excellent, with Space Oddity, The Man Who Sold the World, Hunky Dory, and Pin Ups given upgrades to match the anniversary remasters of Ziggy and Aladdin Sane from the 2010s. The improved audio alone makes Five Years 1969-1973 a desirable box for serious Bowie fans, but the whole set does justice to one of the great creative runs in rock history. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine


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