Tag Archives: David Bowie

Various • Making Time: A Shel Talmy Production

I finally made time for this one. A compilation of tracks produced by an American ex-pat, Making Time: A SHEL TALMY Production is a 25-track platter of mostly British rock and freakbeat from the early/mid ’60s. Talmy is most famous for producing The Who’s first album (and its same-titled single) My Generation, a few Kinks records and The Creation’s greatest, errr, creation, “Making Time.” Ace Records, the UK label known for putting out quality compilations of this ilk, has once again sorted out a quality collection of tunes, including some big names and lots of lesser known ones—and even a pseudonymous track by a fellow called Davy Jones (not that guy from the Monkees). What you don’t get with Making Time is the feeling that Talmy was the great producer that legend has him, but really just a hustler with a good ear.

After all, Shel Talmy is famous not only for a handful of great singles but the fact that he lied his way into producing in the first place. In the early ’60s there was no such thing as the internet or even fax machines; Talmy flew across the Atlantic with a stack of records he hadn’t produced, presented them as his own and landed himself a job with Decca Records UK. (He was supposedly given the okay to do so by the man who did produce them, Capitol Records’ Nik Venet, who passed away in 1998.) Apparently Talmy was a good enough salesman to quell any doubts there may have been about his CV because the next thing you know he’s producing The Kinks—represented here with “Tired of Waiting for You”–and then The Who. Along came The Easybeats, Manfred Mann, The Creation, Chad & Jeremy and a load more. Hell, he even produced a female singer with the unlikely but cool name of Perpetual Langley! Later down the road he started his own label, Planet Records (not to be confused with the one started by Richard Perry in the late ’70s). Talmy gets a bad rap for keeping The Who in mid-sixties limbo with litigation that severely curtailed their early momentum, but that was eventually sorted out by both parties.

Making Time presents such a varied group of artists that it’s hard to make a case for him being such a great producer. His productions are fine, for the time, but they don’t stand out as being all that unique, like Phil Spector’s and even Brian Wilson’s do. He did pick some talented groups to produce, though, so perhaps we should really salute his ear for talent rather than production. This compilation presents a reasonable number of great artists and tunes, but there are some definite duds, too; good lord please don’t make me listen to anything else by Lee Hazlewood if it’s as bad as “Bye Babe”! And I could live without ever hearing Tim Rose or Trini Lopez again. In all, though, this CD is of Ace’s usual high quality level and worth the price.

Bonus notes: One track here is by The Rockin’ Vickers, which was a group that included the young Ian Kilmister under the name Ian Willis (who finally achieved fame as Lemmy of Motorhead). Also, the Davy Jones track, “You’ve Got a Habit of Leaving,” is a “previously unissued alternate overdub” of the young David Bowie’s 1965 Pye single.

2.5/5 (Ace Records CDCHD 1497; 2017)

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David Bowie • Cracked Actor (Live in Los Angeles ’74) [3LP, 2CD]

Talk around the internet forums and blogs in April of this year was that this splendid release, DAVID BOWIE‘s Cracked Actor (Live in Los Angeles ’74), would probably be out on CD at some point. After all, the vinyl-only Record Store Day release sold out quickly and surely there was plenty of still-mourning fans who’d missed out. I’m not sure any of us figured the CD would be out barely sixty days later, but here it is: the 2CD reissue of a release not even two months old. Clearly it was always the plan. Crank up the hype machine, sell out of the initial vinyl run and then unleash the compact disc set while the iron was still hot. [Does that count as a mixed metaphor?]

Cracked Actor is an exciting live album and worth every penny regardless of the configuration you chose/choose. If you didn’t get the vinyl – for whatever reason – and you still thrill to a live Bowie show then you’ll want to add this release to your collection. Recorded in concert at the Universal Amphitheatre in September 1974, it’s a show and band lineup that appeared between the Diamond Dogs and Philly Dogs tours of that year. Bowie seemed to be tinkering with set lists and musicians incessantly and this transitional date was, luckily, recorded by the BBC to bolster a documentary they were working on at the time. The band included Carlos Alomar and Earl Slick on guitars, Mike Garson on keys and David Sanborn on sax, and they were a startlingly solid group considering how recently they’d come together. Vocalists included Warren Peace, Ava Cherry and a certain Luther Vandross, who worked with DB on his next studio release, Young Americans. Songs include numerous cuts from Dogs, plus some from Aladdin Sane and Ziggy Stardust as well as “All the Young Dudes” (written by Bowie and a then current hit by Mott The Hoople) and a cover of “Knock on Wood.” I really like the muscular, saxified “Cracked Actor” and the sublime “It’s Gonna Be Me,” ultimately an outtake from Young Americans. Cracked Actor is another case for Bowie as the amazing interpreter of his own songs that he was, and how every concert of his was an event because of that.

Indeed, the show has been bootlegged fairly extensively (apparently there was more stage banter and a longer intro than appears on this official release) so it’s not news to the more intrepid Bowiefans that this show even exists, but you won’t be sorry for buying this version even if you do have one of the boots. In a deluxe three panel album jacket, the 3LP presentation is a 5-sided, 20-song show that features rearrangements of even his then most recent material. (Side 6 features an etching of the distinctive Bowie logo that dons the cover of this release, as well as Dogs.) Sound quality is pretty top-notch for a live show, given its 1974 recording but late 2016 mix by longtime Bowie partner Tony Visconti, and mastering by Ray Staff at AIR Mastering. The pressing itself is on 180 gram vinyl and is dead quiet, with the records coming in static-free poly-lined black sleeves. The 2CD comes out tomorrow and features the same track listing but some liner notes and photos not in the vinyl package. It ought to be just as compelling, albeit maybe not as warm as the wax. At least you won’t have to flip the discs over as often. Either way, vinyl or CD, I wouldn’t miss this one!

4/5 (Parlophone DBRSD 7476 [0190295869373], 3LP, 2017) [I reviewed Bowie’s other 2017 RSD release, BOWPROMO, here.]

Here’s a clip of the title track from this very record, as broadcast on the BBC’s Cracked Actor documentary in 1974.

 

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David Bowie • BOWPROMO [12″ Single Box Set]

Another Record Store Day release, and one that was heavily anticipated and criticized, BOWPROMO is a box set version of a DAVID BOWIE rarity. What was once upon a time a promotional record with one side dedicated to rough mixes of tunes that mostly ended up on Hunky Dory, this RSD version features half of that record along with era ephemera included in a nice little clamshell box. Let me clarify.

I say “half” a record because the original promo was dedicated to two artists, Bowie and a female singer named Dana Gillespie. A management stablemate of Bowie’s, her songs comprised the other side of the record, which was sent out to drum up interest in GEM Management’s two artists. For this release Gillespie’s songs – her side of the record – were removed, so we have a one-sided 12″ with half an album’s worth of prime David Bowie. The mixes of these songs are different from what ended up being officially released (five of the seven tracks ended up on 1971’s Hunky Dory), and are therefore officially interesting to Bowiephiles around the world. The mixes’ original master hasn’t survived into the 2000s and so these were culled from an actual pressing of the promo – and they sound quite good. In fact, listening to these songs, which include “Oh! You Pretty Things,” “Kooks” and “Queen Bitch,” makes me want to give Hunky Dory another try. I have a copy somewhere (I believe the Virgin CD reissue), but as the latest batch of Bowie vinyl reissues has been so good (I never got a chance to review Diamond Dogs, but it’s a stunner!) I may just have to pick it up on record. I can tell you that all of the songs here are epic, including “It Ain’t Easy,” which is muscular as hell, and “Bombers,” which finally saw release on the Rykodisc CD version of HD.

david bowie bowpromo labelPackaging on BOWPROMO is first-rate – as it should be, considering the pretty penny they charged for it. Picked up for fifty bucks locally, the release comes in a thin box that houses the one-sided 12″ (nothing pressed on the other side) which comes in its own cover sheathed in green wrapping paper, plus a manila envelope with color photos of our boy-ie, and a press release-style printout detailing the differences in these mixes from their official released versions, as well as info on the original promo release. Many have complained online about the fact that there are only seven songs here, but this presentation is worth the $50 I got it for. Whether it’s worth more or less depends on you, more or less. One might consider the old adage “a fool and his money are soon parted,” as one person did on one of the music blogs I read, but who’s to say what constitutes a fool-ish action? If I think it’s worth what I paid, then you are a fool to consider me a fool. (And I’m dying to finish this with “And I pity the fool!”)

5/5 (Parlophone)

You can see the original press release for this reissue on David Bowie’s web site.

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The Flaming Lips • “Space Oddity” [7″]

flaminglips-spaceoddity_350pxThis is Ground Control to major David Bowie fans everywhere: THE FLAMING LIPS have a new 7″ out, their cover of “Space Oddity,” one of our hero’s best known songs. Coming out a year after Bowie’s death, it’s a fairly faithful yet interesting take, very similar to the version they did on Stephen Colbert’s TV show last April. The fact that it comes out at the same time as the Lips’ new album is also of interest: is this a sideways promotional tie-in to Oczy Mlody or a heartfelt tribute? Here in the year 2017 I’d have to say it’s both. There’s no way to hear about one record and not the other since the advent of the internet, keyword searches, SEO and the rest. And my job is to let you know about things I like, find interesting, moderating or even disgusting, so I naturally inform you.

flaminglips-oddity-vinyl_350pxWayne Coyne and his bros do a nice version of Bowie’s breakout song, keeping to the recipe for the most part, adding a dash of Lips spice here and there but not so much that you taste only the pizzazz and none of the actual showcase dish. It’s got a nice picture sleeve, is pressed on red vinyl, and has a big hole in the middle so us Americans can have our 45 served the way we like it. “Jest (There Is…)” on the flipside is pretty standard Lips fare but important to Flaming collectors because it’s not on the new album either. If you want ’em both LP + 7″ you can order them as a bundle from the band’s web site and save some money.

Anyway, “Space Oddity” is a nice DB cover, a worthwhile addition to the Lips discography and the video’s pretty cool, too.

3/5 (Warner Bros.)

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David Bowie • Station to Station (Deluxe Edition)

bowie-stationtostation-CD (This review first ran on my old blog, Skratchdisc, in November 2010.)

The return of the son of the Thin White Duke…? Station to Station was one of the many times over his career where David Bowie sought to reinvent himself. In 1976 it was more rockin’ than Young Americans, more soulful than Diamond Dogs, and even considered “modern” (whatever that meant then).

When I first came across this album (in the early ’80s), I didn’t really like much of it, save for “Golden Years,” which upon release was the first record I was ever aware of that was by this “bisexual” guy Bowie. (In ’74 I was eleven.) That single’s always been one of my favorites, and over the years I’ve come to like most of the rest of Station to Station. “TVC 15” starts out with a Professor Longhair piano riff, and that barrelhouse vibe carries through the verses until you get to the chorus, which takes the tune into a very different realm. It’s a successful transmogrification. “Stay” is a rock/funk jam that showcases the entire band, especially drummer Dennis Davis. Throughout the record, he, guitarist Carlos Alomar, bassist George Murray and pianist Roy Bittan back up Bowie with a muscular, sometimes tender sound that foreshadowed where DB would go with his music in the early Eighties. (Earl Slick also shows up here, as does “Warren Peace” on vocals, who if memory serves me, is Luther Vandross [?]) And “Word on a Wing” really captures that sweet, yearning thing that Bowie does so well.

bowie_station2station_2This release, the third or fourth time Station to Station has been on CD, comes in a few different versions, ranging from the standard one CD to the absolutely over the top 5CD/1DVD/3LP box that only the richest, most trainspotting of Bowie’s fans would buy. ($150!) I opted for the middle version, the 3CD one that has the original album on one disc, and then the oft-bootlegged 1976 Nassau Coliseum show on the other two. This live concert makes this the station from which to depart. The setlist is fairly imaginative for Bowie at this point, incorporating just the right amount of hits and other cool tunes, like “Waiting for the Man” (yes, the Velvets song), “Five Years” and “Life on Mars?” Almost the same band as on Station, these guys tackle Bowie’s set with vim and vigor, and a few reinterpretations that make this show worth the ticket price.

Sure, we’re all getting a little weary of these reissues—do we really need another rendition of a limited edition 7 CD box set of the Stooges’ Fun House sessions?—but apparently they’re almost the only thing keeping the major labels afloat these days. Still, the often nagginess (is that a word? well, it is now) of the thought “Do I really need this version?” that trails the purchase of such an endeavor can get to be taxing. But if music is the thing that floats your boat, then you need to keep that baby above water!
3.5/5 (EMI)

Upon reexamination in early 2016, I give the over-the-top Deluxe Edition a 5/5. A few years ago I got it, brand new, severely discounted by one online retailer or another. Hooray for me! R.I.P. David Bowie. – Ed.

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