While Sound + Vision satisfies as a lovely object, its strange mix of the known and...
Chris Jones 2002-11-20
Ah, there is nothing like a dame, or in this case the Dame. With only a few remaining pieces of the David Bowie re-release puzzle left to fill, EMI (with expert timing) decided to give us the full pre-Xmas box set treatment. Sound + Vision is, however, not a new venture but a revamped version of the early 90s attempt to round up rarities and classics in one hard-to-resist package. Now it comes in a lovely new slipcase with all manner of posters, postcards and ephemera. But is this more than just decorative stocking-filler?
On its first release the box accompanied a greatest hits tour and the first wave of CD reissues. Bowie fans old and wise enough will remember those first reissues fondly for their extra tracks, now removed from the latest editions. In that sense this box almost makes up for this retro-miserliness. For many of those tracks (plus ones latterly seen on the Rarestonebowie album) appear here. We get gems such as a demo version of ''Space Oddity'', the German version of ''Heroes'' (''Helden'') and his Pinups era take on Bruce Springsteen (''It's Hard To Be A Saint In The City'').
The set also goes some way to redressing the lack of live albums currently gracing Dave's section in the racks at HMV. Often reviled at the time of release, this smattering from his three missing albums (there are tracks here from Bowie Live, Stage and even the legendary Ziggy-era Santa Monica gig) merely serves to remindyouof the power of Bowie's voice in a live setting, and also his unerring sense of how to put together a great band. Simply put: will someone at EMI please get their finger out?
The big difference in this version of Sound+ Vision is in the fourth disc. Mainly consisting of post-80s releases this means that we have to get to grips with some of the notorious Tin Machine back catalogue. Reacquainting yourself with David's ersatz band confirms that their crime wasn't to be bad, just ordinary - a word that should never be applied to this artist. On the plus side his subsequent work (Black Tie White Noise material included) is easily up to scratch. Again one longs especially for the reissue of his soundtrack to The Buddha Of Suburbia TV series.
While Sound+ Vision satisfies as a lovely object, its strange mix of the known and unknown still leaves one asking who it's aimed at. As a greatest hits package it fails due to a lack of vast swathes of classic tracks, yet there's not really enough rare stuff here to justify the hefty price tag. Completists will already have it but the casual fan will be better off investing in last year's Best Of. It's a shame because despite all of this, there isn't really a bad track on it.