Features

Saturday Deluxe / 27 June 2015

David Bowie / Five Years 1969-1973 vinyl box set

The Bowie Box Debate

The headline news this week was the announcement of Five Years 1969-1973 the first in a series of David Bowie box sets from Parlophone. In general, it’s always quite exciting when a major release of one of your favourite artists is announced, but once the dust had settled opinion was rather divided on the merits of the new set which contains Bowie’s first six RCA studio long-players, two live albums and a new two-disc compilation.

The crux of the issue is the question of ‘who is the box set aimed at?’ Is this for ‘the fans’ or the casual music buyer who has a few greatest hits collections and the odd album but might be up for a deeper delve into David’s run of studio albums, which from 1969 to 1980 reached a standard of consistency and creativity that only The Beatles could lay serious claim to surpassing in their seven-year domination of the 1960s.

In my opinion, what has happened is that Parlophone have failed to ‘pick a side’. They have opted for relatively lavish presentation – quality Japanese style mini-LP CDs and 180g ‘audiophile’ vinyl (mostly analogue mastered according to the label) – which appeals to collectors, but have offered no bonus tracks on the albums, which doesn’t.

A casual fan might want to explore The Man Who Sold The World or Aladdin Sane, but do they also want two live albums (Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture and Live Santa Monica ’72) and Re:Call 1 the double-disc compilation of rarities? Probably not. But they have no choice; all this stuff is bundled together seemingly to create an expensive box. If you buy the CD set you are paying £100 for the six studio albums, two live albums and the compilation (for the LP set you can double that).

David Bowie / Zeit! "Berlin Trilogy" box set

Two years ago EMI issued Zeit! a five-CD compilation which contained the so-called ‘Berlin Trilogy’ (Low, Heroes and Lodger) from the late 1970s and Stage the double live album of that era. Fair enough, there was no remastering and the ‘box’ was little more than a card slipcase to hold CDs already easily available, BUT this could be picked up for less than £15. Or £3 a CD. For collectors this was a waste of time but for the ‘casual fan’ this was a great deal. To compare, the new Five Years box wants £8.33 for each CD included.

Even if casual fans love the new box and are prepared to shell out for it, the Bowie die-hards haven’t really got much to cheer about. On the plus side we will get new remasters for 1970’s The Man Who Sold The World and follow-up Hunky Dory, but it does appear as if we have to buy a whole load of albums all over again, many of which have been issued in superior deluxe editions in the last five or six years.

Take the Live Santa Monica ’72 album. I bought this in 2008 in a nicely designed limited edition stickered box, containing poster, booklet and the newly mastered CD complete with George Underwood illustrations on the sleeve. The new version in Five Years isn’t going to surpass that packaging and is likely to sound either identical or very similar. What about the David Bowie album of 1969 (for years know as Space Oddity with the era-busting Ziggy cover)? I have a two-CD deluxe edition issued a year after Santa Monica. This included 15 bonus tracks of which only four make an appearance on the Re:Call 1 compilation included with Five Years. Even more recently in 2012 The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars had a splendid reissue which included an amazing vinyl remaster, a 5.1 surround version of Ken Scott’s 2003 mix and some bonus tracks. Again, the 5.1 is absent from the new box, the same remaster is used again and of the four bonus tracks only one (Velvet Goldmine) is in Five Years.

Without wanting to labour the point, the new box clearly is going to struggle to appeal to collectors, but Parlophone simply couldn’t resist including an ‘exclusive to the box’ compilation to try to entice that very group to buy. Maybe it’s a good thing that even that collection misses the mark, spending much time rehashing bonus tracks that have been doing the rounds since 1990, when EMI picked up the international rights to Rykodisc’s Sound + Vision reissue programme. There are 120 tracks in Five Years and ONE of them is previously unreleased – a single edit of All The Madman.

Despite all of the above – the curse of the collector strikes – I will still swallow hard and pick up the vinyl version of Five Years. Perversely, it may be the most expensive variant, but to me it offers the best value. I’m awash with Bowie CDs (Rykodiscs, Japanese mini-LP CDs (with Disk Union boxes), various noughties reissues..) but apart from a handful of average condition RCA LPs and the aforementioned Ziggy LP+DVD combo don’t have much in the way of vinyl.

It seems as if Parlophone will spend the news 12-24 months issuing further Bowie box sets. Presumably these will include more ‘rarities’ compilations with Re:Call 2, Re:Call 3 etc. Maybe after that we can get down to the serious business of producing all-encompassing deluxe sets of individual albums that have been shockingly neglected for decades – The Man Who Sold The World, Hunky Dory, Low, Heroes and Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) to name but five. And that’s before we even start thinking about the 19 – extended dub mix – 80s.

Five Years 1969-1973 will be released on 25 September 2015. You can find more information about this box set here.


fiveyears

CD box set – click to enlarge

Five Years / 12CD Box Set

vinylfiveyears

Vinyl box – click to enlarge

Five Years / 13LP Vinyl Box Set


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41 responses to Saturday Deluxe / 27 June 2015

  1. Simon F says:

    Paul, I’m one of those ‘casual fans’ that you mention at the top of your piece, and have vinyl copies of Hunky Dory, Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane on vinyl from various years. I’m really excited about this set, and can’t wait for volume two, although I think I’ll probably pass on vol 3 as IMO Bowie lost the plot after Scary Monsters.
    But this is perfect stuff for the casual fan who does not want to get bogged down in the myriad of previously unissued stuff. Here you get all the important cuts, and great packaging. What’s not to like?! The only thing I can see that’s missing is Bowie’s contribution to Revelations-A Musical Anthology For Glastonbury Fayre (1972) which was a full band demo of Supermen, and really should be included.

  2. dominic says:

    mmmmmmm, dub mix 80’s

    I don’t care what anyone says, I love Never let me down, it was my first Bowie album, being the first one he released when I discovered buying records. Plus it coincided with Shep Pettibone knocking out some of his best remixes, including Day in Day out.

    Ahh, 1987: True Faith, Day in Day out, What have i done to deserve this? I could do with a nostalgic can of Quatro to drink in the sunshine!

  3. Tim says:

    I’m a casual fan. I would never dream of spending the money on this. I don’t think it’s marketed to either demographic in your original post, this is marketed to people with too much money who buy things they don’t really need. I don’t mean this snarkily, the hardcore Bowie fan already has this stuff and the ones that buy it are going to be the folks who have to buy one of everything. This is a vanity product.

  4. PAUL FRASER says:

    Good critique, Paul. Normally when there’s Bowie reissue stuff that I already own, I stick it on an Amazon wishlist and see if anyone is kind enough to buy it for me for xmas. Don’t think anyone in my family will be so generous to buy this one at the current price.

  5. Fred Smith says:

    Well said Paul,i am a Bowie collector of over 40 years now,and i am really looking forward to hearing the German edit of ‘Drive In Saturday';hopefully in the next box we will get the various edits of ‘TVC I5′,though ‘Holy Holy’ has never been given a reissue since 1971 [though the remake is superior].Being a Bowie collector is a hard thing to be sometimes …..

  6. Jonathan says:

    The vinyl set appeals but personally I think it’s a little bit pricey so I will wait to se if it goes on sale. Ideally I’d like to see an ultimate edition type set for a number of his 70’s albums as they did with the excellent Station To Station set.

  7. Carlton Fisher says:

    I probably fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum with Bowie–I’m a bit more than a casual fan, as I own all the albums, but I’m not a completist. I’m also one of that rare breed that prefers his 80s and 90s work to the “classics.” I’ll probably get excited if the box series gets to those albums, especially the 80s ones, which have been seriously neglected in terms of anything in the way of extras. The 90s have already seen a great series of reissues that seem to have covered pretty much everything they could, unless there’s a ton of stuff in the vault, but these don’t seem all that focused on the vault. I’m not a vinyl collector. My one concern is that the lack of fresh material on these earlier boxes is going to put off so many people that they will sell poorly and the campaign will be abandoned before we get to the 80s output that I’m really interested in.

  8. Stanley Patel says:

    I am surprised most people are het up about this box set?

    The recent Nothing has changed compilation proved to me that Bowie can be finally transferred on cd properly . The original RCA CDs are/were hissy & hit and miss in quality. The Ryko /EMI are ” thin ” sounding . As for the 1999 Peter Mew Abbey Road CDs they are terrible! My green RCA international LPs sonically are the best (yes better than the original Orange issues)

    In the last seven years Bowies reissues have been all over the place so I am chuffed that this is done before CD & LP is being snuffed out.

    I sincerely hope that too much moaning will lead to Parlophone cancelling this issue.

    The sound quality will be sorted out & people seeking pristine vinyl copies of Hunky Dory to hear Eight Mile Poem with clicks & pops will be served . What’s not to like?

  9. Stanley Patel says:

    Sorry it’s meant to say ” will NOT lead”

  10. Will says:

    I am a massive Bowie fan so I definitely have a horse in the race! I do agree with Paul that it seems to be a MOR strategy and I think it generally won’t suit anyone. It’s way too expensive for the casual fan (and to think it only covers the beginning of his career!). I have all the vinyl copies, both RCA and Rykodisc, and a few of the RCA Internationals as well. I have all the 30th and 40th anniversary CD or vinyl reissues. This boxset doesn’t improve on anything, maybe the sound but of course we won’t know that until we buy it. It is attractive to get a newly remastered “Hunky Dory” especially if they’re using the original master tapes. What’s really scary is if they then make the albums available individually! That would make much more sense for all of us. Of course some of these albums deserve the individual boxset treatment don’t they. They did a wonderful job with “Station to Station” so I don’t understand why they haven’t done that with other albums! Us poor fans.

    Enjoyed your little article on this Paul, very helpful and funny too. By the way, if they did release a disc with all 19 ’80s dub versions on it I’d be on that like white on rice!!

  11. Charles says:

    Unfortunately none of this matters. Bowie sold his catalog rights years ago to an investment group so you have the ultimate business machine making decisions on how his material is sold. The first thing they did was remaster the catalog minus the bonus tracks that were included on the Ryko re masters. Then they started releasing deluxe editions of select albums with some of these tracks included. That plan didn’t work so well so now we have this. This will continue until the last penny is made. This set is great for a new fan, but only after the price comes down considerably.

  12. Brian says:

    What’s the big deal about the price. Just hold out long enough and the price will plummet anyway.

  13. Simon F says:

    The CD set is £79.99 at What Records.

  14. Steve says:

    Geez people, I think many just need to get over yourselves a little bit. Not everybody is a hardcore collector who has to have every obscure B-Side or alt mix before they are satisfied with their collection. The core catalogue, what made the majority of you Bowie fans in the first place is being represented in series of career defining box sets, most likely for the last time, on CD anyway. Maybe there’s other releases planned for the fan who already has everything ?
    And really, would any release satisfy everybody ? I’d hate to try and cater to the whims of the collector who is bitching about this box as I honestly don’t think you would ever really be happy. I’m sorry, not having a go at anyone in general, but you need to take a step back sometimes and realize that not everything revolves around the hardcore collector. There is a solution to your problems and it’s pretty easy ….. don’t buy it.

    • Dean says:

      Can you tell me the last time a Bowie release was aimed at the hardcore Bowie collector? I assume you are aware of the dross that EMI gave us over the last ten years?

  15. Dean says:

    Someone spending £200 isn’t a casual fan. LOL

    For people who are surprised we’re upset about this set, I can only guess you’ve not been a Bowie fan for too long. If you had been you’d of grown as tired as everyone else with the mismanagement of one of rocks premier catalogs.

    If you’re going to release a £200 box, or a £100 box of CD’s – what possessed them to release Nothing Has Changed? Better yet – if you’re going to issue a package of non-album tracks – why reissue Sound and Vision at the same time?!? It’s called MILKING THE AUDIENCE.

    Then this box comes out and offer two significant things – 2015 remasters of Man Who Sold the World and Hunky Dory. That’s the extent of the work they’re doing on them. No extra tracks. No second disc (we all know there is music from this era that could have been included). Nope, bare bones.

    I suppose the answer is – they’re holding off for a later reissue down the road so people can buy them all over again.

    Bowie signed with EMI – and for the ten years they had the material they did virtually nothing. Nada. Now we have Parlephone, and frankly you couldn’t imagine they could do worse. Yet here it is. Where’s the extra tracks in the old double-disc Ziggy release? Where’s the surround sound? Where’s the movie for Ziggy’s final show? Where’s the hi-res? Where are all the bonus songs from Space Oddity? Where are all the bonus tracks from the double disc Aladdin Sane release? Why two versions of Ziggy? What about – as Paul mentioned – all the great packaging from Santa Monica? Where are the bonus tracks from Pin Ups?

    Apparently we now live in a world where a £100 payout is considered for “casual fans”. No wonder record companies fleece us time and again.

    Sorry if I just sound p*ssed off – but I happen to worship the guy – but this is just a money grab in a fancy box. £20 each for Vinyl…. great.

  16. Presley Spigot says:

    I am slap-dab bang in the middle of the target market for this. I’ve never owned a Bowie album, I’m mid-40s, like to buy boxsets collecting complete catalogs by artists I’ve missed in the past. How’d I miss Bowie? Never liked him. Wha? Nah, find him annoying. Or I should say, found him annoying. A (mis)perception that might be time for me to redress. I can afford it, and as a way of getting into Bowie for the first time, it’s quite a neat proposition doing it via this boxset reissue program. Certainly don’t need lots of extras and rarities; the Bowie catalog for a newcomer is a massive undertaking.

  17. AlexKx says:

    Outside of you all’s answer to your questions being “to make money” which by the way IS legit some of the reasoning more than likely has to do with legal issues. The idea that a recording artist has a “decades recent version” of the main menu really should not be too hard to comprehend. As far as what the die hards want hopefully these recordings, formats, and features will be met in the years to come though it is really difficult if the industry doesn’t exist any more because everything was stolen…

  18. michal says:

    I reckon the price will fall to 130-150£ for the vinyl and 65-80£ for the cd boxset, that I consider absolutely fine but these have to be done from analogue tapes and pressed at the optimal. And I really don’t care about the b-sides, alternative takes etc. I just want albums.

  19. Jim says:

    Dean:
    “Where’s the extra tracks in the old double-disc Ziggy release? Where’s the surround sound? Where’s the movie for Ziggy’s final show? Where’s the hi-res? Where are all the bonus songs from Space Oddity? Where are all the bonus tracks from the double disc Aladdin Sane release? Why two versions of Ziggy? What about – as Paul mentioned – all the great packaging from Santa Monica? Where are the bonus tracks from Pin Ups?”

    They are all on my shelf, bought as and when they came out. Therefore I am interested in the 2015 remasters, which will no doubt be available separately.

  20. Dean says:

    They are all on my shelf, bought as and when they came out. Therefore I am interested in the 2015 remasters, which will no doubt be available separately.
    ———————————————————————————————

    And the two new remasters will be on my hard drive the moment some uploads the FLAC files to websites across the net. Win win, I guess. :)

  21. CJ Feeney says:

    As has been posted elsewhere, the individual 2015 remasters can currently be pre ordered from CD Japan for around £8 each plus shipping, a website that, like Amazon, doesn’t take your money before the products are dispatched. So a cheaper way to get the two discs you want. And if they make them available in other territories by release date you can cancel your order without financial loss.

    Sorry to repeat myself, but the same complaints seem to keep popping up even after they’ve been addressed.

  22. Jay1 says:

    As CJ says the individual remasters are listed on CD Japan – Paul, do you know or could you find out from Warners whether the individual remasters will be issued in the UK – and whether they will come in jewel case format rather than the box set slip case style ?

    • Paul Sinclair says:

      Will see what I can find out. The individual remasters in Japan aren’t vinyl replica, so not an option if you like fancy packaging.

  23. LedMan says:

    Interested in individual albums from all analog sources when and if released from these new remasters.

  24. Joey says:

    This is not too different from the Genesis box sets a few years ago, minus the remixed audio, 5.1 mixes and dvd of extras. That most fans bemoaned anyway. I’m sure this will come out in hi-def in a couple of years, as that is the direction of physical media. This is a compromise release, yes nice and arguably contains Bowie at his singer-songwriter peak, but beyond that nothing new here. What i have now is good enough. i doubt that an official release would contain what the bootlegs have already put out there for the hardcore bowie fans anyway, such as rhubert the riley and the assorted acetate and promo mixes.we never even got a complete bbc sessions release. Sure this will be a christmast gift to some of the disgruntled fans here. On the plus, new Bowie fans will get better remasters on itunes, fresh vinyl remasters. As pime era Bowie goes, we all know there is a finite amount of material from this era. it will be stored, like diamonds. Each company that has a licence to his catalog probably has acces to some but not all of that material. This ensures thre will never be a definative Bowie collection. Think of the masterstroke of not releasing the original Holy Holy 25 years ago. I doubt there will ever be an official collection of unreleased bowie rarities in one place. Just like the kings jewels they will be up for auction, bit at a price and surely not sold in a lot. There will likely be “unreleased” bowie in 50 years, just like they are doing with Frank Sinatra.

    • Steven says:

      The problem with releasing “unreleased” Bowie in 50 years time is that most of the fan base will be dead.

      Let’s face it. Bowie isn’t getting any younger. None of us are. Isn’t it time the catalogue was just, you know, done right and put to bed? Give us a properly administered re-release campaign including all the albums (obviously), together with all the B-sides, remixes, edits, demos,..everything,

      While we are still around to care.

      • Joey says:

        Actually I think ther has been a real lack of unreleased material from Bowie. I’d like to see a comprehensive collection of unreleased songs and alternate takes. Hunky Dory is my favorite bowie album and was a true creative period with loads if unreleased material. It is about time those tapes were dusted off and given a proper release. At this point unreleased material is the only thing that would get ME excited about buing anything else.

      • Will says:

        Amen to that!

    • CJ Feeney says:

      The main complaint about the Genesis boxes was that the mixes were too compressed and loud. Believe me 5.1 mixes and the extras were really appreciated particularly the live footage on Selling England and Trick of the Tale. They also covered five albums for under £100 per box and saved the live albums for a seperate box.

      The only complaint beyond that is that the Gabriel era sets weren’t made available as individual albums.

  25. Charles Hodgson says:

    The RYKO disc remasters seemed to cover the bonus tracks angle just fine, but the only one I picked up at the time (“Scary Monsters” ) seemed to have inferior sound quality. I thought the 1999 EMI’s improved somewhat on the sound, (brighter, clearer – couldn’t care what the Steve Hoffman Forum “spectral ANALysis” dickheads say) so I bought all of them up cheap. Another upgrade for the 69-80 era (the one that matters) a further 16 years down the line seems about right. I’d buy this set at the right price. Just a shame that I’ll miss out on those RYKO bonus tracks again. If I had the 69-80 era on really good remasters + the RYKO bonus tracks + an improved / complete BBC collection (like the Kinks / Bolan had) + a bootleg like “Secrets Of My Lost Years” for the more ‘esoteric’ (or just plain embarrasing to Bowie) that’d do me.

    Life is finite, as some if the other posters here have pointed out. But classic era Bowie will probably never be done right while the man lives, unfortunately. Why should he care if we’re happy? The man has given us so much great music that’s now part of our collective DNA, and that will continue to be discovered by future generations for as long as people listen to pop music (like Sinatra, as someone mentioned). I’m thankful for that. We’ll certainly never see his like again.

  26. Zongadude says:

    Anyone else thinks the “Re:Call” double-disc compilation is great ? It’s like a “Past Masters” done for Bowie :) (all the non-album tracks published at the time, in chronological order).

  27. Phil says:

    Is anyone able to list the RYKO bonus tracks that remain exclusive to those editions? For example, which of these have not appeared on other versions of the original albums, box-sets or compilations – prior or post the RYKO releases?

  28. Derek T. says:

    I count 8 tracks on Re:Call 1 that haven’t been on CD before. I’m pretty happy with that.

  29. Phil says:

    Thanks for the link David. Chees, Phil

  30. Andy says:

    Both the vinyl and CD editions come with a bonus disc when ordered from the Bowie Parlophone store (a one-sided 10 inch for the vinyl version) promoting the Pin-Ups album, for anyone who might be interested. Link here: http://davidbowie.parlophonestore.co.uk/en

  31. Steven says:

    I’m buying this regardless… My question becomes: Disc 2 of Space Oddity and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, and Aladdin Sane: Will all songs from those CD2’s be included here?

  32. Steven says:

    Will CD2s from Space Oddity, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, and Aladdin Sane become redundant? Can I trade the previously released Deluxe versions in?

  33. Phil A. says:

    I won’t be buying this, but I am glad to hear that The Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory have been newly remastered.
    I have been waiting for Deluxe versions of the above albums for some time now, particularly TMWSTW which I have given up getting an 80s RCA copy for under $120.
    Anyway. fingers crossed that these two CDs become available individually or I can buy them individually on eBay, similar to the Beatles CDs from the 2009 Mono set I bought a few years back.
    This is Bowie’s prime period. I was a 13 y/o back in 1972 when I first discovered Bowie and quickly sought all his previous vinyl back to 1967.
    ps, I am hoping for a decent remastering, I don’t like disappointments.

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