An open secret in David Bowie's oeuvre is he, alone among superstars, never shies away from a well-selected cover version. This was as true at the dawn of his career as it is at the twilight and even many of his best-known albums -- The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Station to Station, Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) -- are anchored by covers. This is a roundabout way of saying that Ace's 2014 compilation Bowie Heard Them Here First (another installment of their excellent ongoing series) is hardly a collection that showcases Pin Ups and nothing else. No, this 24-track set is ambitious, opening with the Raiders' "Louie - Go Home," which Bowie cut in 1964 as Davie Jones when he led the King Bees, and closing with the Modern Lovers' "Pablo Picasso," which appeared on 2003's Reality, and "I Took a Trip on a Gemini Spaceship," which is on 2002's Heathen. In between these points comes Bowie's career, as the compilation proceeds in chronological order according to when the Thin White Duke sang a song. So, this opens with songs from Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust -- Biff Rose's "Fill Your Heart" and Ron Davies' "It Ain't Easy," contemporary songs both -- and, halfway through, snaps back to 1957 for Johnny Mathis' "Wild Is the Wind" and Lotte Lenya's "Alabama Song," two versions that may not have been the inspirations for Bowie's own interpretations (respectively, Nina Simone and the Doors are more likely). Such flaws don't hurt this compilation, nor does the absence of some fairly significant covers in Bowie's catalog -- licensing likely prevented the Beatles' "Across the Universe," the handful of Bruce Springsteen songs Bowie recorded in the mid-'70s, and Morrissey's "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday," while his take on Iggy Pop's "China Girl" is a staple of his hits collections -- because Bowie Heard Them Here First emphasizes its idiosyncrasies as it flits between British beat, cabaret pop, and art rock. The biographical march doesn't make for the easiest listen -- the changes in era and style can give whiplash -- but it does go a long way in illustrating Bowie's range, wit, and taste.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine