David Bowie

Boy Could He Play Guitar

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Although the sound quality on these 1971-73 recordings is highly variable, and a couple of the best items have actually been officially released, this bootleg has a good deal of very interesting (and usually pretty rare) early-'70s David Bowie material. Undoubtedly, the highlights are the first seven songs, all recorded at a September 19, 1971 BBC radio session. On this mostly acoustic set, Bowie was accompanied only by Mick Ronson, delivering stripped-down versions of songs mostly taken from Hunky Dory, although he also did "The Supermen" (from The Man Who Sold the World) and a cover of Jacques Brel's "Amsterdam." The fidelity on these is almost perfect, and the unplugged-type arrangements quite different -- and more informal and personal in feeling -- than those used on the famous studio versions. Two of the tracks, "The Supermen" and "Eight Line Poem," did find official release on Bowie at the Beeb, but the rest of the session is commercially unavailable. The remainder of the CD isn't on the same level, but is always, at the very least, interesting, including live material broadcast on the Midnight Special TV show; a cover of the Velvet Underground's "White Light, White Heat" with Ronson on vocals (supposedly an "alternate mix"); live renditions of "Moonage Daydream" and "Drive in Saturday" from 1973; and another supposedly alternate mix, of "Rebel Rebel." Also on-hand are solo 1971 demos of "Bombers," "Changes," "Amsterdam," and "Kooks" on which the only backing is piano and acoustic guitar, but while the alternate arrangements are cool and the performances good, these are marred by fuzzy sound quality that's far below the level of the September 1971 BBC tracks. Still, if only for those September 1971 tracks, this is highly worthwhile for serious fans of Bowie's early-'70s work, and the rest of it is certainly unobjectionable, and at least somewhat entertaining. Incidentally, another bootleg titled The Axeman Cometh has exactly the same contents as this CD.