David Bowie

Rarest Live

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Actually, by the time this package hit the streets in 1997, the only "rare" thing in sight were fans who didn't already own the 15 songs within. Nevertheless, Rarest Live remains a fascinating collection, a compilation drawing from the Santa Monica '72 live album, and the 1996 Rarest One Bowie collection of bootlegged odds and ends, highlighted by some genuine treats -- a storming live rendition of "Queen Bitch," performed with the Station to Station-era band, a couple of tracks from a 1978 London show, legendary versions of "Time," from the 1980 Floor Show TV concert, and "My Death" from Ziggy's Carnegie Hall debut, and -- fanfare, please -- a version of Cream's "I Feel Free," taped in the pre-stardom depths of 1971.

The sound quality, unfortunately, does not always live up to the historical value of the tracks -- "I Feel Free," in particular, is little more than a faint rattle trying to break through some serious hiss. But other moments are priceless -- the 1973 studio outtake "All the Young Dudes" is overly familiar now, but that wasn't always the case, while a version of the funk classic "Footstompin'" was caught live on The Dick Cavett Show shortly before Bowie and John Lennon transformed it into "Fame," and it really does live up to its title. The remainder of the set draws from Santa Monica '72 and, to be fair, there are few better live souvenirs of Bowie than at his 1972 peak. But the real meat had already been served up and, again, though Rarest Live should not have been allowed to get away with that title, its intentions are honorable all the way.

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