Nine tracks and 36 minutes long, the easiest way to summarize Rarest One Bowie's decidedly oddball march through David Bowie's 1970s is to regard it as an official sampler for some decidedly unofficial albums. Aside from a version of "Ziggy Stardust" lifted direct from the 1972 Santa Monica '72 album, nothing here hails from even a halfway legitimate album project. But, from a fabulous take on "All the Young Dudes culled from the Aladdin Sane sessions through "Time" from the 1980 Floor Show and "Queen Bitch" from 1976's Thin White Duke, Rarest One is essentially an echo of all that Columbia attempted with Bob Dylan's unofficial catalog -- the chief difference being, the Dylan tapes were at least cleaned up first. Some of this album sounds like it came straight off a cassette tape. Two tracks ("Sound and Vision" and "Be My Wife") lifted from the 1978 London shows, which spawned the official Stage live collection, do benefit from having escaped the ambience-enhancing remix to which Bowie subjected the original tapes, and a 1973 in-concert version of "My Death" cannot reasonably be faulted. But "I Feel Free" is a murky mess, while a playful version of James Brown's "Footstompin'" sounds precisely like what it is -- a domestic tape recording of Bowie's appearance on the Dick Cavett show in 1974, packed with so much distortion that you can almost see the microphone against the mono television speaker. Historically, the performance is priceless -- Bowie's own "Fame" developed directly from this arrangement. It's a shame it couldn't be presented in a form that matched its pedigree. Collectors looking for a quick glimpse into the highlights of their vinyl bootleg collection will probably find Rarest One Bowie of some use -- students of the Asian music industry's occasional problems with the English language will enjoy the hopelessly garbled track info placed on the Japanese reissue. But ultimately, Rarest One offers little of any real value, and nothing of sonic importance. Look out for the original bootlegs instead.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson