Auntie's Bloomers Hit, miss and maybe, courtesy of a great British institution - and the BBC
**** (four stars)
THE BBC'S DECISION to let its many sessions go free has been the curse of the bootlegger and the delight of the rock fan who wants to hear great old music from his/her record collection in a raw, tinny fashion. Bowie's BBC sessions have long been available illegally, but now these reasonably cleaned-up recordings - from 1968 to 2000 - are available to all.
The early tunes are a strange mix of Scott Walker influenced pop (In The Heat Of The Morning, Let Me Sleep Beside You), hippy-pop (Memory Of A Free Festival, Unwashed & Somewhat Slightly Dazed) and the partially formed rock of Width Of A Circle, recorded within a few days of guitarist Mick Ronson joining Bowie's band, and Bombers a song that sounds like a template for the imminent Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars album. CD1 is thus the sound of Bowie working out who he's going to be (and also the sound of John Peel talking like Prince Lord Hippy Arse). By CD2, Bowie is both sucking up to DJ Brian Matthews like a good 'un and sandpapering the face off rock'n'roll. Here we have the best of both the Ziggy Stardust album (two crunching versions of the title track) and Hunky Dory, plus a brilliant, Lou Reed namechecking White Light/White Heat. The songs here are rougher, louder and often more exciting than their "official" versions, not least Moonage Daydream where Ronson's guitar sounds like it's ripping transatlantic cable out the seabed.
Disc Three, a limited (yeah, right) edition item, features a Bowie show from the BBC Radio Theatre earlier this year; meaning that guitarist Earl Slick may well have played to some old ladies who thought they had tickets for News Quiz. Songs as old as Fame and new as the superb Seven are featured and Bowie's current punter-wowing tour is thus captured for ever - albeit without all the bits between songs faded out for some reason, like on Stage.