The Best Of David Bowie 1980/1987

David Bowie

Virgin, 1998

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Although the single-disc Changesbowie and the double-disc Best Of Bowie remain the best introductions for casual fans or newcomers to the wonders of David Bowie's music, this set – the final of three covering Bowie's career throgh 1987 – is still worth considering as a point of entry.

Unlike those compilations, this one has room to stretch out with the time period it covers. The hits are all here, of course, along with key album tracks and a few non-album rarities that every Bowie fan should either own or be familiar with, as they are important to the story.

The beauty of this compilation is that it gives you absolutely everything you need to know about Bowie in the ‘80s, no more, certainly no less. Scary Monsters is considered by many as Bowie's last great album, with the three that followed – Let's Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down – pop travesties that fell prey to the worst excesses of commercial ‘80s music, save for only a couple of decent songs. This oversimplifies the issue a bit, of course; as this compilation makes clear, Bowie had a fair amount of good songs in the ‘80s that stand with his best work, and those who enjoy the huge radio hits of the era would do well to pick this up (instead of the actual albums) and dig a little deeper.

"Let's Dance" is here in its single form, and while I normally detest that practice, in this case it's welcome because the full version is quite repetitive. The single packs more punch and says all the song needs to say. Also from that album is the Iggy Pop's moody "China Girl" and the rollicking "Modern Love" (featuring one of the great lyrics of the year, "Church on time / Terrifies me").  It should be noted that the latter two also appear in their shorter single versiosn. "Cat People" is here because it has to be, but it's still a pretty bad song.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tonight and Never Let Me Down were not good albums, but the best songs from each are here and they stand with the rest of the music, particularly "Blue Jean" and "Loving The Alien" from the former and "Time Will Crawl" from the latter. "Day-In Day-Out" also is here in edited form, though this doesn't really improve the song's reliance on electronic drums and general laziness.

I have never found Scary Monsters to be a great album with the exception of the best-known songs, which are all here: the catchy, sardonic "Fashion," the nervous, jittery title track, and the melancholy, haunting "Ashes To Ashes," the New Wave-inspired follow-up to "Space Oddity." Unfortunately, all three of these songs are presented in their edited single versions for no real reason other than to appeal to those who liked the songs on the radio. Also present is "Up The Hill Backwards," just because.

The non-album songs are a mixed bag this time around. Having the Queen collaboration "Under Pressure" is necessary; time has only been kind to the song's rubberband bass line and the anthemic heroics of Bowie and Freddie Mercury. Also welcome is the lowkey soundtrack piece "This Is Not America," featuring the Pat Metheny Group, and the emotional title track to the Absolute Beginners movie. Less essential are two Brecht/Weill songs, "Alabama Song" (yes, the same one The Doors covered on their debut, and it wasn't a great idea then either), and "Drowned Girl," one of the songs from the Brecht play "Baal" in which Bowie starred in 1982.

More dedicated Bowie fans will appreciated these non-album songs but will be turned off by the single versions of pretty much every song. Casual fans, which is who this collection is aimed at, will be rewarded with all their favorite radio hits in one place as well as the best of Bowie's work surrounding the era. However, unlike before, the songs present really are all that's necessary from their respective albums, and even everything here doesn't maintain the same level of quality throughout that 1969/1974 and 1974/1979 did, even though it comes close much of the time.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.