David Bowie – Loving The Alien

14 10 2018

Loving The Alien [1983 – 1988] is the 4th David Bowie box-set to be released, and the one covering his most commercially successful period.

Loving The Alien cover

The box-set comprises three remastered original studio albums (Let’s Dance, Tonight and Never Let Me Down), a newly re-imagined Never Let Me Down (2018) with Bowie’s original vocals and new musical performances from long time collaborators, two live albums (Serious Moonlight [Live ’83] and Glass Spider [Montreal ’87] plus two new compilations – Dance (original extended mixes) and Re:Call 4, a double album of single mixes, b-sides and soundtrack songs. As with the previous box-sets, Loving The Alien includes an excellent companion book with rare and unseen photos and essays from Nile Rodgers, Hugh Padgham and more.

Let's Dance (2108 remaster)

Let’s Dance was David Bowie’s 15th studio album and was originally released in April of 1983. Produced by Bowie and Nile Rodgers, the UK / US Platinum selling no 1 album crossed over into the mainstream more than ever before with three massive hit singles, Modern Love, China Girl and the title track.

The sound on the 2018 remaster from Ray Staff and Nile Rodgers is not a massive difference, as the album always sounded amazing anyway. The drums sound slightly fuller and there is more punch to the bass. China Girl and Let’s Dance suffer from less treble than the previous masters, so this version is definitely more sympathetic.

1984’s Tonight album is mastered slightly quieter than the previous version. The Ray Staff / Hugh Padgham 2018 remaster has a much softer snare sound. Tonight was not popular with critics, but sold well, though not on the Let’s Dance scale. Whilst by no means a classic album, it contains one of my favourite Bowie songs, the achingly beautiful Loving The Alien. A song so good they named the box-set after it!

Blue Jean sounds so much better on this remaster, as does one of my favourite Tonight tracks, the mighty Neighborhood Threat and the 80s pop-reggae of Don’t Look Down.

The final original studio album included on the Loving The Alien box-set is Never Let Me Down from 1987. Though Never Let Me Down was a commercial success, it was not well received by a lot of fans. Bowie also apparently disliked the arrangements and production, and it is probably no co-incidence that this was the last (solo) studio album release until Black Tie White Noise in 1993.

I must admit that Never Let Me Down is by far my least played Bowie album. The only two tracks I still play to this day are Day-In Day-Out and Time Will Crawl, so listening to the album in it’s entirety 31 years after release was interesting. The 2018 remaster is the best this album has sounded. Remastered slightly louder, and with more bottom end, Time Will Crawl and Beat Of Your Drum sound better than previous releases. The snare on Never Let Me Down sounds so much fuller and I will play this song more often, but the rest of the album still leaves me pretty cold I’m afraid.

I am happy to report that Never Let Me Down 2018 is a much more enjoyable listen. Mario J. McNulty, who was responsible for the popular Time Will Crawl (MM remix) from the popular Bowie compiled iSelect album, gathered together musicians including Reeves Gabrels, David Torn, Sterling Campbell, Tim Lefebvre, Nico Muhly and Laurie Anderson to re-assemble the album at New York’s Electric Lady Studios in early 2018. Never Let Me Down 2018 is exclusive to this box-set, and is a must-have for Bowie fans.

Never Let Me Down (2018)

The difference is startling. Day-In Day-Out has a much better drum sound, and discordant Berlin-era buzzsaw guitars mixed with Adrian Belew like held notes, with Bowies vocals much higher up in the mix. The at times sparse mix really does justice to the underlying song.

Time Will Crawl builds on the previous MM mix, with a much less compressed master. Beat Of Your Drum feels more like a mid-70s Bowie song in this incarnation. The plucked strings work really well, and its a fine Bowie vocal performance.

Shorn of the 80s production, the title track is the highlight of Never Let Me Down 2018. Zeroes also works much better as a Hunky Dory meets Reality type track.

The newly re-imagined Glass Spider is longer than the original 1987 version, and this seemingly Nine Inch Nails influenced, dirtier electronic re-recording would have not sounded out-of-place on one of Bowies 90s albums. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) is also more enjoyable. The short appearance from Laurie Anderson fits well into this 2018 recording, with its discomforting background electronics as a counterpart to the smooth Fame like backing.

LTA vinyl

New York’s In Love is a vast improvement, and feels a little like the sound of the second Tin Machine album mixed with The Next Day production. ’87 And Cry is grungier than the original, and has shades of the sound of Lodger at times.

The album closes with a string-heavy Bang Bang. The more restrained, much less frantic arrangement gives the lead vocals (and 70s sounding) backing vocals the room to breathe. I’m so glad this 2018 album exists, and I’m sure it will receive many more plays from me than the original album.

Serious Moonlight (Live '83)The two live albums are not of the quality of the recent Welcome To The Blackout (my favourite Bowie live album), but they are worth having, if just to replace the poor quality bootlegs that have been in circulation for years. The crowd for the Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) album sounds absolutely massive. This is the first full audio release for this concert, that was previously released as a VHS video album, and a shortened digital EP.

Highlights include the segue from Fashion into Let’s Dance, and I love the horns on the 1983 live arrangement of Breaking Glass.

Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) draws heavily from Never Let Me Down, so is a less interesting live album for me. The theatrical nature along with the interludes has really dated this live show, and it doesn’t work as well without the visuals. Highlights from this album include Loving The Alien and Sons Of The Silent Age, but overall, this is not an album I will return to often.

The extended version’s disc titled Dance is literally dripping in the sounds and feel of the 80s, so loving that decade will surely influence whether this compilation hits the right notes for you. Make sure you slip into your 80s pastel clothing, and throw on your head-band before listening to Dance for the ultimate experience. Finally having the cream of the 83 onward extended remixes together on one album is a good thing. Shake It (Re-mix aka Long Version), Loving the Alien (Extended Dub Mix) and Time Will Crawl (Dance Crew Mix) are particular highlights.

Re_Call 4Re:Call 4 ties together the majority of the odds and ends from this era, including the 7″ edits of the Let’s Dance singles, and the Absolute Beginners and much-loved Labyrinth Bowie soundtrack pieces.

Less vital are the Never Let Me Down album vinyl edits and some of the poorer b-sides such as Julie, Girls – Extended Edit and the two tracks recorded with Tina Turner (Tonight and the Let’s Dance medley).

The personal highlights of Re:Call 4 are two of my favourite Bowie songs – This Is Not America and Absolute Beginners. Although sound-wise not an improvement on previously released versions, they stand head and shoulders above most tracks on this compilation, which is the most diverse but ultimately the poorest of the four box-sets Re:Call’s released so far.

Loving The Alien is much more of a mixed-bag than the previous David Bowie box-sets, but it has a potentially much larger audience due to the massive commercial success of Let’s Dance. The rehabilitation of Never Let Me Down with the 2018 re-recording makes this collection a must-buy for Bowie fans. I hope my David Bowie Loving The Alien review will help you decide if you want to add this release to your collection.

Loving The Alien cover

Buy Loving The Alien on CD from Amazon

Loving The Alien cover

Buy Loving The Alien on vinyl from Amazon


Actions

Information

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: