Wednesday, February 24, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Bowie at the Beeb

Released on September 26, 2000 by Virgin Records, Bowie at the Beeb: The Best of the BBC Radio Sessions 68-72 is a two-disc compilation of live material David Bowie made for BBC Radio from 1968 to 1972. The collection explore Bowie’s evolution as an artist in his early years to the breakthrough he would achieve as Ziggy Stardust at it features an array of material including rarities and deep cuts. Featuring a third disc of Bowie’s performance at the Portland BBC Radio Theatre on June 27, 2000, the collection is probably one of the finest portraits of an artist coming into his own and then become a national treasure to his home country.

The first disc features sessions from 1968 to 1971 in different radio sessions for the BBC as the first four songs from John Peel in Top Gear for a May 5, 1968 broadcast features performances of In the Heat of the Morning, London Bye Ta-Ta, Karma Man, and Silly Boy Blue as Bowie is backed by an orchestra and a rock band that is led largely by Tony Orchestra as the performances of the songs are very rich as are the performances of Let Me Sleep Beside You and Janine for the Dave Lee Travis Show on an October 26, 1969 broadcast that features interviews by Brian Matthews and a strong backing band in Junior’s Eye that features early Bowie collaborators in rhythm guitarist Tim Renwick, bassist John Lodge, and drummer John Cambridge.

The next six songs on the second disc from a second session with the legendary John Peel for a February 8, 1970 broadcast that would mark the very first time Bowie would perform with guitarist Mick Ronson as they’re aided by Tony Visconti on bass and drummer John Cambridge in an early version of the band called Hype. Performances of God Know I’m Good and a cover of Jacques Brel’s Amsterdam are performed by Bowie solely while he’s joined by the rest of the band for performances of The Width of a Circle, Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed, Cygnet Committee, and Memory of a Free Festival where Ronson’s guitar solo on The Width of a Circle displays what would do as Bowie’s interview with Peel would reveal that he had just met Ronson a few days ago. From an April 6, 1970 session for Andy Ferris is a performance of Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud that features Bowie aided by Ronson, Visconti, and Cambridge as it includes some fiery guitar riffs by Ronson in the song.

The next five songs from a third session with John Peel for a June 20, 1971 broadcast marks one of the early performances of Bowie with the band that would consist with the Spiders from Mars in Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, and drummer Mick “Woody” Woodmansey as they’re also aided by Mark Carr-Pritchard on guitar and a trio of backing vocalists in Bowie’s friends Geoff MacCormack, George Underwood, and Dana Gillespie. Two of the songs in Bombers and a rarity into this mid-tempo track called Looking for a Friend are mentioned as songs Bowie wrote for the Arnold Corns project while there’s a couple of covers performed in Chuck Berry’s Almost Grown and Ron Davies’ It Ain’t Easy as the latter feature Bowie, MacCormack, and Underwood trading verses with Gillespie joining in for the song’s chorus. The performance of Kooks is performed solely by Bowie as it was mentioned by Peel in his interview by Bowie as it was then a new song that Bowie wrote about his newborn son Duncan.

The album’s second disc begins with a performance by Bowie and Ronson from an October 4, 1971 broadcast for Bob Harris on the songs The Supermen and Eight Line Poem as the former is largely acoustic while the latter has Ronson play melodic lines on an electric guitar and Bowie playing a piano. From a second session for Bob Harris on a February 2, 1972 session is a preview of sorts of what Bowie and the Spiders of Mars band would do for the Ziggy Stardust album in songs such as Ziggy Stardust, Five Years, Hang On to Yourself, Queen Bitch from Hunky Dory, and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s I’m Waiting for the Man as showcases a rock n’ roll band going all out. The sense of rock continues in a fourth session with John Peel for a May 23, 1972 broadcast features two different performances of Ziggy Stardust and Hang On to Yourself as well as Moonage Daydream, Suffragette City, and a cover of the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat as it includes piano accompaniments by Nicky Graham.

From a five-day broadcast in June of 1972 from the Johnnie Walker Lunchtime Show are performances of Starman, Space Oddity, Changes, and Oh! You Pretty Things maintain that sense of rock n’ roll with Bowie, the Spiders, and Graham as well as provide that sense of musicianship within the band. The last three tracks on the second disc come from a June 16, 1972 broadcast for Bob Harris in the songs Andy Warhol, Lady Stardust, and Rock N’ Roll Suicide as it showcases this period of an artist and a band coming around with these great songs just before their legendary appearance at Top of the Pops some weeks later.

The two-disc also features liner-notes by two of the producers in Bernie Andrews and Jeff Griffin who took part in compiling the tracks for the album as well as go into great detail over not into what was recorded but also what didn’t make it into the final album as it relates to the condition of the tapes or weren’t available at the time until they would appear in reissues of Bowie’s early albums. From the album’s limited three-disc edition features a live performance from the Portland BBC Radio Theatre on June 27, 2000 for BBC radio and television. With a live that included two of Bowie’s great collaborators in keyboardist/pianist Mike Garson and lead guitarist Earl Slick as well as rhythm guitarist Mark Plati, bassist Gail Ann Dorsey, drummer Sterling Campbell, backing vocalist/percussionist Holly Palmer, and backing vocalist/keyboardist Emm Gryner for a selection of material ranging from recent album as well as some classics from the 70s and 80s.

Opening with a cover of Wild is the Wind that is filled with amazing piano flourishes and a guitar solo from Slick as well as the audience singing along with him on parts of the songs. Performances of recent songs such as Seven and Survive from ‘hours…’ as well as I’m Afraid of Americans and Little Wonders from Earthling and Hallo Spaceboy from Outside don’t just add some punch into what Bowie was doing recently but the songs definitely manage to be just as engaging live. From the 80s, Let’s Dance and Ashes to Ashes are highlights while it’s the songs such as a funk-based version of This is Not America and a rousing version of Absolute Beginners provide a glimpse into the major moments of Bowie’s work in a polarizing decade that was the 80s. Other work from the 1970s that Bowie did would showcase is diversity in a folk-rock version of Always Crashing in the Same Car while The Man Who Sold the World, Cracked Actor, a ripping version of Fame, and a blazing version of Stay add so much punch in the record as the performances and musicianship are out of control as it showcases the great camaraderie between Bowie and his band.

Bowie at the Beeb is an outstanding album from David Bowie. Filled with an abundance of material Bowie made for the BBC from 1968 to 1972 as well as a grand return in 2000 showcases not just a fascinating evolution of the artist. It’s also showcases a plethora of songs that not only carry more weight live but also showcases Bowie’s strength as a live performer while the limited-edition third disc provides him giving older songs some new life. In the end, Bowie at the Beeb is a spectacular album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - "Heroes" - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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