By Erin Norton, Membership Assistant
Artist: David Bowie
Album: Brilliant Adventure (1992 - 2001)
Favorite Songs: “Lucy Can’t Dance,” “Let’s Dance - live at BBC Radio Theatre,” and “Can’t Help Thinking About Me”
For Fans Of: Lou Reed, Pixies, Talking Heads
Growing up, my father kept all of his favorite CDs in the glove compartment of his car. They were filled with new wave albums, jazz compilations, the soundtracks of musicals and movies, and my personal favorite, albums upon albums of David Bowie. We would listen to his music on repeat during our morning drive to school and by the age of 8, I knew all the words to my favorites “Rebel Rebel” and “Let’s Dance.”
As I grew older, my dad showed me more of his personal favorite David Bowie songs and shared how he also grew up listening to him. Born in the ‘50s, my father watched Bowie’s career grow, even sitting front row to see Bowie perform as the lead role of The Elephant Man.
David Bowie’s music transcends generations, and my experience only serves as proof. Hearing about the release of Bowie’s box set, Brilliant Adventure, I was eager to unpack its contents — the polished re-release of his older music, the long-awaited official release of Toy, live recordings, and other edits and remixes. The musical journey it took me on was one that ultimately brought back wonderful memories and proved how truly timeless Bowie’s music is.
MAKING THE MOST OF HIS “UNPOPULAR ERA”
The Brilliant Adventure box set focuses primarily on David Bowie’s discography from the ‘90s to the early 2000s. It features remastered versions of the albums Bowie released during that era such as Black Tie White Noise, The Buddha of Suburbia, 1. Outside, Earthling, Hours…. These albums were arguably Bowie’s least successful releases, as much as I enjoyed some of them growing up.
One of the title tracks, “Black Tie White Noise,” Bowie made in an attempt to recreate the same success he received from “Let’s Dance. "Unfortunately that song did not take off in the same way as his other hits. The newly remastered version, though, offers a new spin. It opens up at a slower pace and layers the occasional white noise in the background. These details add depth and more intrigue to the song. The vocals come through a bit sharper than the original and brighten up the song in its entirety. Lots of these minor adjustments helped to make the rest of the remastered songs groovier and richer in quality.
THE POSTHUMOUSLY RELEASED ALBUM TOY AND ITS IMPACT
Also within the Brilliant Adventure box set was the unreleased album Toy. This album was originally recorded in 2000 after his Glastonbury performance. The songs featured on Toy are new and unique takes on some of his first recorded songs from 1964-1971. Songs like “Silly Boy Blue” and “Karma Man” Bowie originally planned on recording in the studio and picking the best performances of each. But this didn’t pan out exactly as planned. He wanted to make this album a surprise release and unfortunately didn’t have the means at the time. Bowie was also worried that it wouldn’t be as successful or appreciated as he would have liked it to be. But now, 20 years later, the songs in their most polished versions bring new joy.
THE LIVE RECORDINGS FROM THE BBC RADIO THEATRE BRING NEW ENERGY TO BOWIE’S CLASSICS
My personal favorite asset of this box set is the live recordings, specifically the one of “Let’s Dance.” This song was the constant soundtrack of my life when I was younger. It was always lingering in my mind and bringing a smile to my face. I eagerly listened to this song before anything else in the box set and I was shocked by its slow exposition. I let myself listen to the calming instrumental and the lyrics I have always mouthed until the drums and recognizable horns of the chorus kicked in. It was a fantastic rendition of this song that I personally know by heart but is familiar to so many.
Each of the live recordings on this box set add more to the original studio recordings. It’s always intriguing to see how Bowie and his band decide on performing songs at the moment. And also, who doesn’t want to pretend like they’re in the audience for some of Bowie’s greatest live shows?
TRANSCENDING GENERATIONS WITH HIS MUSIC
As touched on earlier, many people have grown up listening to Bowie, whether it was during the rise of his success, or, like myself, it was passed down from family member to child. The musical journey provided by the box set gives nostalgia for long-time fans and opens the door for more listeners. And above all, it displays Bowie’s incredible career and passion for music.