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Album 98 | Best of Bowie (2002)

I finally got around to listening to this greatest hits compilation, and…its a greatest hits compilation (with a somewhat interesting history). There’s much to like, but the reason I never purchased it or listened to the whole thing is that I already have (almost) all the songs on other albums. That said, I found this to be better than many other compilations in that, first, it has many more songs than most, and second, that it is truly a compilation of most of Bowie’s best-known songs from early in his career up through the time of the album’s initial release. By comparison, “Nothing Has Changed” includes several songs that were obscure for a good reason, and the “Sound and Vision” box set included some live versions that tend to remind me how much better the studio version of the same songs are.

There are actually different versions of this album, including a shorter, one-disc version (I listened to a two-disc version). I’m not sure that each edition includes exactly the same version of each song. As I was listening, I thought I heard very minor variations in songs such as, “I’m Afraid of Americans” and “Little Wonder.” The one unmistakably altered song is the Pet Shop Boys’ remix of, “Hallo Spaceboy,” which I think was introduced for the first time on this album. (If I have one criticism, its that I like the original better and that this is the only song on the album connected to “1. Outside,” which I kind of think merits more). But other than that, all the songs sound as you’d expect them to sound.

What’s not on the album is anything from Bowie’s pre-fame, self-titled debut (good— the songs are terrible), anything form Tin Machine (ok…Tin Machine is not David Bowie), and anything from the albums “Never Let Me Down,” “The Buddha of Suburbia,” and “Hours…” (although at least one version of the compilation includes songs from all of those albums except the original, “David Bowie,” and “Buddha”).

For a while, I think this was the successor to the, “Changes” series of official Bowie best-ofs. “Best of Bowie” was originally released in the wake of, “Heathen,” which more or less cemented Bowie’s return to nearly universal critical acclaim (and was also commercially successful). The album was an especially big seller in Britain, reaching #11 on the charts. But it came back several years later when Bowie died, and replaced “Blackstar” as the #1 album in Britain in 2016. It makes sense— as a survey of familiar songs from as long swath of Bowie’s career, “Best of Bowie” does the job.

PS- There was a less-well known album of the same name that was released in 1980, which I don’t think I have ever heard…

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