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Week 20 | Earthling in the City (1997)

From time to time, I would be surprised by a Bowie release, which inevitably enhanced my enjoyment of whatever it was he was releasing. This happened with “The Buddha of Suburbia,” and “The Next Day,” and it also happened with this little promotional EP, “Earthling in the City.” The disc was included in a 1997 issue of GQ Magazine. I don’t know that Bowie did anything like this before or since. There’s only six songs in this collection, which is a combination of live recordings and remixes of previously released songs from Bowie’s last three albums, but having had no expectations that the thing was supposed to come into being at all, it was (and is) pretty satisfying. I think the purpose of the album was to tip people off to what Bowie had been doing recently. If potential listeners trailed off after “Never Let Me Down,” “Tonight,” and Tin Machine, Bowie had once again made a shift that might be appealing to fans of the Berlin Trilogy and “Scary Monsters.”

Four of the songs in this collection are from “Earthling.” Oddly, “Law (Earthlings on Fire)” is not among them, perhaps continuing the tradition of “CHANGESTWOBOWIE,” in that it is a compilation that doesn’t include the song suggested by the title (‘CHANGESTWO” does not include the song, “Changes”). “Earthling in the City” does include “Pallas Athena,” from “Black Tie White Noise,” which while very similar to “Law” is dissimilar to the rest of that particular album. Nonetheless, “Earthling in the City” establishes a thread between Bowie’s most recent works at the time.

I have the entirety of this EP on my IPod. I like that they are different than their studio album versions. This is not to imply that “Earthling in the City” is a better album than “Earthing.” It isn’t, but while my expectations for the latter were disappointed at the time, I had no expectations at all that the former would even exist.

Beyond that, this type of thing could have been better still. The live songs come from Bowie’s performance at his 50th birthday concert in New York (thus the “in the City”). My sister attended that concert but I only found out about it too late. There seems to be a potential album from that show. Unfortunately, “Earthling in the City” does not include anything performed there that Bowie had not already recorded (for instance, his duet with Lou Reed of, “Dirty Boulevard”). Around that time Bowie had been performing live, “Lust for Life” (as far as I know, there’s no studio recording of Bowie singing that song) and Nine Inch Nails’, “Hurt,” (with that band, which opened for him on the Outside tour). These and other “new” songs are absent, but for a free promotional CD, I’ll take what I can get.

Note: The video is a link to the entire 50th Birthday concert…which I suspect will be released as an album on a future record store day…

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