Alternative Biography [Alter Ego 2CD]

Rarities from 1972 - 1989 includes outtakes, live and 12-inch mixes.

Across two CDs, a very high-spirited attempt to echo Bowie’s "official" box set Sound And Vision, by culling the greatest rarities from a variety of (largely official) sources, and scarred only by the set’s refusal to actually tell the tale chronologically. So we leap, for example, from the 1974 live b-side "Panic In Detroit" to the 1979 Saturday Night Live "Man Who Sold The World"; then, two songs later, we’re back in 1969, listening to a demo of "Space Oddity." Disconcerting, too, is the skip between the Absolute Beginners version of "Volare" and the Italian language "Space Oddity" - except to prove that Bowie’s pronunciation had not improved during the intervening 15 years.

For anybody whose interest in Bowie has yet to escape the gravity of the official catalog, Alternative Biography does act as a fabulous primer for what else is out there - even the '80s/'90s-era 12-inch singles and remixes are validated by their inclusion in an historical survey such as this, and though one does bridle at the inclusion of the blatantly faked "rehearsal" take of "Under Pressure" that closes disc one, still there is enough here to keep most novices happy. - Dave Thompson

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