Gift ideas for Christmas are box sets and special albums. From rock legends to Britpop heroes, the Mail’s music critic ADRIAN THRILLS selects four of this year’s best offerings.
DAVID BOWIE – Brilliant Adventure (1992-2001; Parlophone).
It’s clear that Christmas is near, and Thin White Duke returns is an indication of this. The latest chapter of Bowie’s ongoing series of high-quality reissues is focused on his studio albums from the 1990s. The period covered here was far from Bowie’s most fashionable — and this multi-disc box set feels intimidating — but there’s plenty to enjoy once the intrepid listener starts digging.
It began with Iman’s 1992 marriage and the disbanding of Tin Machine, his hard-rock supergroup. He made 1993’s blissful Black Tie White Noise with Chic’s Nile Rodgers and teamed up with Lenny Kravitz on the soundtrack to TV drama The Buddha Of Suburbia in the same year, kick-starting a resurgence that restored much of the gloss he’d lost in the 1980s.
On 1., his old experimental streak returned. Outside, an awkward art-rock LP made with Brian Eno, before he rode the Britpop bandwagon with 1997’s Earthling, an action-packed mash-up of rock and clattering drum and bass that chimed with the buoyant musical mood of the times and still stands up remarkably well now.
The Thin White Duke’s return is a sign of Christmas. This is the latest installment in a series of Bowie deluxe reissues that focuses on his 1990s studio albums.
Brilliant Adventure isn’t cheap. It’s out as an 11-disc CD box (£92) and 18-piece vinyl LP set (£365) — but it is also available to stream from today, and its extensive track listing includes excellent live takes, alternate versions and an intriguing unreleased album, Toy, from 2001. Recorded in the aftermath of a triumphant Glastonbury headline show, it’s a sister album to 1973’s Pin Ups. The latter found Bowie singing other people’s songs from the 1960s.
On Toy, it’s his own early efforts that get a makeover, revisited with help from a tour-hardened band led by guitarist Earl Slick and bassist Gail Ann Dorsey. Among the highlights are I Dig Everything and Can’t Help Thinking About Me, on which David sounds every inch the well-groomed Soho mod.
There’s also a revamp of the Ziggy-era cast-off Shadow Man, a stunning ballad graced by powerful vocals.
Your feelings about Brilliant Adventure will depend on your perception of 1990s Bowie. This is a better version than the 1980s, but not as high as the Starman’s 1970s model.
A deluxe version of Toy will be available as an LP on its own in January for those who are still hesitant about buying the set.
Your feelings about Brilliant Adventure depend on your perception of 1990s Bowie. This is a better version than the 1980s, but not as high as the Starman’s 1970s model.
BRUCE Springsteen: The Legendary 1979 Concerts Without Nukes (Sony)
‘I’m officially over the hill,’ yells The Boss as he introduces a new song called The River on a live album lifted from two concerts at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1979.
He had only turned thirty minutes earlier than midnight, on September 23. Although he wasn’t yet famous, he had reached the peak of his stardom. The shows had been organised in response to America’s worst nuclear accident, the partial meltdown of a reactor at the Three Mile Island power plant. Springsteen was not interested in discussing the pros and disadvantages of nuclear energy on the stage.
‘I ain’t here on business, I’m only here for fun,’ he sang, on Rosalita (Come Out Tonight), as he led the E Street Band through a breathtaking rock show.
It comes with a 90-minute concert movie (available for digital download and rental), which captures an exciting live performance at its peak. Mothballed at the time because Springsteen was too superstitious to allow his ‘magic tricks’ to be shared, it’s out now as a CD/DVD bundle (£19) and as a double vinyl LP (£29).
The 90-minute concert film is available for download or digital rental. It depicts an exciting live performance at its peak.
Mothballed at the time because he was too superstitious to allow his ‘magic tricks’ to be shared, it’s out now as a CD/DVD bundle (£19) and as a double vinyl LP (£29).
With E Streeters Steve Van Zandt and Clarence Clemons doing a first-rate impression of the world’s best bar band, the show bristles with pent-up energy. Springsteen plays a soaring guitar solo on Prove It All night and Jackson Browne joins him for a doo-wop cover of Stay. ‘If there’s anybody in the house who has a weak heart, please leave the hall,’ he says, for dramatic effect. The only surprise is that he didn’t sticker these releases with health warnings.
OASIS: Knebworth 1996 Big Brother
Oasis’ Britpop glory days were legendary. Their two sold out concerts at Knebworth marked a major milestone for the Gallagher siblings. The arti-stic rot set in later, starting with 1997’s Be Here Now, but this live album (and film) captures them at their best.
Staged on the back of benchmark album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, the shows cemented Liam Gallagher’s status as the era’s most compelling frontman and they are now available on double CD (£10), triple vinyl LP (£35), and as a CD/DVD bundle (£19).
As a band, Oasis didn’t really swing, but they excelled at punchy rock’n’roll on Some Might Say, Roll With It and Columbia.
A cover of The Beatles’ I Am The Walrus is stodgy, but this is a celebratory affair. It’s no surprise that Liam will be returning to the stage for two shows solo next summer.
Oasis’ Britpop glory days were legendary. Their two sold out concerts at Knebworth marked a major milestone for the Gallagher siblings.
Liam Gallagher (left) and Noel Gallagher, Oasis, perform live onstage at the Knebworth concert held in Hertfordshire in 1996
SPICE GIRLS – Spice25 (EMI).
Oasis was playing Knebworth in the same year that Spice Girls introduced a new era for pop stars and celebrities. But away from the gossip columns, their debut album, Spice, was a rocket-fuelled collection of well-crafted pop that’s now getting a 25th birthday reboot as an expanded double CD (£30) and vinyl picture disc (£28).
The girl power manifesto of Ginger, Scary, Sporty, Baby and Posh was vague, but Wannabe and Say You’ll Be There were catchy, irresistible singles, helping Spice to sell more than 31 million copies.
Now enhanced with bonus mixes, demos and unreleased R&B ballad Feed Your Love, the record remains a pop standard — albeit one entirely of its time.
Prices can vary.
Oasis was playing Knebworth in the same year that Spice Girls introduced a new era of celebrity pop stars. But away from the gossip columns, their debut album, Spice, was a rocket-fuelled collection of well-crafted pop that’s now getting a 25th birthday reboot as an expanded double CD (£30) and vinyl picture disc (£28)