David Bowie

Loving the Alien (1983-1988) (Rhino / Parlophone)

Top 10 Box Sets of 2018

David Bowie charted his first platinum album with 1983's Let's Dance. The Little Richard-influenced disco and blues fusion, co-produced by Nile Rodgers of Chic, featured Stevie Ray Vaughan as lead guitarist on "Let's Dance" and "China Girl." In its wake, the English star's turn toward MTV-friendly songwriting netted critical thumbs-down for alleged poor taste alongside commercial hits like the funky bop of "Modern Love."

Also selling over 1 million units, the tin-sounding and synth-reliant Tonight (1984) was panned alongside 1987's Never Let Me Down. Bowie called the latter his nadir. "Oh, to redo the rest of that album," he wrote after remaking "Time Will Crawl" a decade ago.

Fourth in a series of chronologically retrospective box sets, Loving the Alien (1983-1988) gathers the late David Jones' commercial peak on 11 CDs or 15 pieces of vinyl. That includes the aforementioned trio of LPs, plus the remastered original and posthumously reworked Never Let Me Down, which replaces Eighties keyboards with live instrumentation and an aim to maintain Bowie's dark carnival focus for a warmer sound.

The previously unreleased Serious Moonlight Tour souvenir documents a 1983 Vancouver stop, while the singer's 1987 Glass Spider tour testament from Montreal, with guitarists Peter Frampton and Carlos Alomar, exists exclusively with the vinyl version of the set. Both concerts include Seventies hits "Rebel Rebel" and "Heroes," alongside covers of Velvet Underground's "White Light/White Heat" and the Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog" on the latter.

Original remixes are collected as Dance, though non-album singles, edits, B-sides, and soundtrack inclusions collected as Re:Call 4 deliver a stronger curio, including the gloomy "This Is Not America" with the Pat Metheny Group and a soft rock remix of "Loving the Alien."

***.5

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