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DAVID BOWIE Storytellers EMI (2009)

David Bowie

Storytellers was a late 1990s VH1 series which invited artists to come along, play a set to an invited audience and tell a few anecdotes.

Bowie did just that on 23 August 1999. But instead of using it as a vehicle to plug his Hours album, he treated fans to a brief, and brilliant, career synopsis.

He opened the set in style with a spine tingling, and perhaps one of the best recorded versions of Life On Mars? - backed just by Mike Garson on piano. There's then a brief, teasing audience participation chorus of Rebel Rebel, before he launches into one of the best tracks on Hours - Thursday's Child.

He revisits the first song he wrote and recorded as a solo artist - a rousing Can't Help Thinking About Me, and delivers a wonderful interpretation of China Girl which has an achingly beautiful intro.

Seven - another excellent single from Hours features, as does a fantastic rendition of Drive In Saturday, originally written for Mott The Hoople as a follow up to All The Young Dudes. He then closes the set with, perhaps an unusual selection from Station To Station - Word On A Wing.

And there you have it - no costumes, no makeup, no lights. Just one of the finest recording artists of his generation and he pulls it off with ease with some superb backing from Garson, Gail Ann Dorsey on bass, Tin Machine's Reeves Gabrels (who shows some impressive fretwork), Sterling Campbell on drums, Mark Plati on guitars and Lani Groves and Holly Palmer on backing vocals.

Gripes - there's a couple. Firstly, the set only whets the appetite, leaving you hungry for more. That's understandable as it was recorded for TV, but strip out the adlibs and there's probably not much more than 25 minutes worth of music. On the plus side, on the DVD, you do get 4 excellent bonus tracks - Survive, I Can't Read, Always Crashing In The Same Car and If I'm Dreaming My Life

Secondly, witty as Bowie's storytelling is, it's irksome that it's been included on the CD. His links simply don't merit repeated listening and they're not even included as separate tracks. So you only option is a DIY editing job. And to add insult to injury, for some inexplicable reason, the CD doesn't include the 4 bonus tracks.

But gripes aside, it's an essential addition for any self respecting Bowie aficionado.


Review by Pete Whalley

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***** Out of this world | **** Pretty damn fine |
*** OK, approach with caution unless you are a fan |
** Instant bargain bin fodder | * Ugly. Just ugly

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