David Bowie – Is it any wonder? (2020)

He gazed a gazeless stare

Parlophone has released a limited edition of 6000 copies of a vinyl EP called “Is it any wonder?”. Well I am not surprised. They are milking the cow. Hopefully they would answer the question of the title with a roaring YES, but I don’t know, did they? Did they?

This s a six tracks EP of unreleased rarities, too long for a normal 7”single, and way too short for a full LP. With this strange format, the shortness of it, all songs on the record must be stellar for it to stand out as a great release. I am not holding my breath. First of all I don’t think these tracks belong together, it is a compilation. The tracks seem to be from the late 90s, most probably 1997, but there is no information of where or when the tracks are recorded. The last track might be taken from a live show. Two tracks are Tin Machine songs re-recorded with David and his backing band from the “Earthling” album, that was released in 1997. Reeves Gabrels and his wailing guitar are joined by Mike Garson on the piano, Gail Ann Dorsey on the bass, Zachary Alford on the drumkin and Mark Plati on miscellaneous and keyboards.

Of the two Tin machine songs “Baby universal” and “I can’t read”, the latter is the only one that improved. I can’t stand “Baby universal” regardless of version. But “I can’t read” is actually quite nice here. The song was prepared to be included on “Earthling” but was thrown out at a late stage. Another version of the song instead ended up on the soundtrack for Ang Lee’s film “The ice storm”. Here we get the version that was a candidate for “Earthling”. That’s nice.

We get two to me completely new songs, “Fun” and “Nuts”. “Fun” is not fun at all, it is horribly overproduced in a dreadful 90’s style. “Nuts” is at least listenable. It has a nice bass line and it is in general sounding like an outtake from the 1995 album “Outside”.

The first of two well-known classic Bowie songs is “Stay”. Here it has got a modernization that is not very well done. It’s like the guy that got the job to mix it (Mark Plati) really went to town. “Better to over-do it than get criticized to have done too little?” No! Not ok. The sound effect on Davids voice towards the end is maddening. Is it mixed by a deranged person? Still the track is one of the best on this EP on the strength of the original song.

Finally we have “The man who sold the world” in an unknown live version that has been mixed by Brian Eno at the Westside Studios, London. Why give the information where the song is mixed but no other information? It’s not only crazy but also a little creepy, it’s like some maniac has curated this compilation. There is almost no information when or where all these songs were recorded.

“The man who sold the world” is soft and slow with heavy bass and industrial drums. Some Indian instrument gives the song an ambience of the Far East. David’s singing is enjoyable. It is not my favourite version of the song though. On this weak compilation it still stands out.

My rating: 2/10

Side A:

  1. Baby universal ‘97
  2. Fun (Clownboy mix)
  3. Stay ‘97

Side B:

  1. I can’t read ‘97
  2. Nuts
  3. The man who sold the world (live Eno mix)

Best songs: “Stay ‘97”, “I can’t read ‘97” and “The man who sold the world (live Eno mix)”

Released: March 20th, 2020

Media: Vinyl, 12″, 33 ⅓ RPM, EP, Limited Edition


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