SDE Review: David Bowie / Loving The Alien 1983-1988 box set

Full review • Exclusive quotes from Hugh Padgham and Carlos Alomar

So Mr Record Company Executive, you’ve done the easy bit. You’ve collected, curated and repackaged David Bowie’s peerless output from the 1970s and sat back as music fans of every virtually every generation were bowled over by the quality of the music, the sheer number of albums and Bowie’s ever-changing image and artistic integrity. Job done.

Your mission now, should you choose to accept it: The 1980s….

On the face of it, this is no easy task. The 80s was a rock ’n’ roll obstacle course apparently designed to trip up all manner of musical legends, and indeed many took a tumble and wouldn’t return to their feet until the decade was all but over. Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and The Who all lost their way to some extent or another and David Bowie certainly found it tricky to navigate.

To make matters worse, for the new box set, Bowie’s best album of the decade, 1980’s Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) is off limits since, er, that was (correctly) included in last year’s A New Career In A New Town package, while another highlight, 1989’s Tin Machine – isn’t deemed suitable, probably because it’s a 50 minute finger in the air to the era that brought us shoulder pads, mullets and the Filofax and therefore doesn’t really fit.

So that leaves just a five year span (1983-1988) which means three albums: Let’s Dance (1983), Tonight (1984) and Never Let Me Down (1987). On the face of it not the most promising trio and a million miles away from, say, Low, Heroes and Lodger.

Let’s talk about Let’s Dance. Once all the groundwork had been laid with arrangements and demos worked out in Switzerland with Nile Rodgers, Let’s Dance was recorded in a mere 17 days. For an album that’s sold well over 10 million copies that’s an effort-to-reward ratio second-to-none.

It’s easy, in hindsight, to look back and see Let’s Dance as portentous long-player. One that heralded a new era of slick mediocrity, but although signs were there if you chose to look for them, it was largely celebrated as it spawned monster hits, sounded fantastic and David looked incredible.

Let’s Dance was produced by Nile Rodgers and has old over 10m copies 

But it does rather rely on those MASSIVE singles (‘Let’s Dance’, ‘China Girl’, ‘Modern Love’). ‘Without You’ and ‘Shake It’ are a bit Bowie-lite and while ‘Cat People (Putting Out Fire)’ is a great song, it is of course a re-recording and I’ve never met any Bowie aficionado that doesn’t prefer the soundtrack version (which features on Re:Call 3, from the last box). That leaves you with five songs; the three singles plus ‘Criminal World’ and ‘Ricochet’. If you’ve ever wondered why the song ‘Let’s Dance’ on the album is a rather unnecessarily elongated version (it runs for almost eight minutes) a cynic might conclude that if they hadn’t done that, the record would have been a shade over 36 minutes – rather short for an album (even the six-track Station To Station was longer).

Anyway… at the time this seemed like just another Bowie experiment. David goes ‘commercial’. A toe-dipping exercise into the world of a mainstream artist. But, distracted and seduced by the enormous success, David Bowie forgot to ‘move on’ and with the dial stuck on ‘80s pop star’ the next five years are generally regarded as his creative nadir.

The other point of note is that in Bowie terms, that gap between Scary Monsters and Let’s Dance was a lifetime – over two and a half years – yet David had only five new songs to bring to the table, since ‘Criminal World’ was a cover, ‘China Girl’ had of course featured on Iggy Pop’s 1977 album The Idiot and as mentioned above, ‘Cat People’ had already been written and released, albeit in a different form. David was still writing great songs, but not enough of them and while this largely went unnoticed in 1983 the cracks really showed on 1984’s Tonight.

For that album, guitarist Carlos Alomar was back, having been part of the Serious Moonlight Tour (but not Let’s Dance studio sessions) and he was aware from the outset that it was going to be a challenge. He told SDE “We were really totally unprepared to go into the studio and we both knew it.”

Although commercially quite successful (any album following up Let’s Dance would have been) Tonight is a bit of a mess. David only had two new songs for this album, and brilliant though ‘Loving the Alien’ and ‘Blue Jean’ are, two great songs do not make an album. It’s incredible really, but consider this: In the six and a half years between Scary Monsters and Never Let Me Down there were only seven songs issued on David Bowie studio albums that he wrote alone. In the same six and a half years between Diamond Dogs and Scary Monsters DB wrote 33 songs, on his own, that appeared on his studio albums. Nearly five times more productive.

Hugh Padgham who had co-produced Phil Collins’ first two albums and The Police’s Synchronicity was on board, but initially as just the engineer, a suggestion of Bob Clearmountain’s, who had engineered Let’s Dance but was unavailable to do Tonight. Talking to SDE about it, Padgham said “I thought maybe it would be a little bit of a holiday for me… I can just sit there and make this amazing sounding album and not have all the stress [of producing]!”

Tonight’s co-producer Derek Bramble “wore David out”

The sessions took place in ‘Le Studio’ a facility “in the middle of nowhere”, about 100km north of Montreal and the producer was Derek Bramble, bass player from Heatwave. On the face of it, a strange choice. Padgham speculates that the decision to work with Bramble may have been in part down to Bowie’s penchant for “discovering people” but then cheekily suggests economics may have played a part “I think he probably thought he didn’t have to pay him very much!”. Whatever the motivations, for once, David’s instincts weren’t correct. Bramble contributed to an unexpected (some would say unwanted) reggae vibe with songs like ‘Don’t Look Down’ and ‘Tonight’ but his inexperience created some tension as he insisted David re-sung vocals that sounded fine to Padgham: “I think David was probably the best vocalist I ever worked with. He was stunning. He was pitch perfect… I could see that David was a bit frustrated.” Alomar concurs: “Derek was not an experienced producer and so the methodologies that you use are a little bit different when you are just starting, as opposed to Hugh who was a seasoned producer and knows how to actually get into an artists’ head, without [them] thinking that he’s in their head! I think Derek’s inexperience actually wore David out.”

There was a break in proceedings (perhaps contrived) and Padgham returned to England for a couple of weeks. During this time he was informed that Bramble was off the project and asked if he would like to take over and finish the album with David as co-producer. He agreed, despite acknowledging that inheriting this task was something of a “double-edged sword”. Iggy Pop came in to inject some energy and help complete the sessions but Padgham says “it had become obvious to me that David was almost resigned to finishing the record the easiest and the quickest way possible”.

Incidentally, in an oft-repeated quote, years later David would claim that he was asleep at the wheel and that, for example, the original demo to ‘Loving the Alien’ was so much better than how it turned out on the album. I put that to Carlos Alomar. Did he remember this demo? “Of course I do – it sucked! [laughs]. Totally disagree. The arrangement I put together for ‘Loving The Alien’ was fabulous!”

Tonight did give Bowie his third consecutive number one album in the UK and although ‘Blue Jean’ was a transatlantic top ten hit, Tonight (the single with Tina Turner) failed to reach the top 40 while ‘Loving The Alien’ just about scrapped into the top 20 in Britain. EMI’s desperation showed, with a plethora of remixes spread liberally around the 12-inches, including extended dance mixes, extended dub mixes, vocal dance mixes of various album tracks as well as the single themselves (there were no new songs as B-sides). Some of these remixes are included on the ‘Dance’ disc in the Loving The Alien box set.

While no-one would claim it’s a classic, 1987’s Never Let Me Down was a distinct improvement on Tonight. Songs like the title track, ‘Zeroes’, ‘Time Will Crawl’ and the conceptual ‘Glass Spider’ (after which the tour would be named) had a quality and ambition sorely lacking from most of the album’s predecessor. Bowie had worked with David Richards and multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kilzilcay on Iggy Pop’s 1986 album Blah Blah Blah and retained their services for Never Let Me Down. Carlos Alomar worked on the record again and David’s old friend Peter Frampton was brought in on lead guitar (and sitar).

In terms of commercial success, it was a case of diminishing returns. ‘Day-In Day-Out’ was a top 20 single in the UK, but ‘Time Will Crawl’ and ‘Never Let Me Down’ (both fine songs) stalled at 33 and 34 respectively.

David Bowie / Never Let Me Down UK 12" singleThe extended dance mix of Never Let Me Down is not included in the box

Putting these three albums in the Loving The Alien box set doesn’t fundamentally change anything about them. Let’s Dance remains a good album, Tonight is still very uneven and hard to love, and Never Let Me Down is somewhere in the middle. The latter is often described as being ‘over-produced’ – too many layers (like floors of a building), too much going on, too ‘eighties’ – and when David commissioned a ‘re-production’ of ‘Time Will Crawl’ for his iSelect compilation in 2008, fans got an idea of just how much a song from Never Let Me Down could be improved with some tinkering.

Loving The Alien’s masterstroke is to include Never Let Me Down 2018 – an entirely reworked and ‘re-produced’ version of the album that features new instrumentation by Bowie collaborators Reeves Gabrels (guitar), David Torn (guitar), Sterling Campbell (drums), Tim Lefebvre (bass – he played on Blackstar) as well as string quartet with arrangements by Nico Muhly. Mario McNulty has put this together and given that he created that version of ‘Time Will Crawl’ with Bowie’s blessing and David himself expressed a desire to redo the whole album, this is a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

Listening to the album is a bizarre experience. Familiar, yet changed. A wolf taking off fluffy sheep’s clothing and revealing sharp edges, attitude, and hidden depths. ‘Day-In Day-Out‘ is one of the tracks changed least, but real drums and bass remove some of the digital plasticky-ness of the original. There’s more space and more time to hear and enjoy individual performance. ‘Time Will Crawl‘ is familiar, of course. It’s not identical to the previous ‘MM Remix’ but quite similar.

Beat of Your Drum’ starts quite differently and powerfully with strings and drums, bass and guitar. Those honking saxes have gone from the chorus, and the whole thing just sounds classier. Bowie’s vocals are crystal clear and not buried beneath layers of sequencers, drums machines, synths and god knows what else. I must admit I don’t really like this song too much, but it’s a undoubtedly a massive improvement.

Never Let Me Down’ is like ‘Day-In Day-Out’ – evolution not revolution. This is a great song and you don’t want to mess with it too much, but the real bass and drums make a world of difference and it ends sweetly with a strings-only fade.

You’ve probably heard ‘Zeroes‘ by now. The new version sounds incredible with all the bombast of the ‘80s removed and is already sounding something like a lost classic. Expect this version to be on future Bowie ‘best of’ compilations.

Because the singles were on side one of Never Let Me Down and side two wasn’t David at his best, I quite often wouldn’t make it to the end of the album! ’87 and Cry’ and ‘New York’s In Love’ weren’t necessarily the biggest incentives… but in some respects it’s the second side of the album where Mario McNulty and team earn their crust, with this 2018 version.

Glass Spider‘ is transformed into a spectacular industrial landscape featuring persistent bass, spaced out guitars and thankfully that voiceover at the beginning has been turned down in the mix. With ‘Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)‘ Bowie’s vocals play out against a dubby groove and those rather annoying and trebly rhythm guitars are gone. Mickey Rourke’s ‘rap’ is replaced by Laurie Anderson. This is one of the few instances where I’m not sure if it works entirely. It’s not really a great song, and structurally I’d guess it caused all sorts of problems.

A punky spirit imbues ‘New York’s In Love‘ – those intro backing vocals are gone, as are the ‘catchy’ organ refrains at the end of each line – and blow me down with a feather but I now LIKE ‘87 and Crya song I has such disregard for that it became shorthand for anything a subpar (“it’s a bit ’87 and Cry’, isn’t it?”). There’s a lean power and a vibrancy to the song now that simply didn’t exist before. It’s actually excellent. ‘Bang Bang‘ benefits in the same way as everything else and Never Let Me Down 2018 comes to an end.

Never Let Me Down 2018 album from David Bowie / Loving The Alien 1983-1988 15LP vinyl box setThe new Never Let Me Down 2018 looks and sounds great.

The process hasn’t transformed Never Let Me Down into a classic, by any means, but the album is a hell of a lot more fun to listen to and some songs benefit more than others. I’d equate the process to an expert removing layers of grime from an old painting – the key difference being that a jaded and rather uninspired Bowie was complicit in applying this ‘grime’ himself, back in 1987! But the analogy works in as much as Mario McNulty can’t turn base metals into gold, but this process can reveal some kind of inner musical truth. So ‘Zeroes’ sounds amazing, while ‘Shining Star’ just sounds a bit better.

The packaging is very effective for this 2018 version of Never Let Me Down, with the black cover art and an alternate cover shot enhanced with some spot varnishing.

Moving back to the box set in general, Loving The Alien arguably contains the best Re:Call compilation to date, because it’s not just packed with dubious single edits but contains loads of additional songs. The 1980s were quite unusual in that the work David Bowie was doing in between his albums was often better than his own official singles. ‘This Is Not America’ – recorded with The Pat Metheny Group –  has always been, and will always be, amazing. As will ‘Absolute Beginners’, included here in its full length eight-minute version. And the music from the film Labyrinth is great, especially ‘Underground’ and ‘As The World Falls Down’.

To be honest CD 2 of Re:Call 4 (or specifically side 5 of the 3LP set) perhaps tests the patience somewhat. There’s some good stuff like ‘When The Wind Blows’, and B-sides like ‘Julie’ and ‘Girls’, but having already featured the remastered version of the original ‘Never Let Me Down’ and the 2018 version in the box, including all the original vinyl edits of album tracks on Re:Call 4 feels a bit surplus to requirements. Yes, it can be justified by playing the ‘completist’ card but Parlophone haven’t been completist about the 12-inch remixes – you are either a completist or you’re not!

What I am saying is that if the box isn’t going to be a complete gathering of everything released at the time, why bother with these rather tedious edits? Why include the vinyl album edits of ‘Bang Bang’ and ’87 and Cry’ and leave off (for example) the original 12-inch Extended Dance Mix of ‘Day-in Day-Out’? Similarly, I’d have much rather have had the 12-inch Extended Dance Mix of ‘Time Will Crawl’ (not included) instead of vinyl album edits of ‘Shining Star’ and ‘Beat of Your Drum’ (included).

I can understand why this has happened. One of the problems of creating a series of box sets like the Bowie ones Parlophone have issued every year since 2015, is that you end up creating unwritten ‘rules’ that deny the compilers and the product managers at the label flexibility to improvise. One of these rules is that CD and vinyl content must be the same. So while Loving The Alien is ‘only’ an eleven-CD set (one less than Five Years and Who Can I Be Now?) on vinyl it is a 15LP package which is two more than any previous outing. So if Parlophone had added an extra CD of remixes, there’s a good chance that would have meant two extra vinyl records. For a box set that costs £220 as it is on vinyl, that was obviously deemed unacceptable. So why not dump those Never Let Me Down album edits and squeeze a handful of extra 12-inch remixes on Re:Call 4?  The answer is simply because ‘Re:Call’ has established itself as (a-hem) a space for oddities: single edits, non-album singles, B-sides and the like. Shoving a few ad-hoc extended versions is just not cricket. So while I mourn the absentees from the Dance remix CD included in Loving The Alien – and I therefore can’t throw away my cassette singles bought in 1987 (see this feature) – I ‘get’ why they haven’t appeared.

The rest of the box set audio is concerned with live material, namely Serous Moonlight from ’83 and Glass Spider from ’87. I don’t really know why, but I have absolutely no interest in David live in this period. I loved the live albums in the 1970s – David Live to me is an essential document – but these 80s shows, while I might watch them on DVD, as an audio experience they do little for me. The trouble is, live audio takes up five LPs, or one third of the Loving The Alien vinyl box set. If you feel the same as me, that’s a lot of content and expense to ‘write off’.

David Bowie / Loving The Alien 1983-1988 11CD box set

Finally, in terms of packaging the label have done a phenomenal job. I absolutely love the Japanese-style vinyl replicas CDs which are facsimiles of the original packaging in minute detail. I compared mine with the actual Japanese mini-LP CDs that I bought circa 2007 and they stand up to comparison very well, with only some tiny differences (Let’s Dance has a slightly glossier front cover in the new box set, for example). The hardcover book does a good job of pulling together archive features with new testimony and there’s plenty of great photos, images of tape boxes and the like.

To summarise, as a teenager in the 1980s who bought some of these albums and singles at the time my nostalgia for the period overrides other concerns. By definition, this is the weakest box to date because it contains the weakest albums, but Never Let Me Down 2018, the Dance remix CD and Re:Call 4 make it worth buying (they are all exclusive to the box set, incidentally). The £100 outlay for that, the remastered albums, the sublime packaging and the live material on CD is definitely worth it. The vinyl box is incredibly expensive but if you’ve bought the other sets on the format, you’d be a fool not to continue, especially as the vinyl boxes seem to go out of print and hold their value in a way the CD boxes don’t (see used prices for Five Years).

Of course, I love a box set as much as the next person, but I actually hope Loving The Alien signifies the end of these massive era-spanning sets and the focus moves on individual albums where there is more flexibility and the label can take a pragmatic and not programmatic approach. I’ll warrant there’s a few wiping of brows behind the scenes – they’ve made it through most of the 1980s. Time to trim that mullet and move on.

Loving The Alien [1983-1988] is out now.

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David Bowie

Loving The Alien - 11CD box set


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David Bowie

Loving The Alien - 15LP vinyl box


Loving The Alien 15LP Box Set


  • 88 Page hardback book
  • Let’s Dance (remastered) (1LP)
  • Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2LP)*
  • Tonight (remastered) (1LP)
  • Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1LP)
  • Never Let Me Down (2018) (previously unreleased) (2LP – side 4 is etched)*
  • Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (previously unreleased on vinyl) (3LP)*
  • Dance (2LP)*
  • Re:Call 4 (non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (3LP)*

* Exclusive to ‘Loving The Alien (1983-1988) LP box’



Side 1

  1. Modern Love
  2. China Girl
  3. Let’s Dance
  4. Without You

Side 2

  1. Ricochet
  2. Criminal World
  3. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
  4. Shake It


Side 1

  1. Look Back In Anger
  2. “Heroes”
  3. What In The World
  4. Golden Years
  5. Fashion
  6. Let’s Dance

Side 2

  1. Breaking Glass
  2. Life On Mars?
  3. Sorrow
  4. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
  5. China Girl
  6. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  7. Rebel Rebel

Side 3

  1. White Light / White Heat
  2. Station To Station
  3. Cracked Actor
  4. Ashes To Ashes

Side 4

  1. Space Oddity/Band Introduction
  2. Young Americans
  3. Fame
  4. Modern Love


Side 1

  1. Loving The Alien
  2. Don’t Look Down
  3. God Only Knows
  4. Tonight

Side 2

  1. Neighborhood Threat
  2. Blue Jean
  3. Tumble And Twirl
  4. I Keep Forgettin’
  5. Dancing With The Big Boys


Side 1

  1. Day-In Day-Out
  2. Time Will Crawl
  3. Beat Of Your Drum
  4. Never Let Me Down
  5. Zeroes

Side 2

  1. Glass Spider
  2. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)
  3. New York’s In Love
  4. ’87 And Cry
  5. Bang


Side 1

  1. Day-In Day-Out
  2. Time Will Crawl
  3. Beat Of Your Drum

Side 2

  1. Never Let Me Down
  2. Zeroes
  3. Glass Spider

Side 3

  1. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (ft Laurie Anderson)
  2. New York’s In Love
  3. 87 & Cry
  4. Bang Bang

Side 4

  • David Bowie 1987 logo etching


Side 1

  1. Up The Hill Backwards
  2. Glass Spider
  3. Day-In Day-Out
  4. Bang Bang

Side 2

  1. Absolute Beginners
  2. Loving The Alien
  3. China Girl
  4. Rebel Rebel

Side 3

  1. Fashion
  2. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  3. All The Mad Men
  4. Never Let Me Down

Side 4

  1. Big Brother
  2. ‘87 And Cry
  3. “Heroes”
  4. Sons Of The Silent Age
  5. Time Will Crawl / Band Introduction

Side 5

  1. Young Americans
  2. Beat Of Your Drum
  3. The Jean Genie
  4. Let’s Dance

Side 6

  1. Fame
  2. Time
  3. Blue Jean
  4. Modern Love


Side 1 

1 Shake It (Re-mix aka Long Version)
(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘China Girl’ 12” single on EMI America 12EA 157 (U.K.) and V-7809 (U.S.) in May, 1983.)

2 Blue Jean (Extended Dance Mix)
(Originally released on 12” single on EMI America 12EA 181 (U.K.) and V-7838 (U.S.) in September, 1984.)

3 Dancing With The Big Boys (Extended Dance Mix)
(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘Blue Jean’ 12” single alongside an Extended Dub Mix of the same, release details as above.)

Side 2 

1 Tonight (Vocal Dance Mix)

(Originally released on 12” single on EMI America 12EA 187 (U.K.) and V-7846 (U.S.) in November, 1984.)

2 Don’t Look Down (Extended Dance Mix)

(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dance Mix) 12” single alongside the ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dub Mix) on EMI America 12EA 195 (U.K.) and VG-7858 (U.S.) in May, 1985.)

3 Loving The Alien (Extended Dub Mix)

(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘Loving The Alien’ (Extended Dance Mix) 12” single, release details as above.)

Side 3 

1 Tumble And Twirl (Extended Dance Mix)
(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘Tonight’ 12” single alongside a ‘Tonight’ (Dub Mix), release details as above.)

2 Underground (Extended Dance Mix)
(Originally released on 12” single on EMI America 12EA 216 (U.K.) and V-19210 (U.S.) in June, 1986.)

3 Day-In Day-Out (Groucho Mix)
(Originally released on 12” single on EMI America 12EAX 230 (U.K.) and V-19239 (U.S.) in March, 1987.)

Side 4 

1 Time Will Crawl (Dance Crew Mix)
(Originally released on 12” single on EMI America 12EAX 237 (U.K.) in June, 1987.)

2 Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (12” mix)
(Originally released on the ‘Never Let Me Down’ digital E.P. on EMI 0094639278954 in May, 2007.)

3. Never Let Me Down (Dub/Acapella)
(Originally released on the B-side of the ‘Never Let Me Down’ (Extended Dance Mix) 12” single on EMI America 12EA 239 (U.K.) and V-19255 (U.S.) in August, 1987.)


Side 1

  1. Let’s Dance (single version)
  2. China Girl (single version)
  3. Modern Love (single version)
  4. This Is Not America (The theme from ‘The Falcon And The Snowman’) – David Bowie / Pat Metheny Group
  5. Loving The Alien (re-mixed version)

Side 2

  1. Don’t Look Down (re-mixed version)
  2. Dancing In The Street (Clearmountain mix) – David Bowie and Mick Jagger
  3. Absolute Beginners (from Absolute Beginners)
  4. That’s Motivation (from Absolute Beginners)
  5. Volare (from Absolute Beginners)

Side 3 

  1. Labyrinth Opening Titles/Underground (from Labyrinth)
  2. Magic Dance (from Labyrinth)
  3. As The World Falls Down (from Labyrinth)
  4. Within You (from Labyrinth)
  5. Underground (from Labyrinth)

Side 4

  1. When The Wind Blows (single version) (from When The Wind Blows)
  2. Day-In Day-Out (single version)
  3. Julie
  4. Beat Of Your Drum (vinyl album edit)
  5. Glass Spider (vinyl album edit)

Side 5

  1. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (vinyl album edit)
  2. New York’s In Love (vinyl album edit)
  3. ‘87 And Cry (vinyl album edit)
  4. Bang Bang (vinyl album edit)
  5. Time Will Crawl (single version)

Side 6

  1. Girls (extended edit)
  2. Never Let Me Down (7” remix edit)
  3. Bang Bang (live – promotional mix)
  4. Tonight (live) Tina Turner with David Bowie
  5. Let’s Dance (live) Tina Turner with David Bowie

Loving The Alien 11CD box set


  • 128 Page hardback book
  • Let’s Dance (remastered) (1CD)
  • Serious Moonlight (Live ’83) (previously unreleased) (2CD)
  • Tonight (remastered) (1CD)
  • Never Let Me Down (remastered) (1CD)
  • Never Let Me Down 2018 (previously unreleased) (1CD)*
  • Glass Spider (Live Montreal ’87) (2CD)
  • Dance (1CD)*
  • Re:Call 4 (non-album singles, edits, single versions, b-sides and soundtrack music) (remastered) (2CD)*

* Exclusive to ‘Loving The Alien (1983-1988)’




  1. Modern Love
  2. China Girl
  3. Let’s Dance
  4. Without You
  5. Ricochet
  6. Criminal World
  7. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
  8. Shake It



  1. Look Back In Anger
  2. “Heroes”
  3. What In The World
  4. Golden Years
  5. Fashion
  6. Let’s Dance
  7. Breaking Glass
  8. Life On Mars?
  9. Sorrow
  10. Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
  11. China Girl
  12. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  13. Rebel Rebel


  1. White Light / White Heat
  2. Station To Station
  3. Cracked Actor
  4. Ashes To Ashes
  5. Space Oddity/Band Introduction
  6. Young Americans
  7. Fame
  8. Modern Love


  1. Loving The Alien
  2. Don’t Look Down
  3. God Only Knows
  4. Tonight
  5. Neighborhood Threat
  6. Blue Jean
  7. Tumble And Twirl
  8. I Keep Forgettin’
  9. Dancing With The Big Boys


  1. Day-In Day-Out
  2. Time Will Crawl
  3. Beat Of Your Drum
  4. Never Let Me Down
  5. Zeroes
  6. Glass Spider
  7. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love)
  8. New York’s In Love
  9. ’87 And Cry
  10. Bang Bang


  1. Day-In Day-Out
  2. Time Will Crawl
  3. Beat Of Your Drum
  4. Never Let Me Down
  5. Zeroes
  6. Glass Spider
  7. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (ft Laurie Anderson)
  8. New York’s In Love
  9. ’87 And Cry
  10. Bang Bang


CD 1

  1. Up The Hill Backwards
  2. Glass Spider
  3. Day-In Day-Out
  4. Bang Bang
  5. Absolute Beginners
  6. Loving The Alien
  7. China Girl
  8. Rebel Rebel
  9. Fashion
  10. Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  11. All The Mad Men
  12. Never Let Me Down

CD 2

  1. Big Brother
  2. ‘87 And Cry
  3. “Heroes”
  4. Sons Of The Silent Age
  5. Time Will Crawl / Band Introduction
  6. Young Americans
  7. Beat Of Your Drum
  8. The Jean Genie
  9. Let’s Dance
  10. Fame
  11. Time
  12. Blue Jean
  13. Modern Love


  1. Shake It (Re-mix aka Long Version)
  2. Blue Jean (Extended Dance Mix)
  3. Dancing With The Big Boys (Extended Dance Mix)
  4. Tonight (Vocal Dance Mix)
  5. Don’t Look Down (Extended Dance Mix)
  6. Loving The Alien (Extended Dub Mix)
  7. Tumble And Twirl (Extended Dance Mix)
  8. Underground (Extended Dance Mix)
  9. Day-In Day-Out (Groucho Mix)
  10. Time Will Crawl (Dance Crew Mix)
  11. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (12” mix)
  12. Never Let Me Down (Dub/Acapella)


CD 1

  1. Let’s Dance (single version)
  2. China Girl (single version)
  3. Modern Love (single version)
  4. This Is Not America (The theme from ‘The Falcon And The Snowman’) – David Bowie / Pat Metheny Group
  5. Loving The Alien (re-mixed version)
  6. Don’t Look Down (re-mixed version)
  7. Dancing In The Street (Clearmountain mix) – David Bowie and Mick Jagger
  8. Absolute Beginners (from Absolute Beginners)
  9. That’s Motivation (from Absolute Beginners)
  10. Volare (from Absolute Beginners)
  11. Labyrinth Opening Titles/Underground (from Labyrinth)
  12. Magic Dance (from Labyrinth)
  13. As The World Falls Down (from Labyrinth)
  14. Within You (from Labyrinth)
  15. Underground (from Labyrinth)

CD 2

  1. When The Wind Blows (single version) (from When The Wind Blows)
  2. Day-In Day-Out (single version)
  3. Julie
  4. Beat Of Your Drum (vinyl album edit)
  5. Glass Spider (vinyl album edit)
  6. Shining Star (Makin’ My Love) (vinyl album edit)
  7. New York’s In Love (vinyl album edit)
  8. ‘87 And Cry (vinyl album edit)
  9. Bang Bang (vinyl album edit)
  10. Time Will Crawl (single version)
  11. Girls (extended edit)
  12. Never Let Me Down (7” remix edit)
  13. Bang Bang (live – promotional mix)
  14. Tonight (live) Tina Turner with David Bowie
  15. Let’s Dance (live) Tina Turner with David Bowie

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I must say that I love NLMD 2018, especially Glass Spider. That said, I’m really disappointed by the fact, that “Chilly Down”, a song from the Labirinth, is missing. I’m also wondering if “Under Pressure” with Annie Lennox will ever be put out. I was also let down by the lack of All Saints in the previous box.


Excellent review.
I listened to the albums but had a hard time getting through them: most are harshly over compressed and as if I was listening to a poorly mastered CD trying to win the loudness wars.
I try to get vinyl to escape the loudness wars but the trend to over compress have now gotten to this format too. Some of that one can hear on the Rhino “remasters” of the Depeche Mode albums.

Dave Wilkinson

Loving the Alien L.P. Box currently $195 CAN on Amazon.ca.


We all know these 80’s albums well, at least for me this was my introduction to Bowie and I played them a lot. I loved the Let’s Dance album. Tonight and Never Let Me Down were not as good but certainly had their high’s. As such I was particularly interested in the 2018 remix of Never Let me Down. I think the results are mixed. “Glass Spider” and “New York’s In Love” are 2 of my favorite songs from this album. Glass Spider has been ruined. They turned it into a dark, bass heavy song, completely taking the flow out of the rhythm of the original song. It was kinda happy and upbeat, that’s all gone now.
Taking the organ out of “New York’s In Love” was a bad choice as well. Again, it was uplifting and happy, now it is VERY rock and the happy/uplifting tone is gone. It’s just too rock.

I agree that even really bad songs like “87 and Cry” and “Shining Star” are now at least worth a listen, although still far from good. “Beat Of Your Drum”, “Zeroes” and “Bang Bang” are considerably better in the 2018 mix. “Day In Day Out” is a bit slower, less explosive and impressive. It’s an ok mix but not as good as the original. Bummer, another favorite of mine. “Time Will Crawl” does sound better. It’s still a dynamic song with a great melody. The song “Never Let Me Down” has the same (good) vibe. The new mix is obviously more modern so it sounds great.

Overall 3 songs have been made worse, 6 songs sound better and one is about the same. For me, 2 of my favorite songs have been made worse. Even though there are 6 songs that sound better, most of those songs are mediocre at best. In the end it doesn’t really matter that 6 songs are slightly better if your favorite songs are ruined. Thankfully the original album is in the box too so I can still enjoy “Glass Spider”, “New York’s In Love” and “Day In day Out” in their original form.

Peter Gardner

I’m finally getting through this and comparing my 7″, 12″, cassette and i-Tunes EP singles with all the extras on Dance and Re:Call 4. I don’t understand why they didn’t put the vinyl album edits from Never Let Me Down on that CD. Then you could program it to play the vinyl version of the album! Duran did that with the US remixes from Rio a while back. Then Re:Call 4 could have got all the remixes which are missing. The main 12″ versions of Loving The Alien, Time Will Crawl and Day-In Day-Out as well as the 7″ of Absolute Beginners would have been nice. It’s still a great package. I went for the CD this time and the packaging/covers are brilliant. Especially for NLMD 2018 and the live albums. Having the full vinyl covers of those is what makes the vinyl tempting!

Julian H

I always thought the album version of “Let’s Dance” was superb, thanks to that horn freakout in the middle and no less than three guitar solos by Stevie Ray Vaughan doing his best Albert King thing.

Generally I am aghast that nobody seems to note the contribution SRV made to the album. C’mon people, what are you listening to?

Also I spotted some typoes (notice what I did there?): “got knows what else.” “David at is best”

Otherwise great review (as usual) Paul.

Darren Mortimer

I am loving the box set!
I have always loved whatever Bowie did and the first album I bought upon release was Tonight.
I love it and NLMD and there are some great songs from his film associations.
The remasters of all sound superb and I am listening to the songs hearing new things.

I was in the middle of discovering all the previous back catalogue when Tonight came out and it is easy to overlook the 80s work.
With the benefit of looking back, I think the albums sit well.

The biggest disappointment by far is the 2018 NLMD remix. I actually found it jarring.
It doesn’t sound like something Bowie would have released and Reeves Gabrels guitar is just noise.
I love his work on TM and all subsequent Bowie albums, but NLMD 2018 sounds completely unrestrained.
Outside and Earthling guitars work sound great.

Dance is brilliant.
The Making in My Love remix is beautiful, although I’ve always loved that song.
The NLMD original remaster sound really good and I think shows/confirms that the album was actually really good. Same with Tonight.

James Barker

Fantastic review Paul! I like 80s Bowie, for all the bits you’ve mentioned. Absolute Beginners was my first introduction to him so I missed out on the proper Bowie first time round. Have to agree that Dance would have been a great double CD to finish this set off right. So far these sets have been simply amazing so this minor blip should just be ignored (just like the sound drop issue in “Heroes”). The hard back books in these sets are simply class and on the whole they’ve produced some very impressive sounding albums with excellent bonus ‘new’ remixes of classic (and not so classic) albums which really takes you to a new listening experience and makes you appreciate the genius he was. Artwork and sound production gets a 10 out of 10 every time! (Side note – I hope someone takes note of these sets at the Prince Estate!)

Punk Anderson

The sound drop in “Heroes” should have been ignored? That’s rather optimistic …

Parlophone did right, eventually. But it defies belief that they had to endure a flood of complaints before it happened.

Has there ever been a blunder of similar size – on the most iconic song from a high-end box set? You surely know, Paul


A well written review, with much to disagree with…

I’ve previously missed Bowie’s 80s output bar what turned up on radio or telly. I didn’t really pay attention him until the early 90s, when a friend pushed me towards the 70s output, mainly the Berlin trilogy and especially Low. Then I picked up his current material from Outside onwards. The reputation of the 80s as his weak period put me off bothering. But I got a good price for this set, so picked it up. I’m still playing through it, but it has been surprisingly good!

Admittedly, this is a bit from the perspective of “Episode 1 was better than I’d expected – I’ve seen the Holiday Special!” but Let’s Dance starts very strong, losing it a bit on side 2, but three quarters of an album of great music is a decent album. Tonight is a bit of a production mess, but has a number of interesting ideas kicking around. A couple of weak tracks, but most of them have at least something to make them worth listening to. Call it half a good album. To my ears, Never Let Me Down is the weak album here. All a bit bland and unexciting. I’ve not listened to the 2018 version yet, admittedly, so hopefully that’ll redeem the songs. There’s certainly a low bar to clear! Ah, but then there’s Glass Spider, which almost single-handedly makes up for the rest of the album.

Live, Bowie was clearly in crowd pleasing mode, and the performances are muddy (I’m assuming these are taken from contemporary stereo masters? There’s no excuse for such appalling separation if the multis were available!) and veer from the “yeah, we should probably play this one, the kids like it” to the genuinely moving. Having said that, both of them are preferable to David Live (in theory only!) which I found to be stodgy and uninspired – the nadir of that era.

Funny how we can listen to the same thing and come away with a totally different impression, eh?


Having finished going through the set, I’ll add to the above…

The NLMD remake is generally stronger, though for Glass Spider and Bang Bang I prefer the originals. Still, it largely a case of prefering 90s sounding filler to 80s filler.

The Dance remix is hugely variable, and probably doesn’t contain enough tracks that I like to get much repeated play.

The Recall album is probably the strongest of these yet. The first disc, collecting the soundtrack work, is especially strong, and shows that one of the issues with 80s Bowie is that much of his stronger work never made the albums. Absolute Beginners and This Is Not America come to mind here, though I’ve got a soft spot for the Labyrinth work.

Overall, I’m glad I’ve got this, and it will get enough plays to more than justify the price.


The track selection for “Dance” has been a smart one, from a marketing point of view. By gathering non hits, and secondary remixes , it leaves room for a future separate release of key tracks and and key mixes, with no overlaps. A best of 12inch mixes compilation with the following tracks would do certainly well on the market:

– Cat People (Aussie 9+ min version)
– When The Wind Blows (Extended Mix)
– Loving The Alien (Extended Dance Mix)
– Time Will Crawl (Extended Dance Mix)
– Never Let Me Down (Extended Dance Remix)
– Day In Day Out (Extended Dance Mix)
– Magic Dance (A Dance Mix)
– Dancing In The Street (Steve Thompson Mix)

Add to the list one or two previously unreleased versions*, as well as one or two dub mixes** to round it up, and you’ve got a winner.

*What about asking Blank & Jones to make out of the original multi-tracks:
– This Is Not America (Extended Mix)
– Modern Love (Extended Mix)

– Absolute Beginners (Dub Mix)
– Underground (Dub Mix)

For RSD 2019, we don’t really need a live recording from the ’83-’87 era, what we just need as 2x or 3xLP set is such best of 12inch mixes compilation instead. And of course, such set needs to be released on CD a couple of months after RSD.

James Barker

I’d buy this without a doubt! The Club Bowie CD which came out a few years back was an excellent release IMO. They could surely do a box set of all the Remixes missed off at the end of the series? They’ll be lots more missing off the next few albums as they had 2 cd single sets and 12”ers a plenty in the 90s!


Great review, thank you… No Matter what, I still love “Tonight” though. :D


IMO this was by far Bowie’s weakest period. I still enjoy ‘Let’s Dance’ , and so caught him on the Serious Moonlight tour in ’83, but most of what he released in the ’80s was bloody awful. That decade produced some great music from a younger generation of artists, but seemed to catch the ‘older guard’ largely off-guard (think also Dylan and Neil Young). They all came back with a vengeance in the ’90s though – Bowie included – and went on to produce some of the greatest music of their respective careers. For completeness sake only, I’ve picked up the CD box of this, and will sift through it for the good bits…


I’m a little behind in reading your review Paul but it is absolutely outstanding. I love reading your insights about putting a box set together. The comment about “unwritten rules” makes a lot of sense. I was upset that “Dance” wasn’t a 2CD, all those 80’s mixes not on CD, what a shame. I still am upset, but I can much better understand why that is now. Whether this is lower Bowie quality or not, the 80’s were my music era and will get this for sure. Very curious to hear the rest of the remixed “Never let Me Down” album. Can’t wait.

Punk Anderson

Thanks for a great review!

Apart from the Never Let Me Down remake by McNulty, which is far better than I had ever dared hope for, I am actually quite pleased by the inclusion of the shorter vinyl versions of the songs from the original. I know it’s an awful reason to be pleased by this, but I’d only ever heard the cd version of this one, and have now swapped the tracks to recreate the vinyl album in iTunes. Just having a minute shaved off most of the songs (and losing the godawful ‘Too Dizzy’ which always sounded like the theme to a dreadful 80’s sitcom) makes it a far better album, if still poorly produced. Those ear-bleeding drums …

Being 12 and totally amazed when Let’s Dance came out, I’d always wanted a live album of the Serious Moonlight set. This is almost perfect. Just a shame ‘Red Sails’ isn’t in there. Perhaps in some RSD release next summer, as with the previous two live albums …

Oh, and how uneven is Dance? The version of ‘Loving the Alien’ is just beautiful. The remix of ‘Never Let Me Down’ ruins a decent song. And Arthur Baker’s ‘Dancing With the Big Boys’ edit is MENTAL …


A part of me still wishes this was called Dancing With The Big Boys and had a glorious, multi-colour 80s design with Bowie in his Serious Moonlight pomp. Or one of the Guido Harari shoots.

But that probably wouldn’t play so well to the 2018 market, so I sort of understand why it’s all monochromatic and playing on the Alien riff (even if it’s been used already for a book).


This was a great review! I got my box set last week and have listened to almost all of it now. To be honest, I’m rushing through it as I don’t really care for any of his 80’s material, but want to make sure none of the vinyl has issues resulting in me needing to facilitate a return to vendor. I’m saving NLMD 2018 for last, as I’d like to try to enjoy that one!

Christopher Bragg

Decent review, but at the end are you suggesting they don’t continue the Bowie sets after this? That would be a slap in the face to people like me who love his later works, and like projects to be completed. I’m guessing there might be 3 more of these coming and I personally are looking forward to them (especially potential additional material that I know exists around Outside). Sure, I do agree that something like the John Lennon Imagine set that just came out is the ideal way to present these album re-releases, but stopping a box set project mid stream doesn’t seem sensible either.

Kevin Galliford

Great article Paul. I will buy this very soon & whilst the turds of Tonight & NLMD cannot be polished, it will be interesting to hear them both after so long. The live stuff & extras make this a purchase for me & the book is always interesting. I suspect they will continue with the boxset s until the catalogue has been exhausted & then we will get each album reissued with a disc of demo’s & extra mixes. Milk that Cow EMI!!!


NLMD 18 is awful, some things are just best left alone. This was the period when I became a fan, even if I was drawn more to the 70s material, I was just happy Bowie was making music. Saw him live in 87 and loved the show.

I don’t know why people slam this era so much.

Both the SM and GS shows were amazing.

Randy Metro

Great overview of the current box set.

I agree with you, Paul; this should be the end of the 5 year box sets, and a new approach taken to the remainder of Bowie’s catalog. Lots & lots of affordable deluxe sets devoted to one album at a time. We have yet to get deluxe sets for Hunky Dory or TMWSTW.

BTW I was a teenager of the 70’s. The 80’s albums stunk to high heaven. Tin Machine was my Bowie savior (Heaven’s In Here).


Good idea indeed but I doubt Warner/Parlophone will change their route. I think they opted to re-release Bowie’s entire catalog with one box set per era (or whatever you call it). As they’re in the middle of Bowie’s career, I think you probably have 2 or 3 box sets remaining : 1 or 2 for the 90s and the last one starting with Heathen and ending with Blackstar (if they can struck a deal with Iso records/Sony).

I think they will finish the job, they started with “five years” in 2015 and 2020/2021 will probably be the final year of these box sets. After that, I guess Warner will probably start making super deluxe editions. In 2021, it will be the 50th anniversary of Hunky Dory so i could see a SDE of that album that same year. Don’t forget there are no blu rays , no 5.1 or Dolby Atmos mixes in those box sets. It’s always the album (as released originally), sometimes a new mix of the album and the re-call compilation with singles, edits, mixes, etc.

With all the live, demos, mixes, etc., I don’t think they’ll have any problem making a SDE of each album starting with Hunky Dory. They have enough material for that. If I was to guess, I’d say they will duplicate what R.E.M did with Concord Bicycle Music (when they bough the band’s Warner catalogue) : a 25th anniversary reissue of each album (obviously for Bowie it will be a 50th anniversary reissue) with a remastered version, a 5.1 version, a live album (previously unreleased) and a book. 15 years ago, Warner already reissued R.E.M’s legendary albums (Green, Out of Time, Automatic, Monster, etc.) as digipacks with the remastered album and a multichannel DVD-A on the second disc 15 years ago. Concord Music still found a way to make new remasters, added a second disc consisting of demos, a third disc with a live set and the album in Hi-Resolution Audio and 5.1 Surround Sound.

I expect the same pattern with Bowie’s catalog. Bowie’s relationship with his manager Tony Defries is well documented (Bowie signed a contract allowing Defries to receive half of David’s earnings) and it’s well known he started to make a lot of money only with Let’s Dance but Bowie was savvy after that awful experience with Defries. When Bowie signed his next deal, he took less money up front and negotiated to get his masters back after a certain period of time (in 1989). After his deal with Ryko ended in the mid-90s, he got back his entire catalog and created Bowie Bonds, which were acquired by Prudential (for $55 million) and Bowie used a portion of that money to buy out Defries’ share in his RCA masters. At the same time, Bowie had licensed his catalog to EMI for a 15-year deal (for $30 million) and EMI started a new campaign of Bowie remasters. Then in 2013, the licenses to Bowie’s catalog were acquired by Warner but Iso Records (founded by Bowie) still owns Bowie’s last 4 albums (Heathen, Reality, Next Day and Blackstar).

I don’t know how long Warner will own Bowie’s catalog (from RCA to Virgin) but I don’t think these box sets are the final reissues. I’m sure we will see a SDE of each album starting with Hunky Dory in 2021. And there’s no guarantee there will be a box set for the final 4 albums (owned by ISO/Sony).


It’s odd when a review is better than the material it describes !

Anyway, very nice read indeed. I’ll pass on the 80s and wait for the next box set. I love the Bowie of the 90s. From “Black Tie White Noise” to “Hours”, it’s a fantastic decade and renaissance for Bowie. Not to mention these albums are rare on vinyl and until recently “Outside” wasn’t even available in its entirety on vinyl. I wonder what unreleased material they can add to that future box set since all the 90s albums have already been re-released as double CDs with a second disc consisting of remixes, demos, b-sides, etc. Black Tie White Noise’s 10th anniversary reissue also included a DVD.

If they want to include Tin Machine, I guess they can divide the 90s era in 2 box sets : the first one with Tin Machine (2 albums + 1 live lp), Black Tie White Noise and The Buddha Of Suburbia and the second with Outside, Earthling and Hours + Bowie’s 50th anniversary show at MSG in 1997. They may also include Bowie at the Beeb even if it was released in 2000. It depends wether you think Bowie’s renaissance starts with Black Tie White Noise or Outside. For some, Black Tie White Noise (aka Let’s Dance II) is the end of the 80s’ Bowie.

Tracey Spivey

I really enjoyed your write-up, Paul.

I received my LTA boxset a few days ago from amazon.co.uk. It was shipped in a flimsy cardboard “box” that had opened on arrival (since it wasn’t sealed). The actual boxset has what appears to be a burn mark on one of the corners. I have almost given up on amazon.co.uk being able (or willing) to ship something to the US without it arriving in incredibly poor shape. Thanks for letting me vent…

M. Hanson

I have similar experience with AmazonUK shipping to the U.S. The only box set products that have arrived undamaged are those that are already in a packing box from the manufacturer (the latest Steve Hackett big box is an example – the manufacturer box was loose in the Amazon box with one bit of crumpled paper). It’s far too costly to send a big box back from the U.S. to the U.K (I was quoted about $50 for my Dylan Columbia box that I bought for $100 and arrived with a corner crushed).

By contrast, everything I have bought from Amazon Germany has been packaged very well.

Jimi Fletcher

Excellent review Paul, very informative and honest!

PS: That reference to ‘like floors of a building’, re: the sound of Never Let Me Down… nice. One could almost call it an altar, right?

Miguel Rocha

Paul, fantastic review! Far more enjoyable than trudging through Bowie’s 80s. This was my coming of age decade, and Bowie’s singles no doubt played their part. They’re phenomenal: Let’s Dance, Modern Love, This is Not America, Blue Jean, and (especially) Absolute Beginners! A truly fantastic run of singles. But those LPs are, to my ears, still impossible to listen to from start to finish. After Scary Monsters, I’m pleased with the individual records or cds in my collection and my savings account is happy to know my Bowie box set journey ended with the last box (Berlin, etc).


Great review. I’m loving this box set, I’m a big fan of the 80s so this is a dream. I’m a bit gutted I missed out on that Five Years vinyl box set, now selling for £900. But I’ve bought all the others in fear of them going out of print, I’m sure Who Can I Be Now will be gone soon.

Paul English

Excellent review Paul.

Never Let Me Down 2018 is surprisingly great. Quite a few of the tracks benefit – especially Zeroes and Shining Star.
I was never anti-Tonight so that still hangs together well. Always reminds me of starting secondary school. One blast of Blue Jean and I am back in the GCC “old school”.
Both live sets are entertaining.
The Re:Call 2CD is great as always but shame that the 7″ version of Absolute Beginners is excluded but it’s not exactly rare. Including the vinyl edits of the Never Let Me Down tracks is a nice touch. However there does seem to be volume variances – especially the contrast between the Absolute Beginners and Labyrinth tracks.
The Dance disc is great but should have been a double as there are a number of 12″ mixes missing. As you say, because of the insistence that the LP and CD boxes must contain the same content, it looks like sacrifices had to be made.


A very fair and enjoyable review; I broadly agree with where you’re coming from with this era of Bowie. It’s the one that those of us a certain age really associate with, flawed thought it sometimes was.

I’ve always liked Never Let Me Down, s0 after 30 years of people knocking it, lately it’s made a change to hear some positive things about both the original (which was never as bad as all that) and this new version (which I’ve yet to hear). I think what used to be Side 1 was incredibly strong, with no duds whatsoever (the title song is one of my all-time Bowie faves). I’ve only heard the new Zeroes on the official VEVO channel, and to be honest I wasn’t all that wowed, so I’m not sure how I will react to a whole album of reimagining, but I’m looking forward to it regardless.


Oh I love your reviews! Playing the box I realized how unbelievably painful the original NEVER LET ME DOWN is to me. It truly put me off Bowie. something I could never have conceived. The remix is bloody amazing and reworks his history to what I believe is an amazing twist. He never really had made an awful record until that muddy mess. Still have a few more vinyl sides to play and I cannot wait. I also feel this was pressed much better than the last box!!


Thanks for the review, but for me I love to have all the original live albums. Until the end of the 80s we only had a few albums and had to listen to those bootlegs. Now at the end of this year we’re gonna have the 20th live recording!


Why put all the vinyl single edit blabla versions put on disc 2 Re-call4?
I rather have one disc Recall-4 and instead have DANCE 2 discs!

Ken Pummell

Great Desert Island Discs with Nile Rodgers last week. He said Let’s Dance was actually made in two days. The following 2 weeks only being used for minor overdubs. Available everywhere in the BBC radio website.


Had a smile at your comments concerning the Japanese sleeves. I bought all those, and the sleeves are now living in the three box sets I have to date – the Parlophone sleeves now house the Japanese CDs – as they are so much better IMHO. Especially the likes of Aladdin Sane and Scary Monsters, where it seems a lazy person simply set a white point when doing the artwork, resulting in hideously bright covers when compared with the original vinyl albums. It’s those little details which make all the difference, and laid out side by side, the Japanese sleeves match my old vinyl records so much better across the board.


An excellent read, Paul! Really loved it! My own approach to buying the Bowie-sets has been to opt for the CD boxes, and to buy the original albums individually on vinyl. In this case that will leave me with three LPs. Happy with that.


great review! i personally favour NLMD to “let’s dance” (only the singles are great) and “tonight” (again, the singles are good). i always liked NMLD cause it’s an album, whereas the other two albums are just a collection of songs and covers.

Gary C

I don’t know about anyone else, but the day Bowie died, the only song I heard from this period on the radio was Absolute Beginners

Steven C

I hope the 90s box includes “..HOURS” – an album I love and find underrated… Most people will prefer the Tin Machine stuff though… I’d sort of prefer those to be released separately as a set, not part of the box.. I’d prefer BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE, BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA, OUTSIDE, EARTHLING and HOURS with a Live album of the tour with Nine Inch Nails and the Re:Call CD including soundtrack hits from Cool World, and versions of songs like I’m Afraid of Americans featuring Ice Cube… etc.


Very nice overview. Realize I’m in the minority here, but ever since their digital release several years ago, I’ve been waiting for the NLMD vinyl edits to be released on CD. Back in the day, I originally bought this album on vinyl. Over 10 years on, I bought the CD and (despite the disappearance of “Too Dizzy”) found it to feel like a longer, more laborious listen. Some of those LP edits gave this album a tighter feel and better flow. It’s just too bad that they didn’t include the LP Edit of “Day-In Day-Out” in this box set.


I would say ‘Let’s Dance’ is my favorite Bowie album and I do like a number of his albums, but he really morphed into something different for the eighties at that time and I actually prefer it, it’s hard to choose from his different phases, he was a chameleon.

And as far as fun 80s music with a bit of an edge I think David pulled it off perfectly and I think the hits off ‘Let’s Dance’ are so massive and so amazing that it’s almost like no surprise that the album stands alone from all his other work, and I understand some people don’t like it because they’re faithful to all his other styles and things he did before that. But personally it’s my favorite,
his 1983 transformation, and I actually like the extended version of “Let’s Dance” on the album, I think it’s perfect, I think it’s better to have that on the album than the single edit, it fit well, but also I think the other songs are pretty good on the album too, as far as being catchy, but nothing too deep on here. I think they were going for a more pop album with hits just like you said and they succeeded.

I do think those hit songs do stand out pretty brightly, but I think it’s worth buying the Box even just for that album alone because of the beautiful job on the remastering.

The compilations released over the recent years don’t sound nearly as good to me. I think that “Let’s Dance” is one of the greatest 80’s albums of all time.


A nice and detail review.
I am guessing The Tin machine material will be left off the next era box set and eventually will have a box set of The Tin Machine. It’s not a vast amount but if you take 2 albums, add the Oye Vey live album, maybe a full live show and throw in a “Re:Call” disc, you have maybe 5 CDs right there.
Maybe a re-release of the videos on BR will also come out.


You just have to pick & choose. I like Let’s Dance, Modern Love, China Girl & This Is Not America. This is what happens with artists they have a run of great records then it gets patchy. I read an interview with Susan Rogers who was the sound engineer for Prince. She after a certain point there’s a delay between the song coming to them & it being able to be transcribed as it was heard to recording.


re:call 4 seems a wasted opportunity. instead of filling it up with mainly NLMD album tracks, they could have put something like Live Aid or the 1988 version of Look Back i Anger.

Great review by the way Paul.


It is excellent. Thank you.


Spot on review. I have read about 20 reviews so far & yours in the only one with proper context. A very difficult period to write about sensibly.

As David himself summarized:
“You can tell I was terribly unhappy in the late ’80s. … I was in that netherworld of commercial acceptance. It was an awful trip. 1983, ’84, ’85, ’86, ’87 – those five years were simply dreadful. … Never Let Me Down had good songs that I mistreated. I didn’t really apply myself. I wasn’t quite sure what I was supposed to be doing. I wish there had been someone around who could have told me”


Awesome review Paul. Very well written.

gianluca Morelli

Really enjoyed the review, thanks! With regard to NLMD, it was dismissed as one of his worst albums, and I really do not know why, I find it a very very good one though, much better than Tonight.


Well, I don’t know Paul..I mean, I rather do *like* the album version of Cat People. But I like both versions honestly. :)

Great review as always!


The live material, all previously available on DVD, leaves me cold too. I would have prefered more 12″ and remix tracks and the missing Japanese vocal…


Thank you so much for the review, Paul .
It was both funny and informative.
I know this is not his “best” work but I like it. Music is not only that but also the moment in your life it’s interwoven with and these albums paint an amazing time in my life.
Unfortunately I can only dreaming of buying this set due to the price but maybe if everyone hates it enough it will go down in price and I can afford it.


It is a little bloated but you are right it is a completist deal – I tend to get the vinyl on pre order and then pick up the cd box on a deal. I can see a separate extras typenbox at the end for remixes, off cuts, and edits etc – let’s be honest it is too good an opportunity for labels to miss up


Hi Paul. This is a great review. Much better than most of what one would get out of a magazine. Bravo!

I have now heard the NLMD2018 and would generally agree with all of your comments. It’s like a veil has been lifted on the original to beneficial results. One thing that strikes me is how present and great Bowie’s vocals are after they’ve been uncovered. I can actually understand some of the things he’s saying! There’s a definite Hunky Dory vibe now to songs like Beat of Your Drum, Zeroes, and Bang Bang that elevate them. I think Glass Spider sounds much heavier, and the vocals at the beginning now remind me more of something like John Cale’s The Jeweller. As much as the song is negligible, I do sort of miss Too Dizzy and don’t understand why that couldn’t be included on the original repressing of NLMD, a definite re-writing of history, or at least put it on the Re:Call stuff. Shining Star is much better in the new form than I think you give it credit for, but that’s just my opinion. A fascinating revision of a so-so album that improves it stature immensely. This is the biggest reason to own this box right here. What’s going to be next? Rolling Stones’ Dirty Work? Duran Duran’s Liberty? Neil Young’s Trans? REM’s Monster? Queen’s Hot Space? Elton John’s Victim of Love? I can’t wait…

tumasch è

REM’s Monster? What is wrong about it the way it is?


I listened to NLMD the other day and it sounds very dated and of its time. I love the 2018 version though. They’ve done a great job with it.

Nigel M

Excellent review Paul. Why oh why aren’t we getting a high Res download of this set like we did for the previous box sets? Anybody got any inside info on this? Can we expect standalone album high res downloads at some point in the future?