Release Date: Nov 17, 2014
Record label: Columbia
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Contemporary Pop/Rock, Album Rock, Experimental Rock, Art Rock, Blue-Eyed Soul, Dance-Rock, Glam Rock
David Bowie compilation albums come and go, adding bits and pieces along the way and growing fatter with each new accomplishment in his ridiculously long and fantastic career. They work best as starting points, giving glimpses of eras and themes that the listener can chase down once they decide whether they prefer the Eno-produced Berlin period over the '80s pop of "Let's Dance." .
Nothing Has Changed is a bit of a cheeky title for a career retrospective from an artist who is known as a chameleon, and this triple-disc compilation has other tricks up its sleeve. Chief among these is sequencing the SuperDeluxe 59-track set in reverse chronological order, so it opens with the brand-new, jazz-inflected "Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)" and concludes with David Bowie's debut single, "Liza Jane. " On paper, this seems a bit like a stunt, but in actuality it's a sly way to revisit and recontextualize a career that has been compiled many, many times before.
Back in 2002, EMI decided to release the definitive go-to David Bowie compilation. But, because it’s Bowie, the label went about defining the legacy of one of rock music’s most seminal artists in the most peculiar of ways. In short, if you bought The Best of Bowie, check the top left corner of the CD inlay and see what flag is represented there, as that will define what track list you got.
David Bowie Nothing Has Changed (Columbia/Legacy) 4 out of 5 stars Crack open the innovative packaging on the three disc edition of this most recent, comprehensive David Bowie collection and the word “nothing” changes to “everything,” which better describes the British star’s 50 year career. True to Bowie’s unique, chameleonic vision and looks over the years, the 59 tracks are programmed in reverse order. They range from brand new (the near operatic, heavily orchestrated, 8 minute opener “Sue [Or in a Season of Crime]”) to the final/first entry (a 1964 mono single from Davie Jones & the Kingbees called “Lisa Jane”).
To pick a few selected works from an artist's career is to construct an argument about that artist. Every curator knows that, and David Bowie is nothing if not a curator. The first great Bowie best-of was 1976's Changesonebowie LP, whose argument was that he was a mamapapa comin' for you, a rocker too strong and too glittery to be pinned down. (The 1981 Changestwobowie LP and the 1990 Changesbowie CD, stabbed in its gut by the dreadful remix "Fame '90", tried to extend that premise.) Bowie's initial attempt at a full-career assessment was the 1989 Sound + Vision box set, revised and updated in 2003.
There are now so many David Bowie compilations that they essentially constitute a genre in their own right, with the most frequently compiled songs – ‘Life on Mars?’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘“Heroes”’ et al – now so ubiquitous that to actually describe them using words in 2014 seems pointless. Bowie is probably history’s most unimpeachable singles artist – or certainly was between 1969 and 1983 – and while it is perfectly possible that you’ve never heard any of his songs, the fact is that if you hear ‘Sound + Vision’ you will like ‘Sound + Vision’: it is a biological truth, proven by doctors, probably. Despite cramming in a walloping 39 tracks on what Wikipedia suggests is Bowie's forty-eighth compilation, nothing really has changed with regards to the 2CD standard edition, which begins with ‘Space Oddity’ and ends a couple of hours later with the expected new song, ‘Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)’.