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Album Review: Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) [Box Set] by David Bowie
Exceptionally Good, Based on 6 Critics
The Guardian - 100 Based on rating 5/5
In May 1974, David Bowie released his eighth album, Diamond Dogs. Now it is enshrined as a classic, but at the time it received a mixed critical response: for every critic proclaiming it a work of genius, there was someone like Robert Christgau in Creem, deriding it as “escapist pessimism” and snorting: “$6. 98 for this piece of plastic?” Rolling Stone thought its “obscure tangles of perversion, degradation, fear and self-pity” signalled the end of his career: “Bowie’s last gasp.
Parlophone's latest David Bowie reissue box set has already grabbed some attention for including The Gouster, a rare 1974 album that Bowie later scrapped and remixed as Young Americans. But Who Can I Be Now? has much more going for it, especially for die hard Bowie fans, as a snapshot of Bowie's brief but eclectic "plastic soul" era. .
A sequel to the 2015 box Five Years 1969-1973, 2016's Who Can I Be Now? (1974-1976) covers just three years but this stretch in the mid-'70s happens to be the peak of David Bowie's superstardom. That much can be gleaned from the number of albums within the set: three studio albums -- Diamond Dogs, Young Americans, Station to Station, each released in a subsequent year -- along with the double live album David Live from 1974. Four albums in three years is plenty but to that core canon Who Can I Be Now? adds five additional alternate albums, each with varying degrees of rarities.
It’s only been seven months since David Bowie left this planet to whatever celestial netherworld that spawned him (surely Mr. Bowie was not a product of our prosaic earth). Rock’s most fearless innovator is gone, and all that is left are the dozens and dozens of artists on which he left an indelible mark, an influence that’s obvious in their tone, image and in every note they play.
Digital universe expanding by the nanosecond, Who Can I Be Now? [1974-1976] unwinds a tale of the tape – part two. 2015's 12-CD Five Years 1969-1973 bit off long-players two through six from Great Britain's extraterrestrial talent, remastering four definitively while also gathering most Ziggy Stardust live accompaniment and a pair of odds and ends discs. Another dozen discs only corral three studio LPs – Diamond Dogs ('74), Young Americans ('75), and Station to Station ('76) – but bulks up on better bonus content.