Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-08-02


David Bowie: Station to Station (Special Edition) (EMI, 2010) Normally I ignore "enhanced" classics, as should you, so to distinguish among iterations, this is the three-CD boxlet released in 2010. It includes three color photos of the Thin White Duke, a flier hawking Geoff MacCormack's "signed, limited edition" Travels With Bowie 1973-76, informative notes, the original album in its own wee sleeve, and--the bait, in a wee double sleeve--Bowie's March 23, 1976 performance at Nassau Coliseum, warm New York Times review by John Rockwell included, hot Village Voice review by Robert Christgau not. In addition to an echoing momentum with no precedent or aftermath in Bowie's melodramatic oeuvre, highlights include "I'm Waiting for the Man" with blues uptick, "TVC-15" with New Orleans accent, and a set list that stumbles only on the stone in his passway that is "Word on a Wing." It nails a galvanizing arena-rock that you can almost hear hitting a groove that had dissipated disappointingly just three days later at Madison Square Garden. But please note that I said "almost hear." As we all should know by now, rarely do galvanizing performances live on in artifact the way they do in memory. Whether this one you missed is worth your 25 bucks depends, I suspect, on just how seriously you credit the artiste's Anglophiliac legend. A-

Neil Young: International Harvesters: A Treasure (Reprise, 2011) Two remakes from Old Ways, two from Re-ac-tor, one from Harvest, and one from Buffalo Springfield, plus six more or less "new" songs, all recorded a quarter century ago. Reads like the profit-taking vault dig it is. What it sounds like, however, is the redemption of Young's lost mid-'80s--the countryish album Old Ways was supposed to be, neither rote like Re-ac-tor nor static like that sacred cow Harvest. Ben Keith, Spooner Oldham, and Tim Drummond know Nashville but can play whatever, in this case a loping rock bent and flavored by Rufus Thibodeaux's Cajun fiddle. You bet Young knew how thematic the superb "Nothing Is Perfect" was when he stuck it just before the farewell "Grey Riders," a spooky signal that deep down he was the same nut he'd always been. A-

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