Written by 4:11 am Audiophile Music

Bowie’s ChangesOne Changes

Mark Smotroff sees the light and learns a record collecting lesson…


I should have known better. 

I should have been paying closer attention. 

But no. 

AR-BowieChangesOneCover225.jpgAs I was downsizing my LP collection a few years back in the midst of moving and other life turmoil, I stupidly cast off some of my David Bowie albums. This included his ChangesOneBowie greatest hits collection.  

This is an album that stands on its own with its assemblage of essential first-peak period hits and select then-previously-unreleased-on-LP bonus tracks. 

As an end-to-end listen, ChangesOneBowie is no small accomplishment to be overlooked; so many hit compilations really are pretty lame because of the lack of thoughtful sequencing. So lame that most times if I am considering a collection by an artist I’m really into — one where I own all their other recordings — the only reason I’ll often buy said “hits” album is usually because of unique tracks exclusive to the disc.

Often times I’ll wait until that album gets discounted before I buy it… or I’ll even wait to find it used somewhere…

ChangesOneBowie’s seminal special track was the killer Ziggy Stardust-era single-only release “John, I’m Only Dancing.”  However, with space at a premium in my new apartment and given that I had in fact purchased the fine (as far as I know Bowie-approved) three CD collection called Sound+Vision (on the now defunct Rykodisc label) — which in theory contained “John, I’m Only Dancing” — I figured I was safe getting rid of ChangesOneBowie.

Mistake. 

AR-BowieChangesOneBLACKlabel225.jpgFast forward to May of this year when a fine 40th Anniversary reissue of ChangesOneBowie appeared containing an alternate take of “John, I’m Only Dancing.” Apparently, the so called “sax” version (because it features more audible saxophone parts, and is also quite a bit faster) had appeared on the first 1000 copies of ChangesOneBowie back in the day before being changed to the earlier single version. 

It was a pretty rare record, to say the least.  

Also of note for some collectors: about half of the new reissues of ChangesOneBowie were pressed on clear vinyl. However, there was no way to figure out which albums had the clear discs vs. standard black. 

Of course, my luck being what it is, when I bought the new LP I got one of the black vinyl pressings.  Don’t get me wrong, it sounds fine, but is not the spiffy clear vinyl version that would satisfy my inner record collector geek…

Parumph.  

Its gets better….

AR-BowieChangesOneBlackPlaying225.jpgImagine my surprise when I dug out my Sound+Vision box to hear the original single version of “John, I’m Only Dancing”only to find out that it is, in fact, the faster 1973 Aladdin Sane-era alternate take “sax” version! Yes, that is the same version that I’d just shelled out $25 to get on the new ChangesOneBowie

So now I had two versions of the alternate take — and no copies of the original —  “John, I’m Only Dancing” in my collection. 

]]>This alternate “sax” version is good but not as determined as the original single.  

And I didn’t get the clear vinyl pressing of the reissued album either…

Grumble….

AR-BowieChangesOneCLEARlabel225.jpgThen, the other day while in Amoeba Records, my buddy Frank showed me a neat trick he’d learned on the Interwebs: if you shine the flashlight from your iPhone at the back of the ChangesOneBowie cover, it will shine through the front of the cover on the clear copies. Brilliant! And it worked! I immediately bought ANOTHER copy of ChangesOneBowie, this time on refreshing clear vinyl. 

Yes… oh so refreshing…

I even found a video up on YouTube that someone had made showing the flashlight process. Kudos to whomever figured this out.

Anyhow, so here I am with two copies of ChangesOneBowie in hand. So, while I’m here I figured I’d compare and contrast a little to see if there might be any difference in the sound (which is something some of you, Dear Readers, care about).  Underlying this little test is something which many audiophiles have staunchly told me: that all colored vinyl sucks and that black vinyl sounds best. I have really never subscribed to that “rule” because I’ve always found exceptions — I have certainly heard many black vinyl albums that sound lousy and also own many colored vinyl pressings which sound gorgeous. 

So how do these compare? Pretty much identical. 

Pretty much. I will say this… and I don’t know if I’m imagining things but the clear pressing might — underscore, might — be a hair brighter sounding than the black vinyl. Of course, that makes no sense technically since they are probably from the same pressing run, manufactured in Europe on 180-gram vinyl and all that good stuff.  Both are equally quiet and well centered. 

AR-BowieChangesOneClearPlaying225.jpgIt is so close that this does mark my tipping point moment where I draw the line and decide to simply be happy with the spiffy clear vinyl copy of ChangesOneBowie that I went to such admittedly ludicrous extremes to get. 

No, I’m not going to keep both copies (yeah, I heard you in the back row whispering that, Mr. Completist, sir …). 

Actually, I am going to trade the black vinyl copy to one of my music buddies who kindly picked up a copy of The Beach Boys’ Party Uncovered & Unplugged album for me several months ago knowing I’d want it and I never got around to getting it from him (so, watch for a review of that album in the coming months).

But this does leave my Bowie collection in a bit of a pickle: I still own no versions of ChangesOneBowie with the preferred original single version of “John I’m Only Dancing.”  

So… guess what album I’ll be looking to for while I’m out crate digging in the weeks ahead?

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