Early On (1964-1966) by David Bowie

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Early On (1964-1966) by David Bowie
Early On (1964-1966) by David Bowie

Album Released: 1991

Early On (1964-1966) ::: Artwork

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1.Liza Jane2:17
2.Louie, Go Home2:12
3.I Pity The Fool2:09
4.Take My Tip2:15
5.That's Where My Heart Is2:28
6.I Want My Baby Back2:39
7.Bars Of The County Jail2:07
8.You've Got A Habit Of Leaving2:31
9.Baby Loves That Way3:02
10.I'll Follow You2:02
11.Glad I've Got Nobody2:31
12.Can't Help Thinking About Me2:47
13.And I Say To Myself2:29
14.Do Anything You Say2:31
15.Good Morning Girl2:14
16.I Dig Everything2:44
17.I'm Not Losing Sleep2:52


Whilst I've known about Bowie's history for quite some time, I still find it incredible that he started releasing music as far back as the same year The Rolling Stones released their first album.

Of course, the reason so few people realise that Bowie started in the mid-60's is because he failed to have any hits. And listening to the material on this compilation, it's abundantly clear why - this stuff just ain't that great! But it ain't bad either, and if you're a big-time Bowie fan, you might just find it worthwhile to pick up this archival release.

Just like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Rolling Stones before him, David Bowie started out singing covers of 1950's rock'n'roll. So this album opens with a surprisingly engaging take on “Liza Jane”, and whilst it's a far cry from capturing the spirit The Rolling Stones and The Yardbirds were able to capture, it's a perfectly nice toe-tapper. “Louie, Go Home” is shakier and less likable, but he makes up for that with an interesting take on “I Pity the Fool”, featuring heavily-layered saxophones. Hardly a revolutionary concept, but a lot of fun!

Everything beyond the first three tracks are Bowie originals, and they range from bad to mediocre to mildly good. “Take My Tip” is the very first David Bowie original, and it's a very confused little thing that shows promise, but overall it's just too dull to make an impression.

Probably the most embarrassing selections on this collection are the Folk songs (excuse me while I barf!). “That's Where My Heart Is” is terrible, featuring a boring vocal performance and a dull melody. “Bars of the County Jail” is even worse ... from the song title, I guess it was supposed to be some sort of outlaw Johnny Cash thing, but it sounds so dang ham-fisted. Blah! But in those songs' defence, they both sound like demos, so maybe they would've been better if some executive let Bowie flesh them out in the studio. Eh. I still don't think they would've been very good.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

This singles collection from one David Jones, Londoner and certifiable mod, gathers together all his A and B sides from his innumerable mid-60's bands, leaving only one question - how did this guy keep coming up with the dough to record one failed single after another? They cost a shitload of green to produce at the rate of three or so a year, especially when they drop like Apache helicopters once they hit the market.

Not one of these songs would be even remotely familiar to anyone who knows the rest of Bowie's catalogue (and no, "The Laughing Gnome" - that novelty stalwart of Dr. Demento's late-night radio show - isn't here either), and although he's listed as a writer on darn near all the songs, Bowie just isn't Bowie yet - just another British singer - one with teeth so crooked they remind one of the Dresden skyline after the firebombing raids, and one that politely honks a saxophone from time to time.

These songs are mostly half-efforts at pop-chart success in the vein of whoever was big at the time, from The Beatles ("I Want My Baby Back", which does have some genuinely nice overdubbed vocal harmonies) to Donovan ("Bars of the County Jail") to The Rolling Stones ("I Pity the Fool"), and onto The Who and Kinks (the laughably derivative "You've Got a Habit of Leaving Me" and "Baby Loves It That Way"), some of which were actually produced by Kinks-manager Shel Talmy.

Pretty much all these songs suck one way or another - the vocal inflections are often put-on to more closely resemble their 'supposed-to-be's. The songs are repetitive, simplistically arranged, badly recorded (or mastered from scratchy old 45 rpm records, which is sorta like taking a photograph of an Etch-a-Sketch drawing in a snowstorm, in terms of realistically portraying what it was originally like), and just generally of low quality.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])

Early On is a sometimes funny album, but mostly it's just a bad collection of early failed singles and B-sides by Bowie (still known at this point as Davy Jones), along with several bands he apparently fronted when he sucked (The King Bees / The Manish Boys / The Lower Third - they all blow!).

I know I’m not the first person to make this point about Early On, but when a man’s entire modus operandi consists of stealing other people’s sounds, and when he blows at writing songs, and hasn’t yet learnt how to rip off other people’s ideas well ... well, what do you think this stuff is gonna sound like? Bowie didn’t even make a decent album until 1970, so back in 1964 it's ineviatble that this thing sucks.

But ... how much does it suck? Because really, that’s the only pertinent question. The answer is - surprisingly, not all that much. Yes, it’s bad, but it’s not bad in an offensive way (unlike his next album). Most of it just sounds like mediocre C-level garage-band nuggets from the mid-60’s, which indeed is exactly what most of the album is, shamelessly riding the coat-tails of contemporary styles in a futile attempt to score a hit.

If you're not familiar with the music of the mid-60's, a good place to start would be albums by The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Kinks, and Donovan. Bowie's songs on this album set out to sound exactly like those artists. They're not inept, they’re just bad, and the degree to which they sound like half-assed versions of what happened to be popular at the time is pretty pathetic ... after all, the track “Louie, Go Home” by The King Bees illustrates that perfectly ... doesn't that combination of title and bandname sound familiar, as in "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen?

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by Reviewer: BRAD