Revisiting Ryko Bowie

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Vaughan, Feb 21, 2020.

  1. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    So, I got it into my head to revisit the Bowie Ryko releases. I found various threads on them, most quite negative. There are a couple threads on how best to re-EQ them and so on. I've in the past not been so kind to them, to be honest.

    But I have a hankering to give them a fresh go, starting tonight with Ziggy.

    Listening today, when strikes me most is how detailed the sound is. The sound of the drums at the start of 5 Years and Soul Love is exquisite. The acoustic guitar on most tracks is lovely too. It's even quite crankable if that's your thing. I've always felt Ziggy lacked in the bass department, and that's obvious here, but you kind of have to adjust to the sound of this album anyway.

    When things get hectic, such as the end Moonage Daydream, it can get a little much (harsh I guess), but there aren't too many of those moments. On the flip side, a track such as Rock and Roll Suicide is sublime, that guitar sounds gorgeous.

    The booklet is a bit of a miss, and I had to smile when I saw they actually spent more money on the booklet for Man Who Sold the World than they did the Ziggy. You get the lyrics here, but like many of these Ryko booklets, it feels a little like someone threw a lots of pictures in the air and glued them where they landed (which thinking about it is a lovely pictorial partner for Burroughs cut-up technique, which Bowie would later use).

    One thing I wanted to experience again were the bonus tracks. Having John I'm Only Dancing is really nice (I've never been a big fan of the Young Americans era version, much preferring the more stripped back one we get here). In retrospect, Ziggy would have been a better album without the cover tune, with John in its place.

    Velvet Goldmine is a fine song, am I alone in thinking there's a little Brecht in there? That chorus just sounds like a drunken bar room anthem.

    Sweet Head is a great little rocker, but I can see why the bluesy nature of it didn't quite fit anywhere. Mind you, it's a really fun song, and in retrospect it's odd that it completely fell by the wayside. I can only assume this was ultimately because it was forgotten as success bit.

    The demo for Ziggy is pretty good. I'm in the school of those who want everything and the kitchen sink, so the sonics here are fine by me, though clearly inferior. Actually, having Conversation Piece, you can imagine what the Ziggy set will contain down the road. I can't wait.

    Finally there's the solo piano version of Lady Stardust, one of my favorite Bowie tunes. The vocals here are actually better than the version used on the album, imo. Less clinical, and sounding more like an old tune he'd been performing a long time (elongated notes, a looser feel to the melody)

    All in all, the bonus tracks all add to the presentation. As an extended Ziggy experience, it's right on.

    Next up, Man Who Sold the World.

    Do I think I was a little hard on these in the past? Yes. Yes I was. In the never ending quest for the "very very very best, perfect, absolutely wonderful in every way" version, it's easy to get dismissive of a release because it bothers you in one way or another. You forget the good. In this case, I'm hearing some of the good tonight, and with the extended presentation and the cooklet that screams the 1990's, this is a worthy version, imo.

    Anyone still spin the Ryko's?
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  2. Ghost of Ziggy

    Ghost of Ziggy Forum Resident

    I think the bonus tracks made them essential, I still have a few but regret getting rid of most of them in favour of ridiculous priced RCA’s. I really thought the bonus tracks made Diamond Dogs a stronger album, also the Scary Monsters bonus tracks were superb.
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  3. kwadguy

    kwadguy Senior Member

    Cambridge, MA
    Ryko Bowie. That sounds like a good name for a new artist or Japanese noise rock band.
  4. Man at C&A

    Man at C&A Senior Member

    I only have the 1990 EMI (The UK version of the Rykos) CDs of most of Bowie's 70s albums because of the bonus tracks. They're flawed, no doubt about that, but my system can have a lot of bass anyway so that problem can be sorted to some extent. I still enjoy them but usually play Bowie on vinyl. I have a very nice run of UK orange RCA label LPs.
  5. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    So I've just given Man Who Sold the World a spin.

    Another interesting booklet, and since this album had so many cover variations, it's twice the size of the Ziggy one. You also get the lyrics, which is a nice addition. Something still feels... not quite right, but it's fine.

    Musically it's a fun listen. I've always found the bass on this album to be bloated and over-bearing. I can't say there was an intention to tame that specifically, but the net effect is that it's well controlled. Actually, as an overall sound, this is pretty close to how I'd like the album to always sound. There are similar levels of detail I heard on the Ziggy, but with that bass thinned out a bit, the overall presentation strikes me as a better partner for Mr. Stardust.

    The bonus tracks are great. That said, neither Lightning Frightening nor Holy Holy would have fit on the album proper. The version of Moonage Daydream hasn't been glammed up, and hearing Bowie shouting, "Come on you mothers!" is marvelous. The increased use of Piano gives it a nice bar room feel. Hang on to Yourself sounds like something from the Deram years. :D

    A nice listen actually.

    I'd also note here, you can purchase these Ryko discs quite cheaply if you ever get curious yourself.
  6. John Buchanan

    John Buchanan I'm just a headphone kind of fellow. Stax Sigma

    Yes, they're bright. Yes the bottom end is lacking. However, they appear to have been done with the most care (boomy and dull studio mastering monitors not withstanding). Check out the 2 Nassau Coliseum tracks on Station To Station and compare them to those same tracks on the Nassau Coliseum set. Huge difference in the Ryko's favour.
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  7. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    Taking a slight detour, but I think for good reason, I wanted to explore the 30th Anniversary Edition of Aladdin Sane. Not only that, but this morning the bonus 10 track 2nd CD that came with it.

    My thoughts on the 2nd disc are:

    John I'm Only Dancing (Sax Version). The change over the extra on the Ziggy Ryko is pretty obvious - this one has a sax! It seems marginally faster in execution with the guitar being a tad more aggressive. Still, for me the version on the Ziggy disc is the best, so this was never going to totally work for me. Definitely nice to have though, especially the weird atonal sax at the end.

    The Jean Genie (Single Version) is nothing to write home about, to be honest. Of all the extras we often get, single mixes or edits would rank at the bottom of my interest levels. Hell, I prefer down and dirty poorly recorded demos over the likes of this. it sounds fine, but it adds nothing.

    Time (Single Edit), as above in all honesty. Runs a little over 3 minutes. I just love this song, a definite highlight of the Aladdin Sane album. The stereo separation on this is better than the Jean Genie, but the truth is I'd always go to the album version.

    All the Young Dudes is okay, but they don't give any real details about it. It's in mono. Really like this song, and while it makes sense in regards to Mott the Hoople, it's a shame this never found a space on a Bowie album other than as a bonus. The sound quality of this one isn't up to the standards of some of the other tracks.

    The remaining six tracks are made up of live performances; 4 from Music Hall, Boston 1972, 1 from Santa Monica, and 1 from Public Hall, Cleveland 1972. All but Cleveland were record in October, with the remaining track coming in November.

    Sound quality isn't great, but as these are bonus cuts we won't sweat that - they're more than adequate to listen to (Peter Mew and Nigel Reeve are credited with the mastering of this disc).

    Changes is, well Changes. It feels a little rushed, but then in the moment you'd imagine there was some energy to the live performance. Nothing remarkable though.

    The Superman is largely a vocal and guitar performance, other than the chorus. Still, when it rocks it rocks, and since this isn't a track we got to hear live very often a welcome addition.

    John I'm Only Dancing is, to be honest, quite rough. There's a weird echo with the vocal, almost as though a proto Elvis was creeping in. The band sound pretty rough and ready. The other Boston tracks sound better, so perhaps this was a different source? Given some crowd noise at the end, it suggests this could have been a crowd recording?

    Jean Genie is from Santa Monica that we all know and love. The official release of the full show wasn't available at the time this one was released, so its inclusion made sense at the time.

    The final track, Drive in Saturday is a brilliant acoustic version, just Bowie and his guitar. This will be tempered for some by the audio quality, which decidedly C grade. This is precisely as we got with some of Conversation Piece, or perhaps a little worse. On the plus side, hearing Bowie in 1972 singing the song with an acoustic is great. In fact, with some of the vocals, it almost has a Dylan feel to it. There are some minor lyrical changes. Fascinating stuff, imo.
  8. sound chaser

    sound chaser Senior Member

    North East UK.
    Ditto, but I seem to remember using our hosts Elvis Costello Ryko EQ fix, though I just listened to "TMWSTW" and not sure it needs anything.
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  9. egebamyasi

    egebamyasi Forum Resident

    Worcester, MA
    I only have Man Who Sold The World and Hunky Dory but I haven't played them in years. I also have the Ryko Sound+Vision box on vinyl. I have never listened to it. Maybe I should.
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  10. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man

    I still have my CDs and the "Tech Unit". I have the vinyl too which cost a fortune to track down. They arent my go to versions for play but they look gorgeous.

    I wish I kept my cassette tapes. Those were the versions I owned first. I miss them. Sold the whole lot on eBay long ago.

    I dont have anything against the Rykos. Hoos presentation, good bonus tracks... they just need a little more bottom end.
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  11. abzach

    abzach Forum Resident

    I have the EMI Low and Scary Monsters, think they sound just lovely.
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  12. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    Well, the first edition of 'Ziggy' came with an additional elaborate 72pp booklet.
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  13. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    That was the box set version though. My copy is the boring old Jewelcase edition. I'm going to dig out the 30th anniversary edition of Ziggy later.
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  14. akmonday

    akmonday Senior Member

    berkeley, ca
    I had all of these and only recently started selling them off because I have very nice vinyl editions of everything that I prefer to listen to; kept rips of them though. they're trebely, yes, but they're also how I first heard about half of those albums on release, so I have some affection for them.
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  15. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    The 30th was an EMI release from much later, though. That had an entirely different booklet than the original Ryko. Which wasn't really a box set, it just came with a slipcase to keep the jewel case and booklet together.
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  16. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK

    Fair enough, difficult to see from this picture, which is the best i could find.
  17. muzzer

    muzzer Forum Resident

    Glad I shelled out for that when it came out. All of £15 I think.
    fishyboots likes this.
  18. Daniel Plainview

    Daniel Plainview God's Lonely Man


    You gots to have the Tech Unit or your life is incomplete!
  19. adm62

    adm62 Senior Member

    Ottawa, Canada
    The Ziggy album first came in a limited box set that had a huge booklet.
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  20. John Buchanan

    John Buchanan I'm just a headphone kind of fellow. Stax Sigma

    See post #16 above
  21. leshafunk

    leshafunk Forum Resident

    Moscow, Russia
    Good idea to create the hype before selling them :)
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  22. rjp

    rjp Senior Member

    nothing could make ever get rid of my bowie ryko's, they are the ones to own by bowie, and contrary to what some say, the sound is just not that bad at all.
  23. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    Quite the opposite, actually. I've had to rebuy them. :D

    Seriously, that's why I've been revisiting slowly, I'm waiting for most of them to come in the mail. My memories of them were actually far worse than what I'm hearing today. The bonus tracks are really nice to have, and while I'd say they're light on bass, they're not anywhere near as thin as I thought. Plus, thus far, the nice levels of detail makes them a fun listen.

    Given the price I've gotten each of them for, selling them isn't a moneymaking proposition. In retrospect it seemed silly to go without them since they were so cheap........
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  24. Vaughan

    Vaughan Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Essex, UK
    Tonight I played through the Ryko Scary Monsters.

    At some point you're going to be hitting the repeat button when commenting on these, lots of great detail, a decent DR, and perhaps a slight lack of Bass. Still, it's a good CD to play if you're a fan of this album. A couple of little bits of detail are nice: The start of Fashion, with the repeating "bloop", you can hear the key being pressed beneath the sound; At the end of It's No Game Part 2 there is a rattling/scratchy sound, and here you can hear that a glass was used as part of the sound.

    All in all a nice journey through the album proper, but it's in the extra's that things really go up a notch. I just love this version of Space Oddity, would hate to be without it. The version of Panic in Detroit serves merely as an alternate, nothing more. However next up is the instrumental Crystal Japan, which is wonderful. Finally, and not least, Alabama Song.

    As a package this is hard to beat, imo. I'm still of the mind that these discs are too easily brushed aside.

    All my other rebought Ryko's arrived today too. :)
  25. 93curr

    93curr Senior Member

    I still think it's a tragedy we never got Au20 editions of 'Lodger', 'Scary Monsters' or 'Diamond Dogs.' :cry:
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