Vinyl Review: David Bowie – Heathen (V&A Exclusive Music On Vinyl Edition)

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David Bowie’s Heathen is a tremendous record. First released in 2002, it was the closest he came to mainstream success in over a decade, and his first “rock” album that was worth listening to since his work in the early 80s. It showed his amazing staying power as a creative force, and was a surprising return to form for an artist that many critics had written off (once again) by that point.

Sadly though, it’s been nearly impossible to get on vinyl since its original release. No one was buying vinyl in 2002, so when labels were generous enough to press copies of albums, they were typically in very limited, one-off runs. Hence, copies of  Heathen have become somewhat collectible over the years, going for close to $100 on auction sites.

Thankfully, that madness can come to an end, thanks to Music on Vinyl stepping up to the plate and re-issuing the record on high-quality 180 gram vinyl.

However, with that comes an entirely new madness in the form of a maddeningly rare variant.

But before I talk about that, I guess I should mention the actual release for a bit.

The original CD release of Heathen was one of Bowie’s first albums to fall prey to the dreaded “loudness wars.” It’s too hot, overly compressed with everything pushed to the front of the mix. It’s not horrible to listen to or fatiguing like other albums that are too loud, but it’s definitely less than optimal. Most importantly, for an album that’s supposedly trying to embrace the “classic” Bowie sound, the very modern, very loud mix is off-putting and out of place.

I've Been Waiting For You - CD Version

I’ve Been Waiting For You – CD Version

I've Been Waiting For You - LP Version

I’ve Been Waiting For You – LP Version

 

As you can see, this new pressing fixes that problem, using a master that was far more restrained. As a result, the album is less in-your-face and much more alive sounding. Bowie’s voice no longer dominates the mix, and it’s much easier to make out all the instrumentation on all the tracks. It’s  great master all the way around, and as of right now, the best sounding versions of this album that can buy. An absolutely must own for Bowie fans.

Come for the music, stay for the blasphemous insert artwork.

Come for the music, stay for the blasphemous insert artwork.

Now, about that madness I mentioned before.

There are two versions of this new release. The first is on standard 180 gram black vinyl, you can get this anywhere at a fair price. I don’t expect it to go out of print anytime soon nor do I expect it to radically increase in value in the near future.

Then there’s the version I got.

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Pretty.

This “Heathen Orange” limited edition variant was made exclusively available at the Victoria & Albert Museum online shop. Only 500 were made and they sold out almost immediately. If you want one now you better head to eBay, but be prepared to dish out $300+ for a copy, that’s the going rate right now.

I’m sure the insane exclusivity of the “Heathen Orange’ edition will drive some completists insane with rage, but I think Music On Vinyl went the right route with this one (as opposed to other labels’ practices). Remember, there’s still a regular black vinyl version that anyone out there can buy at a fair and affordable price. They’re identical in every other imaginable way, and I assume they both sound just as great. The only difference is the color of the record, nothing else. Everyone gets the music they want on the format they like the most,  no reason to complain.

Of course, I might just be saying that because I got one and you didn’t.

It sure does look neat, by the way.

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