Vinyl Review: David Bowie – Earthling (Music On Vinyl Edition)

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Re-issue label Music On Vinyl has been on a bit of a Bowie tear this year. First they re-released Heathen, both as a standard black LP and an insanely limited edition brown/orange variant that was made exclusively available via the V&A web store (which I managed to get). They followed that up with a re-issue of Outside, which was also made in two flavors; a standard black LP and another brutally rare colored variant sold exclusively through the V&A website (which I didn’t manage to get and that makes me sad).

Now they’re finishing out 2013 with yet another Bowie re-release with a new vinyl pressing of Bowie’s 1997 album Earthling, which is mighty nice of them considering original vinyl copies of the album are currently going for over $300.

The inflated value of the original Earthling LP has to do with a lot of things. Most obviously, it’s a very rare record. Vinyl sales hit their nadir in the mid-to-late-90s, so many records didn’t get a vinyl release at all. The ones that did got extremely limited pressings, and Earthling was no exception. The original pressing isn’t a numbered release, but I’d be shocked if more than a thousand were ever pressed, it’s probably closer to half that.

Secondly, the album is mighty good. It may have gotten mixed reviews when it first came out, but in my opinion, Earthling is easily one of Bowie’s better records. It took the wild experimental nature of the uneven Outside LP and refined it into a well-polished (and imminently dance-friendly) masterwork. The album has two bonafide Bowie classics (“Dead Man Walking” and “I’m Afraid Of Americans”) as well as several shoulda-been classics (“Battle Of Britain,” “Telling Lies,” and “Law (Earthings On Fire) for starters). The only real weak link on the album is the meandering “The Last Thing You Should Do,” and even that has some pretty great drum-and-bass elements to it.

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So, a hurrah to Music On Vinyl for giving us any version that’s the least bit affordable. And double hurrah for delivering a version that both sounds and looks amazing. Once again bucking their trend of substandard releases and spotty masters, this record sounds great, one of the best Music On Vinyl releases I’ve bought to date. It sounded nearly identical to my CD copy (and I mean that in a good way, it doesn’t sound muddled or poorly mixed) and the record itself is free of any major pops, clicks or excessive surface noise. And it’s pretty to boot, pressed to beautiful high-quality transparent green vinyl (transparent blue vinyl and standard black vinyl versions were also released).

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While the colored variants of Heathen and Outside were both super-limited exclusives that were impossible to find within minutes of them going on sale, you can still score the colored variants of this one if you look hard enough. Amazon has some of the blue version for about $45, while you can snag the green one at Discogs for around $60. Yeah, that’s pricey, but considering how much the Outside and Heathen colored LPs go for ($300+) that’s pretty nice. Also, the black vinyl is available everywhere in unlimited quantities, so you can always pick that one up if you’re a Bowie fan on a budget. Regardless of the version, if you’re a Bowie fan and can afford it, pick this one up. Maybe the success of it will convince Music On Vinyl to release Bowie’s 2003 album Reality on vinyl.

Can you believe that album never got a vinyl release? That’s fucked up.

 

 

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