The biggest concern I had writing this article was should it be placed in Play or Rewind category. Although majority of these six songs are heard by now in other releases, atmosphere that they are revealing sorted together on “Clareville Grove Demos” shed more light on Bowie’s work to me.
This year we already had a chance to hear probably the first recording of “Space Oddity” in “Spying Through A Keyhole” box set, but that was just the start. Taped in his London apartment in early ’69, “Clareville Grove Demos” version is now also available on vinyl for the first time. Song is lyrically identical to acclaimed one released later that year, and it seems completed in Bowie’s mind, even though it’s hard to tell as it is acoustically improvised by him and John Hutch, who was his only associate at the time. Also, from that second self-titled upcoming album (aka “Space Oddity”) there are a bit different versions of “An Occasional Dream” and “Lover To The Dawn” (which eventually became “Cygnet Committee”), both dearer to me now than on final rendition. You can find much more details regarding all this on official links above and elsewhere on world wide web, for that’s not what I was going for here…
The main reason why I had doubts how to classify this recording on hiplister is conditioned by the fact that this is probably the most intimate Bowie’s unplugged album (counting unofficial releases), something very rare in his discography. The rock star that he was didn’t allow him to perform live without putting on the show, which could be the major cause why there isn’t too much entirely acoustic material. “Clareville Grove Demos” catches pure essence of David’s already magnificent singer-songwriting and maturity in his early 20s, just before he’s about to release the first and possibly biggest hit. After failure of ’67 LP and many unsuccessful bands behind him at this point (BBC documentary “Finding Fame” is a must-see), you must be fascinated by the confidence, determination and self-awareness in his divine vocal that’s carrying these tracks. It’s almost like he was still patiently waiting for others to realize his greatness, as he was sure of it.
So, if you were shocked by Bowie’s death due to youthfulness of his spirit; if you’re never even subconsciously considered possibility that he will not live forever in physical form, since legacy of his musical genius was beyond any dispute ever; if his passing felt like personal loss, urging you to say goodbye over and over again while listening to his records for countless times… then you’ve got yourself more shivers down the spine by this release.
For I’m not sure anymore am I reviewing “Clareville Grove Demos” or using it as an excuse to write belated eulogy, I’m just going to say it anyway… If there is the place for a good ones, it’s not just that I’m sure he’s there, both as David Bowie, and I deeply believe as David Robert Jones also, but that he’s been immediately appointed to reuse his infinite talent for creation in serving the highest purpose. David’s laughter echoing throughout universe while he’s fooling around behind supreme mixing console may be the most comforting thought ever.