Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Rediscovering old CDs - RCA's Bowie releases

Due to a change of living arrangements (working in Hong Kong for an extended period) I am revisiting my CD collection. Have to say these old David Bowie CDs sound much better than I thought they would.
Probably the only CDs I have of any monetary value are the five Bowie albums from the batch released in the mid 1980s, and then withdrawn by RCA after they lost the rights to the Bowie catalogue. I haven't played them for years, preferring the vinyl experience. Well I've just played the Ziggy CD and blow me, it sounds great!

That got me thinking: I wonder if their stock has risen, or whether they are just worthless bits of plastic, like most CDs. So I searched online and discovered there is no end of discussion on the relative merits of the German and Japanese RCA Bowies (Nerd fact: mine are the German versions ). Also, it turns out the RCAs have stood the test of time because subsequent versions have messed with the formula. As one reviewer on Amazon commented, "the original RCA Bowie CDs from the 1980s were lambasted at the time as subpar, but actually did a pretty good job of staying faithful to the sound of the original LPs. They have held up very well in light of the reissues that followed: the anemic and overly bright Ryko reissues of the late `80s and the bloated, heavily compressed Virgin/EMI remasters of the late `90s, which remain the standard versions available today. However, it was the 30th Anniversary edition of Ziggy Stardust that represented the nadir of all Bowie remasters: it sounded worse than even the '90s EMI remaster; worse yet, it actually removed portions of the music and reversed the stereo channels." Bowie himelf is on record as having said the recent CD remaster sounded 'weedy'.

OK, so while that makes the case for the original vinyl even stronger, it should at least make these RCA CDs more collectible.  From a quick scan of various blogs and online resellers, it appears each of the CDs is worth at least $100 (US) and perhaps more given they are in good condition.

But hey, it's not about the money! What pleases me the most is they actually sound really good. So until I can get back to using my record deck, it's time to rediscover the joys of CD.

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