Monday, January 10, 2022

Bowie's "Toy:Box"




Even if you're not a David Bowie fan, I am sure you must have heard of the lost record "Toy" by now. 

In brief:

Back in 2001, Bowie decided to relive and re-record his past, by offering up brand new versions of a dozen pre-"Space Oddity" tracks. Virgin Records rejected it. Bowie jumped ship to Sony and released "Heathen" instead.

Ten years later, "Toy" was leaked, and of course, everyone loved it.

Ten years after that, and five years since his death, David Bowie's "Toy" gets an official release, first as part of the big "Brilliant Adventures" era box and now, on its own in a limited CD or 10" vinyl boxed set.

The "Toy:Box" is set up thematically across 3-CDs or six 10" LPs. Disc One is the album proper.  Disc Two consists of "Alternates & Extras." Disc Three is titled "Unplugged & Somewhat Slightly Electric."

Let's get to it.

I love "Toy."

The "Alternates & Extras" did nothing for me. Maybe if I knew "Toy" inside and out, the way I know most of the classic catalogue inside and out, I'd have noticed just how alternate these extras were. Alas, I did not.

The real prize in the "Toy: Box" is the stripped down version on CD 3 and LPs five and six.

In a word, these versions are stunning. Bright acoustic guitars, violins, trumpets and pianos take these songs to another level. I can't be sure if all of this instrumentation was already there and the rock mix made it difficult to notice, or if new instrumentation was added to the basic tracks, while stripping some of the more "electric" bits. Whatever the process, the outcome has made "Toy: Unplugged & Somewhat Slightly Electric" a new favorite in a long line of favorites.

If you're a vinyl kind of person, this limited 10" box will set you back a little over $100. The CD set hurts a lot less at $35, Or, if you're a been there/done that kind of person who cares little about hard copies, it's probably waiting for you to steal with just a few key strokes.

But by all means, listen to at least Discs One & Three. "Toy" is one of David Bowie's best.



hpunch said...

Is there an alternate album cover?
This one scares the beejeezus out of me,

Anonymous said...

Last Saturday, a friend of mine sent me a link to a ranking of Bowie albums from Rough Trade, saying he was he was starting at 1 and working through them. Both he and I are Bowie fans.

I've given Toy a first listen today and also about half of the unplugged version. Both are good and deserve more rotations to form a strong opinion. Conversation Piece and Shadow Man are strong, though Karma Man is less so. Blackstar is still my favorite late-period DB album. I agree with hpunch that the album cover is terrible. What were they thinking?

The article I mentioned earlier can be found here. I'd rank them differently, but the items in the top 13 match my preferences; I'd put Earthling as #31 of 30.

- Paul in DK

Sal Nunziato said...

Paul in DK,
That Rough Trade Bowie list rattled my brain. It's just wrong!

Anonymous said...

Nice review - thanks for the additional info!


Anonymous said...

Sal, I thought that it might. The timing of your post and Rough Trade's was too close not to share.

- Paul in DK

Sal Nunziato said...

I just spent 20 minutes reranking all 30 albums to my liking and am now debating whether to add commentary.

heartsofstone said...

Please add the commentary

Christine said...

These two songs sounded so wonderful, even through my crappy computer speakers at work. Thanks for posting, and please add the commentary. Bowie's face squeezed into an old man baby? Nightmares after seeing that album cover.

Michael Giltz said...

High praise, indeed. Looking forward to your Bowie album list with commentary and with Tin Machine in the Top 5 (prediction!). And then there's the Utopia album guide to do and then a year by year breakdown of favorite albums so we know what to listen to from 1971 and 1957 and so on and then....