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'David Bowie: Platinum Collection'

ALEX CHADWICK, host: From NPR News, it's Day to Day. This month glam rock legend David Bowie has a three-disc collection of music from his entire flamboyant three-decade career. Here's Rolling Stone and Day to Day critic Christian Hoard with a review.

Mr. CHRISTIAN HOARD (Critic, Rolling Stone): David Bowie was the most influential pop musician on the planet during the late 1970s. He was someone who, to quote a friend, did for artistic pretensions what Jimi Hendrix did for electric guitar.

(Soundbite of song "Space Oddity")

Mr. DAVID BOWIE: (Singing) Take your protein pills and put your helmet on.

Mr. HOARD: During the 70s alone Bowie morphed from British folkie to the androgynous space creature Ziggy Stardust to The Thin White Duke and helped invent Goth, punk, and techno.

(Soundbite of song "China Girl")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) Now I'm a mess without my little China girl.

Mr. HOARD: Bowie's gift for high impact pop statements, not to mention hit singles, is one reason his music has been gathered into numerous CD anthologies over the years. This one, the newly released David Bowie: the Platinum Collection, is one of the best. It organizes hits and prime rarities into three career-spanning discs.

(Soundbite of song "Let's Dance")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) Let's dance to the song they're playing on the radio.

Mr. HOARD: The first disc is cherry-picked from Bowie's glam rock heyday in the early 70s.

(Soundbite of song "Changes")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) ...I've never caught a glimpse...

Mr. HOARD: Here you'll find a generous helping of songs that still light up Classic Rock radio, including Changes, Rebel Rebel, Suffragette City, and this song: Life on Mars, one of the first times Bowie turned swishy theatrics into anthemic pop.

(Soundbite of song "Life on Mars")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) ...We Could spit in the eyes of fools, as they ask us to focus on sailors fighting in the dancehall. Oh man, look at those comemen go. It's the freakiest show...

Mr. HOARD: The second disc covering 1974 to 1979, focuses on Bowie's run as The Thin White Duke, the effete genius who turned out some of the most innovative music of his era with help from electro pop guru Brian Eno.

(Soundbite of song "TVC-15")

In addition to chic up-tempo stuff like TVC 15 you get dense unsettling stuff like Boys Keep Swinging, a relative obscurity from 1979 in which The Duke sets pansexual lust against an overstuffed but rollicking groove.

(Soundbite of "Boys Keep Swinging")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) ...Nothing stands in our way, when you're a boy.

Mr. HOARD: The only problem with the Platinum Collection is the third CD.

(Soundbite of song "Velvet Goldmine")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) Velvet goldmine, you stroke me like the rain...

Mr. Hoard: It's devoted entirely to Bowie's 1980s material, which is long on dance pop dreck. But overall the Platinum Collection succeeds by offering loads of essential Bowie along with a smart selection of visionary non-hits, like Drowned Girl and Velvet Goldmine. Making it a strong bet for its potential devotees in search of broad glimpse into Bowie's shape shifting world. I'll leave you with Underground, a little-known cut from the soundtrack to the 1987 film Labyrinth and a reminder that despite his 80s decline, Bowie's gift for gaudy flights of fancy still surfaces from time to time.

(Soundbite of song, "Underground")

Mr. BOWIE: (Singing) ...Daddy, daddy, get me out of here! I, I'm underground. Sister, sister, please take me down. I, I'm underground. Daddy, daddy, get me out of here. No-one can blame you for walking away...

CHADWICK: Christian Hoard writes for Rolling Stone. He's a contributing critic for Day to Day. The three CD set is called David Bowie: the Platinum Collection. Here's more of his song Underground.

(Soundbite of "Underground") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Christian Hoard