Sound — 10
This is nothing like anything else by Bowie. It charts most of his releases (in chronological order) up to an early demo of his breakthrough hit, 'Space Oddity'. The sounds range from mod-rocker ('The London Boys') to an attempt at a novelty single ('The Laughing Gnome'); every track is dated, but in my opinion this is a good thing, it really reflects that this was made in the swinging sixties.
Lyrics — 8
Some people don't like Bowie's lyrics, but these are different to many. One of my favourite tracks is 'We Are the Hungry Men', a song about a totalitarian regime ("We are not your friends/We don't give a damn for what you're saying/We're here to live our lives/We are hungry men/We don't give a damn for what you're saying/We're here to eat you"). Bowie voice is not entirely different to his later work, you can still tell it's Bowie, but there's a certain change which suits this rarer material. The lyrics may not be the most thought-provoking or inspiring in the world, but there are many stand-out tracks that make this worth a look.
Overall Impression — 9
I would strongly recommend any Bowie enthusiast to buy this straight away. It's more pop-orientated than the later glam-rock Bowie, so it may not be to everyone's taste, but there's a lot here to like: 27 tracks, many of which don't appear on any albums, the early demo of 'Space Oddity'. There are also interesting sleevenotes about his successes and failures up to the time of his breakthrough. There are a few omissions (notably 'When I'm Five'), but this is a fairly comprehensive collection, which I have enjoyed listening to immensely.