If it has "David Bowie" on the cover, I tend to buy. Hence I've now got the 40th Anniversary version of this disc to go along with that last anniversary disc, the EMI release, the Japanese Mini LP, The Rykodisc release and original RCA. Oh, and the vinyl from yesteryear. Why? Obsessive compulsion I guess. All these "remasterings" can get a bit much, can things really get better?
I'm pretty sure there will be plenty of people following on from this review who will be hailing this as the definitive version, or saying it's "close to the vinyl" - you'd think 40 years after the first release of this recording we'd be demanding it to sound better, not the same. But I digress.
First the sound - is it better than ever before? I don't think so. I think it's on a par. It sounds nice, there is a ton of detail, everything is as it should be. But if someone is perfectly happy with the last version, I really don't see this one changing much. I found the previous reissue of Ziggy Stardust in a 2013 remaster a little brittle (which pits me against those who proclaimed it as some kind of sonic revolution). This doesn't suffer from that, so that's a plus. For example the cymbal hits in Panic in Detroit can be a problem on this record, yet they're nicely contained here.
Frankly this album has been reissued so many times surely the only way it could sound significantly better is if some new technology is created, or high-resolution versions become available. Improvements are always going to be marginal at this point. Yet people like myself keep hoping and dreaming, and buying!
In short then, yes this sounds excellent, it is perhaps equal to the very best this album has ever sounded - at least in my collection. However, anyone expecting a night and day step up from previous releases are going to be disappointed, imo. Except we live in a world where new is always hailed as better.
Where this CD does win is in the packaging, which almost wins a ten out of ten. Almost. They have brought back the original gatefold, with the original artwork, which is nice. But they also went a step further and included the lyrics on the inner bag. Not enough? Well, they included the invitation to join Bowie's fan club that shipped in original copies of the vinyl. These are much appreciated, and really show they're going that extra mile. I already had them as part of the Japanese mini lp, but it's good to have them here too.
Still, I can't go too overboard on the packaging - who ever thought it was a good idea to put a big blue bar down the front of the cover art proclaiming "40th Anniversary 2013 remaster" needs their heads testing. Iconic cover made..... Having gone the extra mile on reproducing the cover and inserts, this is a poor choice, imo. Have they never heard of stickers? Oh well.
The music is clearly 5 out of 5. The sound on this remaster is excellent. And the packaging is almost perfect. The lack of bonus tracks is going to be problematic to some, especially as previous releases had them - but on the plus side at least we have the original album here as it should be heard, as one complete experience. Should you upgrade from a previous version? Hm. The 1999 remasters are good, as was the last anniversary release. If you have those then I wouldn't rush. Previous to that, yes, pick this up.