Ziggy Stardust is one of those classic albums that has been reissued many times, but never done quite right. Until now? This is undoubtedly the best release yet, though there are a few peculiarities.
First, a note on the music. First released in 1972, this was the album that propelled Bowie to stardom. The band is Mick Ronson (guitar), Trevor Bolder (bass), Mick Woodmansey (drums) and Bowie on almost everything else. It was a tight band, but what makes the album is the immaculate songwriting and Bowie's own vocals, presence and energy. From the first drumbeats of Five Years to the dying chords of Rock `n' Roll Suicide, the album is nearly perfect.
The original UK LP sounds great, but subsequent releases have had various problems. The RCA CDs from the eighties are OK, though not a lot of trouble was taken with them, and they are hard to find now. The EMI release (Ryko in the USA) was clean but thin-sounding. Subsequent issues have been over-processed resulting in a slightly fatiguing sound. Even the SACD in 2003 was not that special, though it did feature a 5.1 mix that now reappears here.
But I am getting ahead of myself. This 2012 release comes in two forms, a single CD and a deluxe package with an LP and an audio-only DVD. It is the result of a new remaster done by the original engineer Ray Staff with the involvement of the original producer Ken Scott. The sound is excellent, perhaps the best it has ever been, though I still like the sound of my old original LP. Still, no pops and crackles, just a sparkling, clean remaster which finally does Ziggy Stardust justice.
There is one oddity. Starman has a "morse" section which comes after "Hazy cosmic jive" and is repeated later. It is loud and clear on the original LP and single, but on all the CD versions, recessed in the background. Why? A mystery, but also a shame if you are nostalgic for the original sound.
Now for the packaging. The CD is fine for what it is, but there are no bonus tracks. The LP package on the other hand has various extras on the DVD:
- The original mix in 24/96 PCM
- The Ken Scott 2003 5.1 mix in DTS, Dolby Digital, and 24/48 PCM
- Four bonus tracks also in 5.1 and 24/48. These are:
1 Moonage Daydream Instrumental
2 The Supermen
3 Velvet Goldmine
4 Sweet Head, complete with studio chat
Bowie fans will have heard most of these before, since all but the Moonage Daydream instrumental were on the 30th Anniversary CD package, but it is good to have the surround mixes. Moonage Daydream sounds odd to me without the vocals, but it is great music nonetheless.
The annoying thing is, that to get the high resolution stereo, the surround mixes and the bonus tracks, you have to get the vinyl LP even if you do not want it. You could also ask: what about all the other bonus tracks that could have been included?
Still, the price is reasonable, unlike some super deluxe packages we have seen, and the LP is an attractive piece as well as offering good sound.
Looking more closely at the LP, you get a gatefold with a high-quality reproduction of the original cover, lyrics on an inner bag, and a set of black and white photos on the innner gatefold which are new to me and seem to be from the cover photoshoot. The DVD is pocketed in a cheap cardboard sleeve cutting into the gatefold and therefore spoiling one of the small photos, but this is a minor gripe. I like the way the outer sleeve is left exactly like the original.
Even if you no longer play vinyl, it is a small price to pay for the best digital Ziggy yet.
THANK YOU to all concerned for the high quality sound.