on 9 June 2012
So, yet another re-issue of one of the most iconic British rock albums ever. Is it worth investing in again? Well, yes it is. After the total debacle that was the 30th Anniversary edition (marred by poor re-mastering and bad editing, although the bonus tracks were a slight saving grace) we have the 40th Anniversary. Newly re-mastered, it's a big improvement in sound, although still not perfect.(And has no bonus tracks - Boo!) It might sound like nit-picking but why have they persisted with the USA album mix of 'Starman'? To answer the question posed by another reviewer the original mix as it appeared on the UK vinyl and single had a much louder and drier piano build-up before the choruses, devoid of the phasing applied to the mix of the track on the American pressings of the album. All subsequent CD releases have used the US mix, depriving those of us who treasure our original UK vinyl a chance to own the track in digital format. Unfortunately, this re-issue is no different so the wait goes on. That aside, if you don't own this album already (and let's face it, if you're a fan of proper music you really should) then this is the one to go for. I won't go into detail about each track - suffice to say there's many high points here - but it contains some of Bowies' finest moments. Opening track 'Five Years' 'Moonage Daydream' 'Starman' 'Suffragette City' not to mention the closing song 'Rock N Roll Suicide'. A magnificent example of how to build a track from simple to grandiose in just three minutes. It's not Bowies' greatest album but it IS his most important and for that reason alone you cannot call yourself a David Bowie fan and NOT own it. 50th Anniversary anyone?
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.
on 7 February 2006
The opening track ’Five Years’ introduces this album as it means to continue. Sounding weird, beautiful, compelling and completely other worldly. The previous album had had the track ’Life On Mars’….well, frankly one listen to this album at the time should have prompted the question are there recording studios there too ’cos it sure as hell sounds like it. This is not just down to Bowie’s alien vocals which are superbly evocative throughout this set but the sound of the whole band too. They use the same instruments as had been used on countless albums beforehand. Yet here the piano sounds ghostly, the drums surreal and the guitar I can only describe as ziggy. If such a word exists. If not, it bloody well should.
So back to the start. ’Five Years’ is a marvellous futuristic piece full of fear and love and things just slipping away. These were to become major themes on Bowie’s Diamond Dogs album two years later. ’Soul Love’ is beautiful. A general comment: Bowie rarely reached the melodic heights he reaches on this album. ’Moonage Daydream’ is wonderfully freaky…far out as Bowie sings…great guitar from Ronson and a good punchy horn section in the middle. ’Starman’ was a hit single and is about as catchy as anything Bowie has recorded. And what’s wrong with that? Any song with the line ’Let all the children boogie’ is alright by me. ’It Ain’t Easy’ brings Side 1 (vinyl) to an uneasy close. A little depressing this one.
Side 2 (vinyl) opens in superb fashion. ’Lady Stardust’ is my favourite Bowie piano song, rivalling anything in this vein from ’Hunky Dory’ (where it’s up against some pretty stiff competition to quote Edmond Blackadder). And another tune from another world.
’Star’ is the only track here which doesn’t amaze. It’s OK. But then the album closes so strongly that one quickly forgets anything but perfection. ’Hang Onto Yourself’ is a superb frantically paced number where the intense playing perfectly matches the desperate lyric. The title track should need no introduction. It is brilliant. And also recorded at Record Plant Mars. It’s funny that at the time Bowie’s whole persona was this mad Ziggy character. Now 34 years later, this album survives as just Great Music. So it’s not all in the presentation, thank God. Otherwise we’d all be still raving about Adam And The Ants.
’Suffragette City’ is compulsive stuff, both musically and lyrically. Presumably this is the capital of The Red Planet. And you can see why. Then the album closes as all great albums do with a stupendous number. ’Rock And Roll Suicide’ contains one of Bowie’s most captivating lyrics and most affecting vocals. Give me your arms…cos you’re wonderful. The kind of words you would say before everything turns black.
The great thing about listening to this timeless classic album from 1972 is that one almost feels as if one is there. In some mad parallel universe. Where people freak out to moonage daydreams whilst pushing through the market square. Where Time takes a cigarette and puts it in your mouth. And where all the children boogie.
From the slow beat of "Five Years" to the lamentable closing, "Rock & Roll Suicide", "Ziggy Stardust" has held its own in Rock history. Add the element of SACD (surround sound) and the album takes on a new life. From the acoustical clapping of "Soul Love" to the hard driving guitars of "Suffragette City", this new mix finally and clearly separates all the instruments without isolating them. It is a full band experience as if you were in the studio. The acoustic guitars sound so crisp and clean and Mick Ronson's guitar work sounds like new. I can't over-emphasize how great this version sounds, especially after marveling over "Dark Side Of The Moon" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road". Hang on to yourself!
on 20 March 2013
I grew up with two older David Bowie fans in the 1970s and liked his musical output from this decade almost as much as my brothers. I used to play the vinyl version of this as a teenager, which I still have - but as I no longer have a record player, I decided to buy this CD, also prompted by watching a recent repeat of a BBC documentary on Bowie to mark the 40th anniversary of his Ziggy Stardust tour and the original release of this album. Listening to it as an adult, I still think it is brilliant, even more so in fact, as I feel I'm more able to understand the meaning of Bowie's lyrics now. I sometimes think a lot of attention is given to Bowie's image throughout this career but not much comment is made on his singing capacity - my view is he has a wonderfully expressive voice, on some tracks it is soft, romantic even (i.e., on "Soul Love"), on others it is quite mournful and on the more rock orientated tracks, strident, powerful and upbeat (i.e, on "Suffragette City"). All the tracks on this album are great and demonstrate Bowie's unique creative genius; those of you Bowie fans who are aged 40+ will already be familiar with it, but it is worth adding to your music collection if you don't already have it - and for anyone younger and curious to become more acquainted with Bowie's music and discover why in the 1970s he made such a big impact on the UK music scene and what all the fuss was about, this is well worth buying. It still sounds great all these years later - and lets not forget his band at the time who play a big part in making this album the work of art it is. After listening to it again after some years, I couldn't stop singing "Moonage Daydream" to myself! I hope anyone who buys this album after reading my review will enjoy it as much as I have.
on 12 December 2007
Always loved this album, and it just blows away the standard cd. Not into surround sound myself, but the extra quality sound from the SACD stereo track is more than worth the money - I've tried them side by side and there is no comparison, everything on this SACD sounds richer and more true to life. It's only a shame that there isn't more music released with recordings of this quality.
Oh, re: the reviewer below, plenty of low end on my system - must be a set up issue.
on 20 February 2010
A fabulously evocative album that hits every beat perfectly. I believe a lot of its power lies in the Ken Scott production as there is "space" left in the mix for you to get lost in the mood - from the lilting drumming of the doomed opener "Five Years" through the Ronson soaring solos of "Moonage Daydream" to the desperation of the closing "Rock'N'Roll Suicide", there is something here for everyone who has dreamed of making "a transformation as a Rock'n'Roll Star".....influential and sentimental - play in the dark to hear it at it's most powerful - and of course at maximum volume.
This cd is ROCK and GLAM and a year in the life of Ziggy. Yes it is a 5* lp really, but better than LOW?. The other glam Bowie lps are Aladdin Sane Aladdin Sane: Remastered and "Pin-ups" Pin Ups. Pin-ups is 60's cover version in a glam style.
The following info is designed to help new-comers to point them in the right direction for their own tastes.
The No. * rating is very personal to me and these ratings have never really changed in all the 33 years I've been listening to Bowie. They are how I rate the whole LP/cd compared to other BOWIE output.
During 1990 and 1991 EMI released digitally remastered cds under the title of "SOUND + VISION". Most had bonus tracks... some tracks are poor but some are worth getting.
The following list is not definitive but points out the most accessible cds to newbies of Bowie.
1967 DAVID BOWIE - try getting the DELUXE EDITION, or DERAM ANTHOLOGY (not as complete but a good collection). 60's pop / whimsical / musical hall / very folk. 2*
1969 SPACE ODDITY - Electric folk / folk / soft rock - just like Hunky Dory 5*
1970 - THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD - Rock / hard rock - not unlike early Black Sabbath. 4*
1971 - HUNKY DORY - Folk / folk rock - just like Space Oddity 5*
1972 - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (aka ZIGGY STARDUST) Rock / glam rock 4*
1973 - ALADDIN SANE - Rock / glam rock 3.5*
1973 - PIN-UPS - 60's cover versions in rock / glam style. 2*
1974 - DIAMOND DOGS. An Orwellian style, bleak lyrics, up-beat rock and shades of soul hidden within. 5*
1974 - DAVID LIVE - The soul is starting to come thru. Not rock, more funk in style but without the funk... confusing !! 1*
1975 - YOUNG AMERICANS - Soul / funk 3*, but every time I play it I think hang on, this is 5* (confused again !!). Try and get the version with, "Who can I be now?", "it's gonna be me" & "John, I'm only dancing, again".
1976 - STATIONTOSTATION - The start of electronics can be heard here. Soul / soft rock 5* at least.
1977 - LOW - and enter BRIAN ENO. This is my fave LP. Bleak, depressing, alienation and very electronic with quiet rock . 5* at least. Also see "Heroes".
1977 - "HEROES" - and BRIAN ENO. This is one of my fave LPs. Bleak, depressing, alienation and very electronic with quiet rock . 5* at least. Also see LOW.
1978 - STAGE - live and brilliant but with fade-outs and gaps between songs. 4*. Life is tried to be pumped into some tunes which are, for me, left more barren and desolate.
1979 - LODGER - and more BRIAN ENO. A right mishmash of sounds and tunes. Took me years to get into this LP. 3* Pop (in a word).
1980 - SCARY MONSTERS & SUPER CREEPS - and this is where I came in. Rock with hints of funk, depression and it contains "Up The Hill Backwards"... my all-time fave single (strange choice I know, especially when I adore Bohemian Rhapsody)
1983 - LET'S DANCE. Disco-esque / soft rock. 4*. This is Bowie's biggest selling LP.
1983 - ZIGGY STARDUST THE MOTION PICTUE. Rock/glam 3.5*
1984 - TONIGHT. See LET'S DANCE but only 1*.
1987 - NEVER LET ME DOWN - see TONIGHT but 2*
1989 91 - TIN MACHINE 1 & 2. Rock. Both 3*
1993 - BLACK TIE /WHITE NOISE Rock/pop with hints of modern R&B. 2*
1993 - THE BUDDHA OF SUBURBIA. Pop 3*
1995 - 1.OUTSIDE. God I was wetting myself to hear this when I heard it was the return of BRIAN ENO. God I was disappointed. It's a story (a murder mystery) with only patches of brilliant music. 1*
1997 - EARTHLING. Not knowing what drum & bass is, the making of this cd documentary kept referring to it an D&B. I never got into it. 2*
1999 - HOURS... - pop / soft rock 5*
2002 - HEATHEN - pop / soft rock 4*
2003 - REALITY. Omg, it's 10 years old now. I hadn't realised he had a new cd out upon my return after a holiday. So it went into the shopping trolley my wife was pushing and it has never been very far away from the cd player. For me, I can hear shades of ALADDIN SANE. Pop / rock 5*
2013 - THE NEXT DAY. 4* Hard, Heavy Rock with a few lighter moments.
on 18 May 2012
This review is for the Remastered Hybrid SACD. After owning the stereo version in various formats this surround version brings out more layers in the album. If you find the `sweet spot' and close your eyes you could be in the studio.
I met Bowie in early '67 at a Traction Engine Rally in Pickering, North Yorkshire. He was still Davie Jones at that time and a member of the group `Riot Squad'. He was clearly confused and trying to find himself when I first saw him licking the rear tyre on a Massey Ferguson 35X. Even in those days he was gathering a crowd, but sadly for the wrong reasons. I took him for a mug of Bovril and a sit down and we discussed our shared love of tractors and farm implements in general.
As it turned out this meeting was to have a gargantuan impact on Bowie's career and his meteoric rise into superstardom. Although never credited or even mentioned in the history of David Bowie I am content in knowing I had an influence.
I suggested a name change as people were confusing him with Davy Jones from the Monkees. What about Piggy Corndust? I said. David spat hot Bovril all over my wellingtons and started to laugh uncontrollably. I didn't know whether to be offended or pleased. Thinking back to the tyre licking incident I realised there may have been some substances involved so I let it pass. My suspicions were confirmed later on when David asked if I'd like to "...toke on his fatty" Luckily he then produced an expertly rolled joint which wiped the shocked look from my face.
We wandered round taking in the sights and sounds, stopping briefly to finger a magnificent looking A.J International Rotovator and Seed Drill. Little did I know at the time, David was gathering ideas for songs, although we did discuss an idea about a five year farming almanac set to music called `Five Years'. It was meant to contain useful information on crop rotation, inter-planting and how to avoid carrot fly. However, David was in a morbid phase and chose to ruin the song by making it about the last five years on earth. Alas, looking at the lyrics I can see where his influence sprang from:
Pushing through the market square (Farmers Market section of the Rally)
So many Mothers sighing (They'd sold out of Jersey Royals)
News had just come over (Over the Tannoy)
We had five years left to cry in (Market was closing so there was five minutes left to buy in)
And it was cold and it rained so I felt like an actor (Felt like a tractor more like)
Similarly the chorus to the track `Soul Love' takes me back to an incident with a stall holder. David was adamant he wanted to buy a dove but the seller wouldn't let David touch it until he showed him the money.
Inspirations have I none (I'm not going to hurt it)
Just to touch the flaming dove (He just wanted to touch the flaming thing)
All I have is my love of love (I love all creatures)
And love is not loving (I'm not feeling the love back, otherwise clueless)
I sympathised with David over the dove incident, I just think the stall holder took a dislike to him because of all the makeup he was wearing. David calmed down after rolling another herbal cigarette which he dragged down like a vacuum cleaner. He quickly became paranoid and kept shouting about an electric eye being on him and someone putting a ray gun to his head. David was becoming a real handful so I thought about getting him home before he freaked out any more.
There was clearly a reference to this in the track `Moonage Daydream'
Keep your `lectric eye on me babe
Put your ray gun to my head
Press your space face close to mine, love
Freak out in a moonage daydream, oh yeah!
David said he was proper hungry and had something he called `the munchies' so we bought all the burgers and hot dogs left on a stand that was packing up. I suggested that we get a bus to my place so he could have a rest but David insisted on driving his Austin Morris 1100. I had a sense of foreboding about this but didn't want to leave him in the state he was in. Inevitably we were pulled over by the local constabulary and David being David started rambling on about a starman. David was charged for public order offences and I put up surety guaranteeing he would be in court on the following Monday morning.
I must confess I was one of many people stifling laughter when the policeman read out David's statement in the County Court with a broad Yorkshire accent:
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He'd like to come and meet us
But he thinks he'd blow our minds
There's a starman waiting in the sky
He's told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it's all worthwhile
He told me:
Let the children lose it
Let the children use it
Let all the children boogie.......Your Honour
The three magistrates were not as amused but luckily David was only bound over to keep the peace for 6 months.
on 27 February 2012
Enter the drums - exit with the last notes of Rock N Roll Suicide. Enough said.
Five Years: Sublime lyrics, amazing build up with piano and bass. A masterpiece without any doubt and one of the greatest songs ever written. The lyrics will make you cry if you listen to them alone in the dark. 10/10
Soul Love: Beautiful voice - one of Bowie more sentimental offerings with his typical 'la la' ending influenced by Bolan and 'Hey Jude'. However, highly original 8/10
Moonage Daydream: The centre piece and one of a trio of the greatest songs ever penned which are cornerstones of this album's strength. The guitar solo by Ronson has sent me into another world for nearly thirty years. Listen for the voice chillingly calling out 'Terry Terry Terry' after the phrase 'freak out' near the end. A reference to Bowie's brother and a recurring theme in his songs. The way Bowie metaphorically links the actions of a space man with sexual activity is very clever. 10/10
Starman: Using the same structure as 'somewhere over the rainbow'(listen carefully) and belatedly added to the album as a single. Lovely melody and great lyrics. Famous for its influence on Top of the Pops. 8/10
It Ain't Easy: The only cover on the album. Nice contrast between verse and chorus, which will test your speakers. Lovely play out sat the end 8/10
Lady Stardust: Beautiful tribute to Bolan. Lovely piano - well penned lyrics. Classic. 9/10
Star: Fame is just around the corner and doesn't the lad know it? Maybe influenced the theme of Rock n Roll Star by Oasis. Listen to the last words 'Bomb bomb - just watch me go.' Didn't he just?! 9/10
Hang on to Yourself: Punk rock 5 years before its time. Rocky - will leave you breathless - and just the right length. 9/10
Ziggy Stardust: This song is sublime. The prediction of Ziggy's downfall at the Hammersmith in 73 coming through loud and clear. Great guitar, superbly metaphorical lyrics. 10/10
Suffragette City: Rocky, fast moving tale of sleaze with its famous 'wam bam than-you mam' reference. Included on so many compilations to become annoying, but still a very iconic track. 8/10
and then the piece de resistance:
Rock n' Roll Suicide: Angie told David to write an epic to end the album. This track is beyond constructive criticism. Quiet acoustic build up - lyrics as if penned by Philip Larkin - and then a change of tempo and dynamics in the middle, recorded in first take, that will simply blow your mind and have the hairs on your arms tingling and your spine shivering. "All the lies seem to lacerate your brain - I'll have my share - I'll help you with the pain ..' then just as your nerves are on end it ends suddenly - splendidly - leaving you gasping for breath and sucking in air. I question how rock music could ever go beyond this song in terms of quality and emotional impact. 15/10 or beyond even the banality of a rating.
To sum up, in an era where the album charts are dominated by reality tv show manufactured plastic karioke, this album exists as a forlorn hope to show the youth of today true art if they want to find it - and a way to another world. Buy it, treasure it, play it on your guitar - and die with it. I can say no more.