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Music From The Red Planet
, 7 Feb. 2006
This review is from: The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (Audio CD)
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.
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