Friday, February 5, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: The Rise & Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

Released on June 16, 1972 through RCA Records, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a concept album about an alien from Mars who becomes a rock star overnight as he goes from being a Messiah to then die on the stage. Produced by Ken Scott and David Bowie, Bowie’s fifth studio release marks the breakthrough that would make him a superstar in Britain as he is joined by guitarist Mick Ronson, bassist Trevor Bolder, and drummer Woody Woodmansey as the backing band in the Spiders from Mars. It’s an album that is pure rock n’ roll with an air of bombast and lyrics that speaks to the freaks and outsiders who had no interest in 1960s idealism.

The album opener Five Years is this somber mid-tempo song as it relates to the last five years left on Earth as it features dark but poignant lyrics that begins the story of Ziggy as it would include this nice and steady rhythm from Woody Woodmansey’s drumming and later a soaring guitar solo from Mick Ronson. Songs like Moonage Daydream, Hang On to Yourself, Star, and Suffragette City are these rock songs that rely largely on Ronson’s blazing work on the guitar as Hang On to Yourself, Star, and Suffragette City are also supported by the bombastic rhythm section of Woodmansey’s drummer and Trevor Bolder’s bass. Moonage Daydream is a more mid-tempo track yet it features a solo by Ronson that is out of this world. Lyrically, the songs play up into elements of fantasy like Star and Moonage Daydream as it showcases exactly who Ziggy is and what he was doing.

The only cover in the album is a mid-tempo rock song in It Ain’t Easy that is written by Ron Davies that was also famously covered by Three Dog Night as the song features backing vocals by Dana Gillespie and keyboards by Rick Wakeman. The single Starman plays into the idea of a Messiah but it has lyrics that are hopeful as it plays into this alien coming to Earth and become the savior as it’s a song that says a lot which gives voice the freaks of the earth as it’s this wonderful mix of folk and rock with an element of science fiction. Ziggy Stardust also plays into the same tone lyrically while it’s more of a rock-based song in its mid-tempo presentation. Soul Love is another mid-tempo track that is a mixture of rock with elements of saxophone as it’s a cut in the album that features some oblique lyrics but are very direct in what Bowie is saying into Ziggy’s arrival on Earth.

Lady Stardust is considered one of the finest and often overlooked cuts of the album as it owes a lot to the Velvet Underground and Marc Bolan of T-Rex as both are referenced in this piano ballad. The album closer Rock N’ Roll Suicide is a ballad that plays into Ziggy’s death as well as the idea of not being alone which Bowie sings with such power at the end. Especially as it’s a song that serves as a calling to those who feel alone and it’s him saying “you’re not alone”.

The 2002 30th Anniversary Deluxe Edition features an assortments of demos, B-sides, rarities, and re-mixes as some of these appeared in different reissues from this album and other albums. Among these tracks that appeared in other reissues include the Arnold Corns versions of Moonage Daydream and Hang On to Yourself, the alternate version of The Supermen, and the 1970/1971 recording of Holy Holy. The tracks that appeared from the 1990 Rykodisc reissue include demos of Ziggy Stardust and Lady Stardust where the former is an all-acoustic demo while the latter is driven by piano. Three other cuts from the Rykodisc reissue include the non-LP single John, I’m Only Dancing as it’s this blazing, upbeat rocker as it features ambiguous lyrics while the B-side Velvet Goldmine is another mid-tempo track that features some amazing guitar work from Ronson as well as playful lyrics.

The outtake Sweet Head is given some extended banter for the 30th Anniversary reissue as it is this rocker with some unique tempo changes as it starts off slow and then go fast as it is largely driven by Bowie’s soaring vocals and the bombastic guitars and rhythms from the band. Three tracks that are included in the second disc of the 30th Anniversary Edition of the album include two covers in the form of Chuck Berry’s Round and Round and Amsterdam by Jacques Brel as the former is just a blazing rock n’ roll romp while latter is just this haunting folk ballad that is filled with eerie lyrics that is filled with intense imagery. Closing the second disc is a 1998 remix of Moonage Daydream made for a Dunlop TV commercial as it features a more scratchy take on the guitars as well as more emphasis on the backing vocals.

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is an outstanding album from David Bowie as it is among one of the finest albums in the history of recording. It’s an album that manages to represent what rock n’ roll was and could be during the age of progressive rock, heavy metal, funk, soul, and easy-listening pop music. It’s a record that really does a lot more while being catchy and exciting that many albums in the genre of rock seem to have lost these days. In the end, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is a glorious album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - Hunky Dory - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - “Heroes” - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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