SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars – 40th Anniversary Edition – 12″ Vinyl + multichannel audio DVD – Capitol

Transformative 1972 album comes alive in hi-resolution on vinyl & DVD.

Published on June 24, 2012

David Bowie – The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars (40th Anniversary Edition) RCA (1972) Capitol/David Bowie (2012) DBZSX 40 heavyweight audiophile vinyl and hi-res audio DVD [6/5/2012] ****1/2:

(David Bowie – guitar, saxophone, arrangements vocals; Mick Ronson – guitar, piano, arrangements vocals; Trevor Bolder – bass; Mick Woodmansey – drums; Dana Gillespie – backing vocal)

As the post Woodstock rock era wound down, there seemed to be a creative void. David Robert Jones (who had changed his name to David Bowie to avoid confusion with the British member of The Monkees) was ready to fill that chasm. The 1969 single “Space Oddity” established him as a solo artist. However, there would be a significant change. With some material that did not make it onto his unsuccessful album, Hunky Dory, Bowie reinvented himself and eventually the whole of rock and roll culture. The 1972 release, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars created an unforgettable persona and launched the era of glam rock. This album boasted a slew of impressive Bowie songs and catchy arrangements (with the help of Mick Ronson).

Coupled with the gender-bending, mind-blowing theatrics (who can forget the phallic spaceship or bizarre costumes), Bowie was a cultural juggernaut. The narrative (though not always sequential) of a space alien taking the form of a rock and roll star (Ziggy Stardust) delivering a message of hope to Earth in its last five years of existence is incisive yet self-deprecating. Naturally, this gospel of love and peace is corrupted by the excessive sex and drug lifestyle, and messiah-worshiping disciples. Rock music was never the same.

Now, after forty years, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars has been re-mastered to “heavyweight vinyl” (they don’t say whether 180 gr., 200 gr. or what) and scintillating DVD surround audio (both DTS and DD 5.1 in some cases). Both of these formats (especially the DVD) re-energize the music and vocals. The opening track, “Five Years” frames the melancholy storyline with its slow burning momentum, string accompaniment and repeat chorus. Bowie’s vocals are charismatic. The “hit” single “Starman” is infectious and the spirit of rock is captured in the line…”let the children boogie”. Ronson’s guitar licks are precise and bodacious. All of the instrumentation fits with Bowie’s affected vocal style. “Ziggy Stardust” features classic guitar riffs with jagged glee. The libretto reflects a dark undertone (“…He took it all too far but boy he could play guitar…”). Immediately following is the explosive “Suffragette City”, with the blended sound of guitar/piano (Ronson), and saxophone (Bowie). Of course, the alien hipster lyrics (“…Hey man, she’s a total blam-blam…”) add the perfect touch of cool.

What propels this album to a greater artistic height is the depth of its compositions. The weary rock and soul operatic, “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide” is among Bowie’s greatest achievements. His fifties-style singing and arrangement is flawless, as the song builds in intensity, with saxophone and strings. Lines such as “Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth…” are as good as it gets. Fans will be pleased with the four bonus cuts. “Sweet Head” is raucous and full of hooks and pretense that would be emulated by future acts like Meat Loaf.

Anyone who had the original recording will be enthusiastic about the vinyl upgrade, and its clean warmer sound. However, the various DVD formats (including a vibrant 5.1) are superior and invigorate the music. More importantly, the music can be played at higher volume levels without noticeable distortion. The LP/DVD price tag ($32.99) is reasonable, and a celebrated rock landmark is now a part of audiophile history. There is also an enhanced CD version of this.  [But why both vinyl and hi-res DVD when the DVD is better fidelity and includes more tracks?...Ed.]

TrackList: Vinyl =

Side 1: Five Years; Soul Love; Moonage Daydream; Starman; It Ain’t Easy
Side 2: Lady Stardust; Star; Hang On To Yourself; Ziggy Stardust; Suffragette City; Rock ‘n’ Roll
Suicide

TrackList: (Audio DVD Original Album remixes 5.1, 48/24 DTS & Dolby Digital/ Stereo Mixes: 48/24 PCM) =

Five Years; Soul Love, Moonage Daydream; Starman; It Ain’t Easy; Lady Stardust; Star; Hang On To Yourself; Ziggy Stardust; Suffragette City; Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
Bonus Tracks (remixes 5.1, 48/24 DTS & Dolby Digital/ Stereo Mixes: 48/24 PCM) =
Moonage Daydream (Instrumental); The Supermen; Velvet Goldmine; Sweet Head

—Robbie Gerson




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