The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars
RCA Records, 1972
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/04/1997
It may surprise some people that The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars was not David Bowie's first record - though it was the first that truly established him as an art rocker.
Re-released by Rykodisc almost a decade ago, this 1972 release proved to be a hard one to top for Bowie, though he would come close sometimes. Still, at the quarter-century mark, there are good moments as well as some very dated sounds on this one.
Ziggy Stardust is best known for its title track and "Suffragette City," as well as the appearance of Mick Ronson (later to join Mott The Hoople), but sometimes it is the unheralded tracks that provide the most entertainment on this album.
The opening cut, "Five Years," takes a few listens to warm up to, and is a tad bombastic. But the following track, "Soul Love," is one of the hidden treasures on the album (featuring saxophone by one D. Bowie). The slow groove worked up by the song is instantly appealing, even if the diction isn't the greatest. Until I looked at the album cover, I thought the song was "Stoned Love." Oops.
The best track on Ziggy Stardust is "Starman," where the trademark Bowie voice is given a true chance to come forward in all its glory. A true piece of art rock that has rarly been equaled, Bowie has rarely sounded better.
With the exception of the two "hits" from the album, the rest of the cuts tend to be dated and bland, if not at least listenable. Part of the distraction from the songs themselves is the "plink-plink-plink" piano from Ronson - maybe it's me, but I'd rather hear some real piano playing rather than Ronson diddling with the same chord. Listen to the end of "Suffragette City" to hear what I'm talking about.
And I don't want to say that Ziggy Stardust is a bad album, 'cause it's not. But art rock, like all art, has its times when it fits in with the rest of the world picture, and there are times it sticks out like a sore thumb. (Two words: King Crimson - who are now back in fashion.) Bowie purists may consider this to be sacrilege, but let's remember what was in vogue in 1972 doesn't stay in fashion for 25 years non-stop.
Sure, some of the sounds are a tad ancient and repetitive, but Ziggy Stardust is by no means a poor album. It is one that needs time to grow on you - I listened to it three times before writing this, and I'm still not certain I caught all the nuances. It may not be the place to start for the new Bowie fan, but it definitely is one to return to down the road.
|It's hard to find a better album than this one. Enough said.|