Sound — 9
David Bowie has led an interesting career, after releasing his first solo album in 1967 which was an amazing 45 years ago. His sound has experienced dramatic changes over that time, he has lived as different "personas", and he has continually evolved and experimented with his music. Of all his alter-egos he is probably best known as "Ziggy Stardust", the persona he took on and toured with after recording the album "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" in 1972 until the tour ended in 1973. The album was a concept album with a very loose story that seemed to follow an alien rock star come to Earth to spread a message of hope at the end of human existence, but who was ultimately destroyed by promiscuous sex, heavy drug use and his own fans. David Bowie has maintained that this character is not autobiographical but instead was inspired by several different people, events, etc., with the main inspiration coming from Vince Taylor who had a breakdown and was convinced he was a cross between a god and an alien. The re-masters of the original tracks, doing "side by side comparisons" is mostly evident in the overall sound just being cleaned up considerably. Occasionally you will hear where something is mixed lower than before or higher and it will give the impression of a slightly different focus in the music, but really it almost seems like the minimal was done that would allow someone to listen to the album with new ears. One of the tracks with the most notable changes, to my ears, was "It Ain't Easy" where I listened to the track and got a completely different type of emotional payoff than I got from the original version. It really goes to emphasize the fact that the way that music influences us, and what we take from it, is something really hard to rationalize and understand. There was a lot of nostalgic type reaction going on to the music, and it brought to the forefront the fact that the musical experimentation going on in the late 60's and early 70's makes the vast majority of modern music seem sterile in comparison.
Lyrics — 9
David Bowie's voice is an almost iconic thing, especially when you think about classic rock or the early 70's, specifically. When you talk about vocal delivery and music fitting together it is hard to talk about David Bowie's voice as he was one of the vocalists who helped define classic rock. While his vocal range isn't necessarily astounding and his delivery isn't always pitch perfect, it is always enthusiastic and sincere. Bowie manages to really pass on the emotional context of each of his songs, which is really like a lost art in modern music for the most part. In short, Bowie's vocals are perfect on this album for what it is and what he was trying to accomplish. The remixes of the vocals seem to be if anything just cleaning up the audio and possibly adding a very subtle touch of reverb which gives all the vocals a more epic feel.
Overall Impression — 7
I've sat here listening to the original release of "Ziggy Stardust" and the re-mastered version trying to pick my favorite songs, or at least the ones I like the re-mastered versions the most. It is hard to do, because really the original album and the re-masters are both amazing, with the re-masters mainly just cleaning up the audio and adding clarity. What changes there are are mostly subtle. I guess my favorite songs on the re-mastered version would be "Starman", "It Ain't Easy" and "Suffragette City". The most intense song on the re-mastered version is absolutely "Rock N' Roll Suicide". I can't really say that I don't like any of the songs, and I can't say that any of them were "ruined" in the re-mastering process. What differences there are, as I have said, are subtle and at most they simply seem to emphasize different components of the songs which only allows me to listen to them with new ears. I definitely would buy this again, though I would prefer to get the vinyl and DVD version to get the extra content. I would really like to have seen the album re-issued with some old concert or studio footage on DVD to sit back and watch. I would really like to see how Bowie interacted with others in the studio, and watch the dynamics of the concerts, between Bowie and the audience and the other band members. All of the re-mastering was completed by Ray Staff, an original Trident Studios engineer, at the London's Air Studio. If nothing else, it would have been nice to have a DVD interview with Ray Staff talking about the original recording sessions, and the changes he made when he re-mastered the album and why he made the specific changes that he made.