Album Of The Week - David Bowie - The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars
This week, we're moving back a few years to 1972, where we find David Bowie's groundbreaking record The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars.
Bowie's fifth studio album could loosely be described as a concept album, detailing the story of infamous alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, the androgynous, bisexual rock star that acts as this messenger for aliens in space. By way of groundwork, Ziggy Stardust can be seen as a progressive rock record - after all, it ticks the right boxes, being influenced by the likes of King Crimson for starters.
Whilst there's this foundation of prog rock seeping through, it's much better to see Ziggy Stardust as a glam rock album, taking great inspiration from T Rex's Marc Bolan, a pioneer of the genre. It spawned an age of flamboyance, leading to the New Romantic revoultion of the late seventies and early eighties.
Getting into the actual music, opener Five Years features Bowie's fast lyrics with a slower piano and bassline, echoing a sound frequented by some of John Lennon's work at this time and later on in his career. It works brilliantly, giving the start of the album substance and vigour. Soul Love is a little more dreamy, with its brass backing and distorted backing vocals building to something then backed by guitars that leads wonderfully into the following Moonage Daydream. It utilises the same sounds and its culmination is one of the record's finer moments, bringing in an overpowering guitar solo to finish.
It's fair to say that Ziggy Stardust spawned some of Bowie's biggest hits, such as Starman. Its performance on Top Of The Pops in 1972 made it hugely successful, giving Bowie this cult-like following as his alter-ego.
It's one of the album's best offerings, regardless of commercial status and gives the whole record its well-rounded nature. Lady Stardust is a little slower than some of the previous songs, choosing to operate with a predominately piano-driven backing in a downbeat fashion, offering something with perhaps a little more solemnity.
The record's title track gives us a glamorous look into the character and band, with a tightly-knit sound and iconic riff helping to cement the song as one of the best that it has to offer. It's classic Bowie in the sense that Starman is, guiding us through the story at hand, with insightful lyrics and a great musical backing.
For Ziggy Stardust's last hurrah, it finishes in a rather diverse way. Suffragette City would go on to become one of the more well-known songs in Bowie's back catalogue and he storms through it in a similar way to John Lennon in New York City. It's erratic and absolutely fantastic. Rock 'N' Roll Suicide finishes Ziggy Stardust with a stripped-back acoustic rendition, before jumping with passion into the song's second half, with a heavier sound and something that wouldn't sound out of place if written for an early Queen album.
If you're looking for something conceptual with passion and full spirit, look no further than The Rise & Fall Of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders From Mars. David Bowie's groundbreaking fifth release is utterly brilliant and there aren't many better albums in the universe to listen to. Pure genius.
More musical magnificence to come next week!