Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Ziggy Stardust

A few weeks and forty odd years ago an album was issued that became in many respects bigger than the artists own profile dominating the popular music scene for 1972/3.
It's an album almost  every student of any generation feels they have to heard never mind own regardless of what format may be prevailent at the time and it was a major musical and social influence either on me at that time.
Ziggy Stardust is a character - a singer in a rock band - and through him we see his raise to fame and tellingly his burn out that mirrors all too sadly what actually happens in real life. Everybody wants a piece of his pie from the management team, record label  even ultimately, the fans themselves and the artist struggles to "Hang on to yourself" to quote the title of one of the songs featured.
If the Monkees were a made for TV fabrication of a rock group based upon the Beatles, here was in many ways a more credible fabrication for the modern era -  a complete fabrication from individuals persona onward.
If one goes down Heddon Street, London the buildings in the cover shot can be seen although the trash can and K West sign are long gone.
The first single off the album was Starman and I recall the first time I heard that on the radio well being aware from the billboards and older friends of this Bowie character. What got to me about was -and still is - is the sense of detachment, alienation even of the lead character in the lyrics and the unamerican style of singing.
I first had the album on RCA 8 track tape although my brother had the lp and have been through cassette and cd versions.
This album has been re-issued numerous times and unfortunately like most of David Bowie's back catalogue their is no such thing as a really good cd version although on the advice of a friend of mine, Keith H in Ohio, I got the original RCA cds from the mid 1980's which were more listenable than either the thin sounding EMI (US: Ryko) titles from 1990/91 with bonus tracks or Peter Mew's bloated and highly compressed versions from 1999 on EMI (US: Virgin).
In 1990 a boxed edition was issued by EMI with a  72 page booklet with the regular cd
recognizing it's iconic status and this June  two new editions came out.
The cd version is just a straight re-issue of the 11 track album in a card digpack cover which I can't say I really like as packaging preferring Mini Lp style i we're having paper based.
While there is a little compression on it compared to the 1984 RCA, the tonality is spot on and let's be honest here the analogue to digital conversion technology has come an awful lot in 28 years (I can hear the convertors' sound on many older cds) so for the first time ever there is a pretty acceptable in print cd even though I won't be tossing out the RCA.
Secondly and even better news is that there was a new lp lovingly mastered by Ray Staff who used to work at Porky's mastering that many of us feel surpasses the original UK orange RCA lp when it comes to sound quality and dead quiet surfaces. It comes with a audio dvd that will play on a computer or Blue-ray player capable of 96khz/24Bit resolution (most do) offering  both stereo and 5.1 surround sound mixes with bonus tracks which will sound smoother than the regular cd.

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