Review Summary: One of the most influential rock albums of the 20th century, there is a reason why it is ranked above such masterpieces as “The Dark Side of the Moon”, “Hotel California” and “Electric Ladyland” on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums ever.
Imagine the scene; Earth is five years from being destroyed due to a lack of natural resources and all of humanity it crying out for a savior. In these bleak, desperate times the call is answered in the most unexpected of ways, an extra terrestrial life form discovers Earth. This life form, call him “Ziggy” if you will, is a promiscuous rock star, gifted musically both through guitar and song, bringing a message of peace and love to all of mankind. This is the setting that is beautifully created by master word smith David Bowie in his oft overlooked masterpiece “The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars” (hereby referred to as “RAFOZS”). This is truly Bowie at his experimental best, showcasing his ability and cementing his position as one of the greatest English singer/songwriters of all time. “RAFOZS” is without doubt one of the most influential rock albums of the 20th century, justly achieving number 35 on Rolling Stone’s Greatest albums of all time.
From the off the music on this album is terrifically precise with percussion, guitars, piano and vocals all meticulously harmonized together by Bowie. The vocal performance in particular is one of Bowie’s best, encompassing everything that makes him such a great artist into 40 minutes of musical magic. Opener “Five Years” starts off the album brilliantly, introducing the depressing state of Earth, and the eventual realization of the population that their world will be obliterated. The slow build up of the quiet instrumentation allow emphasis to fall onto the powerful, emotive lyrics which are delivered brilliantly by Bowie. Lines such as “News guy wept and told us Earth was really dying. Cried so much his face was wet, then I knew he was not lying” set the scene perfectly, and honestly create a sense of unease within the listener, transporting them to Bowie’s parallel universe.
The music continues to impress throughout the album, with no track failing to impress in any way. “Starman” is probably the most well known track off of the album, and for good reason. After a brief musical introduction, sharp vocals break in, complementing the melodic string symphony in the background. This song also boasts one of the most recognizable chorus’s on the album, softly sung, and immediately catchy. “It Ain’t Easy” is a hard rocking number, definitely one of the heavier numbers on the record with the vocals and overall musical style taking a sharp turn from that already heard on the album. Again it is a vocally driven song, as Bowie once again demonstrates his extraordinary range. Another notable song is “Suffragette City”, another hard rocking number, faster than “It Ain’t Easy” with catchier hooks and a far superior chorus.
“RAFOZS” is truly a product of its era, with influences apparent all over the place, from the highly Beatle-esqe “Lady Stardust” to the bluesy/rock ‘n roll influences of “Star” which could have come straight out of a Chuck Berry back catalogue. Bowie’s bizarre extravagance and captivating outrageousness are displayed throughout the album, none more so than on eponymous track “Ziggy Stardust”. The familiar guitar introduction to this song hooks the listener into the proggiest song on the album. This song is a typical overindulgence of rock fantasy. This is the one song that the album leads up to, the focal point of everything beforehand, and it delivers in spades.
To say this album is one of the best rock albums of all time would be no understatement. Although not achieving particularly huge sales, this album – arguably Bowie’s magnum opus – marked the coming of super stardom for one of Britain’s greats, and helped inspire many acts over the coming years. This album is a must have in any half decent rock collection, containing eleven musical masterpieces that will satisfy any rock lover, and bringing about one of the most celebrated rock persona's of the 20th Century, a Mr. Ziggy Stardust and his house band The Spiders from Mars.
It Ain’t Easy
Overall 5.0 Classic