David Bowie Rock 'n' Roll Star!

David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! (Box Set Review)

In the scope of any musical artist’s career there are albums that standout as defining moments. Captured during a period when said songwriter/performer makes a massive impact, some would say The Beatles’ 1965 classic Rubber Soul, The Beach Boys’ 1966 masterpiece Pet Sounds, and Pink Floyd’s 1973 immense The Dark Side of the Moon are some of their most significant works. Hard to argue, in the world of David Bowie, 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is largely considered his major breakthrough.

Released on June 16, 1972, at this point in time Bowie was already on album number five, and while he showed flairs of brilliance on previous recordings, none were as broad-spanning as The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. An interesting album with a multifaceted story, simplifying it, Bowie had centered it around his alter-ego persona Ziggy Stardust. Ziggy, an otherworld character who rises to Rock-n-Roll stardom, meets his own demise due to an inflated ego. A tragic tale, Ziggy Stardust is not only the character of this album, but also 1973’s follow-up Aladdin Sane, rocketing his alien spaceship into another galaxy that has made him one of most recalled fictional Rock characters ever.

 Now over a half century since the Ziggy Stardust period, many have discovered, rediscovered, and analyzed The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars from here to eternity. Arguably one of the best Rock-n-Roll albums ever recorded, much can be said about it; from the unique lyrical content and stylistic approach, to the songwriting. Dubbed by many as Glam Rock, Bowie and his band the Spiders (Mick Ronson on guitars, Trevor Bolder on bass guitar, and Mick Woodmansey on drums), created a sound that was sometimes abstract, others minimalistic, while also maintaining moments of straight forward Rock-n-Roll.

Truly a precursor to other styles of Rock music that arose later on, such as Punk, what is truly fascinating about The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is the fact that it was not necessarily a premeditated concept album, but one that could very well have just fallen into place. Seeming fitting to Bowie’s personality – which certainly was non-linear and less fixated on structure than  fixing the right creative groove – wouldn’t it be fascinating to be behind the scenes during the creation of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars? Well, now you can do just that with the expansive new boxset Rock ‘n’ Roll Star!.

An album the subject of numerous reissues through the years, never has one been approached with such depth as what Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! promises. Released on June 14, 2024 through Parlophone, it is a 5CD and 1 Blu-Ray Audio set chronicling David Bowie’s time molding the Ziggy Stardust character, plus working on the songs that dressed the original album. Unlike anything you have seen compiled together before, across the 5 CDs you get a chance to listen to various demos, takes, rehearsals (some done at Bowie’s then home) and mixes of songs. A lot to digest, you would think you heard each song once, you heard it all, but that is simply not the case here; because you are able to experience each track being built from the ground up, and that within itself is rather interesting.

Moreover, beyond the songs that made up The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars album, you also have live recordings, outtakes, and a total of a whopping 29 unreleased tracks dispersed throughout this set! Packaged in a heavy-duty box with a lovely foil printing, inside is a massive book which houses the 5 CDs and Blu-ray with over 100 pages of rare photos and writings documenting the details, with insight, to the album. Something to dig into over the course of several initial listening sessions, there is also an additional 36-page notebook included with reprinted handwriting notes and lyrics from the album sessions. If all of this was simply not enough, the Blu-ray has a ton to offer too; including a version of the album called Waiting In The Sky (Before The Starman Came To Earth) taken from Trident Studio tapes dated December 15, 1971 (which features an alternative running order and four songs that did not make the final album).

In the end, the newly commissioned David Bowie Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! is the most comprehensive deep dive into the Ziggy Stardust era you will experience. The recordings are enticing, the literature and images stimulating, and overall package design delightfully. Also, if you are someone who appreciates vinyl, there is a double vinyl half-speed master pressing with 14 total tracks that you can look into. Any way you cut it, if you call yourself a David Bowie fan this is a must have box set that does not sell itself short, and that is why Cryptic Rock gives Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! 5 out of 5 stars.

David Bowie Rock 'n' Roll Star!
David Bowie – Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! / Parlophone (2024)

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