A New David Bowie Box Chronicles the Creation of ‘Ziggy Stardust’: Review

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A 2015 boxed set covering David Bowie’s early years included a remastered copy of his landmark 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust, as well as a remixed version of that LP, the soundtrack from the movie of the same name and a variety of outtakes and related obscurities. The film has also been issued separately multiple times, most recently last year in a two-CD-plus-Blu-ray configuration that featured restored video and surround sound. For those who want even more, we now have the gargantuan new Rock ’n’ Roll Star!

This new box takes a deep dive into the creation of the Ziggy Stardust album, a glam-rock masterpiece about an androgynous singer from Mars that’s awash with futuristic and apocalyptic imagery, potent contributions by guitarist Mick Ronson, intense music and Bowie’s inspired vocalizing. It features five CDs and an audio-only Blu-ray, plus a 36-page reproduction of the singer’s Ziggy-era notebooks and a hardcover, 112-page coffee-table book that offers new notes and interviews, lots of photos, and reviews of the original LP.

Included on the five CDs are 67 songs, among them demo, rehearsal and alternate mixes and renditions of the LP’s selections and rejected numbers; contemporaneous performances on British radio and TV shows, such as Top of the Pops and Old Grey Whistle Test; and five songs recorded at a 1972 Boston concert. The Blu-ray adds more goodies, most notably a DTS-HD Master Audio surround-sound mix of the original album.

Related: Ironically, Bowie said he “never felt like a rock star”

Clearly, given its contents and steep price tag, this box targets the late rocker’s most ardent fans. Such admirers might already own the 39 songs in this collection that have previously been released; on the other hand, those are just the sort of followers who will be eager to pony up for the other 28. They’re also the sort of fans who won’t mind that this set includes three, four or even five versions of some selections.

That said, if you’re a Bowie obsessive, you’ll find lots to savor here. The early demos, which differ dramatically from the famous versions, will fascinate anyone who loves the 1972 LP. Other highlights include previously unavailable session outtakes and a cover of the Who’s “I Can’t Explain” that’s faster and more stripped down than the version in 1973’s Pin-Ups. Perhaps the biggest attraction, however, is the Blu-ray’s 5.1 mix of the original album, which substantially enriches all its elements. Ziggy Stardust never sounded so good.

Bowie’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! is available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here. In addition, there is a 1-LP version of Rock ‘n’ Roll Star! compiling the alternative takes and mixes.

Jeff Burger

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  1. David B
    #1 David B 18 June, 2024, 15:10

    Don’t forget though that the surround sound version here is the ok 2003 sacd 5.1 mix .. but there is a brand new dolby atmos mix, on a stand alone bluray, coming out in Sept that should be very welcome ..

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