New Audio: Easy Star All-Stars Tackle Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust

Founded and led by producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist Michael Goldwasser, Easy Star All-Stars have established themselves as one of the top reggae acts on the international scene for the better part of two decades. During that same period of time, they’ve managed to tour in over 30 countries on six continents while brining together fans of reggae, classic rock, dub, indie rock and pop into one big family as a result of their collection of critically acclaimed reggae tribute albums that includes 2003’s Dub Side of the Moon, 2006’s Radiodread, 2009’s Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band and 2012’s Easy Star’s Thrillah — and 2010’s remix album, Dubber Side of the Moon. They also have two releases of original material, 2008’s Until That Day EP and 2011’s First Light.

Continuing their run of reggae tribute albums across classic rock, dub, indie rock and pop, the acclaimed local reggae outfit will tackle David Bowie‘s beloved classic, 1972’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. Slated for an April 21, 2023 release through their own Easy Star Records, Ziggy Stardub is a reggae re-imagining of the beloved album, featuring guest spots from Macy Gray, Steel Pulse, Maxi Priest, Fishbone, Living Colour‘s Vernon Reid, The Skints, Mortimer, The Expanders, Samory I, and a lengthy list of others.

Pre-order packages of the album are available here, including royal blue colored vinyl along with CD and exclusive t-shirt offerings.

But in the meantime, Easy Star All-Stars have shared two singles from the album:

“Starman,” featuring Maxi Preist, who’s one of two British-born acts to have a #1 Billboard here in the States with 1990’s smash hit “Close To You.” By the way, for you trivia heads, the other British act was UB40 with their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Red Red Wine” back in 1983.

“Starman,” is a warm and soulful dub take on the original that retains the rousingly anthemic hook everyone and their grandmother knows but places it within a shuffling, reggae riddim paired with warm blasts of Rhodes, some cinematic strings and Maxi Priest’s effortlessly soulful delivery.

“Moonage Daydream,” which features Naomi Cowan and the legendary Alex Lifeson. Cowan is th daughter of impresario Tommy Cowan, a producer, songwriter and former road manager for Bob Marley — and the internationally beloved reggae vocalist Carlene Davis. Touted as one of the top rising female artists in Caribbean music, Cowan won the Breakthrough Reggae Artist Award at 2019’s Jamaica Reggae Industry Awards. Building upon a buzz-worthy profile, her single “Paradise Plum” has topped several reggae charts and has quickly become a staple in the new wave of reggae. Lifeson is best known as the co-founder, backing vocalist and guitarist of beloved Canadian prog rock outfit Rush. As a member of Rush, Lifeson is in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame, and is included on Rolling Stones list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” Adding to an extensive list of accolades, Lifeson was made an Officer of the Order of Canada back in 1996 and in 2012, he received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Canada’s highest artistic honor.

The Easy Star All-Star cover of “Moonage Daydream” is a hazy dub-leaning take that makes loving nods to the original, with a full string seciton and a flute solo from Jenny Hill, that takes the place of Bowie’s recorder solo from the original. Cowan contributes a soulful, rock goddess vocal that I’d argue would make both Bowie and Tina Turner very proud. The song closes out with a trippy and inspired David Gilmour-like guitar solo from the legendary Lifeson.

“This has been my favorite tune on the Bowie album since I first started listening as a teenager,” Easy Star All-Star’s Michael Goldwasser says in press notes. “In light of that, it’s interesting that it’s the song that I changed most radically by simplifying the chord progression and pedaling on one bass line for the entire track, which gives it somewhat of a hypnotic effect and roots it in reggae tradition.”

Continuing their long-held tradition of playing on April 20 — 4/20 y’all! — the acclaimed reggae outfit will be playing an album release show at Sony Hall.