A SALUTE TO THE THIN WHITE DUKE.

A SALUTE TO THE THIN WHITE DUKE.

Over the last year, Cleopatra Records have released a series of “Tribute To” compilations. These Tribute To compilations see a new generation of up-and-coming artists homage to rock, psychedelic and pop royalty. 

Everyone from Pink Floyd and The Doors, through The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival, to Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Judy Collins have had their music reinvented by a new generation of artists. Some of these Tributes have a twist. 

There have been be Psyched Out or Stoner Tributes. One thing they all have in common, is they bring new meaning to familiar songs. That’s been the case since the first instalment in the series. Since then, each new instalment in this series has been eagerly awaited. 

Part of the fun, is wondering who Cleopatra Records will pay tribute to next. The answer to that is The Thin White Duke, David Bowie. A Salute To The Thin White Duke will be released on CD and vinyl be Cleopatra Records on 13th November 2015. It sees sixteen up-and-coming artists give A Salute To The Thin White Duke.

Among the sixteen groups paying tribute to David Bowie on A Salute To The Thin White Duke, are Rogue Wave, Dum Dum Girls, The Deer Tracks, Magic Wands, Heartless Bastards, Ume, The Vacant Lot, Coves and The Muffs. Each of these artists rework a David Bowie song. They’re a real eclectic selection.

Some of the songs on A Salute To The Thin White Duke, are among David Bowie’s finest. This includes Heroes, Changes, Suffragette City, Fame, Star Man, Rebel Rebel and John, I’m Only Dancing. There’s a few classics amongst that lot. Then there’s Ashes To Ashes and Modern Love, from David Bowie’s, early-eighties renaissance period. However, other tracks are far from the most obvious choices.

Which band, when asked which David Bowie track they wanted to cover, would come up with Moonage Daydream, Letter to Hermione, Blue Jean, Cat People (Putting Out Fire) and Absolute Beginners? The answer to that is Boy Hits Car, Dum Dum Girls, Electric Six, Magic Wands and Coves. Each of these bands try to revitalise what was far from David Bowies finest hour. Maybe that’ll be able to breath new life into these tracks? That will become clear, when when I pick  highlights of A Salute To The Thin White Duke.

Originally, Modern Love was a track from David Bowie’s 1983 album Let’s Dance. It reached number one in Britain and number four in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in Let’s Dance being certified platinum in Britain and five time platinum in America. When Modern Love was released as a single it reached number two in Britain and number fourteen in the US Billboard 100. For David Bowie, this resulted in a silver disc Britain and a gold disc in America. The Let’s Dance success story continued.

Thirty-one years later, Rogue Wave’s cover of Modern Love opens A Salute To The Thin White Duke. The Oakland based band transform the track into an eight minute, moody indie rock epic. It’s very different from the original, and reinvents a familiar song. If the rest of A Salute To The Thin White Duke is as good as Rogue Wave’s cover of Modern Love, it’s going to be a compilation to remember.

When asked what David Bowie song The Tulips wanted to cover, they chose Heroes. It’s the title-track to the second in David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy. When Heroes was released on 24th October 1977, it reached number three in Britain and thirty-five in the US Billboard 200. However, when Heroes was released as a single, it reached just twenty-four in Britain. Despite that, it’s now regarded as a Bowie classic.

That’s why The Tulips chose to cover Heroes. However, it’s not easy to cover a classic. Shat The Tulips do, is create a haunting, ethereal and understated cover of Heroes. It’s nothing like the original, and transforms the song into something The Thin White Duke never imagined. So good is The Tulips cover, that it’s one of the highlight of A Salute To The Thin White Duke. 

For A Salute To The Thin White Duke, The Deer Tracks cover Starman, a track from The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars. It was released in 1972, reaching number five in Britain and just seventy-five in the US Billboard 200. Despite this, The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders From Mars was certified platinum in Britain and gold in America. When Starman was released as a single, it reached number ten in Britain and a lowly sixty-five in the US Billboard 100. Forty-three years later, and Starman is one of David Bowie’s most popular singles from the early seventies.

The Deer Tracks didn’t set about remaking the original. It reminds me of Bjork, before the track takes on a slow, dreamy, lysergic and mesmeric sound. It’s indie pop with a hint of psychedelia. Incredibly, The Tulips who are from the MacArthur Park area of downtown L.A., are still unsigned. Some record company should give this truly talented band a contract. If they don’t someone else will. 

In 1974, the glam rock era was well underway. That year, David Bowie released Diamond Dogs, which featured Rebel Rebel. When Rebel Rebel was released as a single, it reached number five in Britain and sixty-four in the US Billboard 100. However, Diamond Dogs became David Bowie’s most successful album. Not only did it give him his third consecutive number one in Britain, but reached number five in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in David Bowie receiving gold discs on both sides of the Atlantic. Rebel Rebel, one of the singles from Diamond Dogs is covered by one of the veterans of the Tribute To series, The KVB.

The KVB give Rebel Rebel a hypnotic, haunting sound. Rebel Rebel has been reinvented. So much so, that it bears no resemblance to the original. That’s as it should be. Here, The KVB have used their imagination to reinvent the track. They fuse elements post rock, psychedelia, indie rock and electronica, with the sound of Berlin circa 1977. The end result is a track The Thin White Duke would be proud of.

David Bowie released The Jean Genie as a single in 1972. It reached number two in Britain and number seventy-one in the US Billboard 100. Then on 13th April 1973, David Bowie released Aladdin Sane album, The Jean Genie was the penultimate track on side two. Aladdin Sane reached number one in Britain, and number seventeen in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in gold discs on both sides of the Atlantic for David Bowie. However, the song that started it off, was The Jean Genie, which is given a makeover by the Heartless Bastards.  

For those who have still to discover the Heartless Bastards, they’re from Austin, Texas. They released their new album Restless Ones in June 2015. It’s the fifth album from The Heartless Bastards. Their cover of The Jean Genie is sure to have you looking for a copy of Restless Ones. They’ve been described as indie rockers and an old fashioned rock ’n’ roll band. That’s apparent on their blistering, swaggering take on The Jean Genie.

Another L.A. band is The Vacant Lots. However, the two members of The Vacant Lots, Jared Artaud and Brian MacFadyen are based in New York. They’ve contributed a cover of Fame to A Salute To The Thin White Duke. Fame was a track from David Bowie’s 1975 album Young Americans. It reached number two in Britain and number nine in the US Billboard 200. This resulted in a silver disc in Britain, and a gold disc in America. That wasn’t the end of the success. When Fame was released as a single, it reached number seventeen in Britain and number one in the US Billboard 100. Forty years later, The Vacant Lots cover Fame, as they too, search for fame and fortune.

The Vacant Lots cover is a captivating fusion of rock and electro. Just like the other bands on A Salute To The Thin White Duke, they’re determined to make their mark on the song. This is no slavish remake. Far from it. Instead, The Vacant Lots give the original a welcome, moderne twist, and in the process, pay tribute to The Thin White Duke.

It’s hard to believe that it was in that David Bowie released Space Oddity as a single in 1969. It reached number five in Britain. Then on 4th November 1969, David Bowie released his sophomore album Space Oddity. While it reached seventeen in Britain, Space Oddity reached number sixteen in the in the US Billboard 200. However, in Britain Space Oddity was certified silver and was the first of many discs David Bowie received.  Kittie however, are still awaiting their first disc.

They’re a a talented Canadian metal band, who were formed in London, Ontario in 1996. Since then, they’ve released six albums. For A Salute To The Thin White Duke they unleash a blistering, rocky take on Space Oddity. Kittie stay true to the original, before kicking loose and showing why they’re regarded as one of North America’s best metal bands.

Anyone who had the misfortune to see the film Absolute Beginners had paid to see what was without doubt, one of the worst films of 1986. Twenty-nine years later, I still feel director Julian Temple owes me a refund. Just as bad, was the soundtrack to the film. David Bowie’s contribution Absolute Beginners was a far cry from his seventies heyday. 

It was slightly better than Peace On Earth and his dreadful duet with Mick Jagger, Dancing In The Streets. Incredibly, Absolute Beginners reached number two in Britain and was certified silver. Across the Atlantic, Absolute Beginners only reached fifty-three in the US Billboard 100. Given that Absolute Beginners wasn’t David Bowie’s finest hour, I was surprised anyone chose to cover it. However, step forward  Coves. 

Incredibly, the Coves moody, lysergic cover of Absolute Beginners works. Elements of indie rock, psychedelia and even a hint of shoegaze are combined by Coves. They do the impossible, and transform Absolute Beginners, into a track that’s much better than the original. For that I salute them.

Closing A Salute To The Thin White Duke is a The Muffs cover Changes. It’s a track from Hunky Dory, which was released in 1971. Hunky Dory reached number three in Britain, and was certified platinum. In America, Hunky Dory stalled at ninety-three in the US Billboard 200. Then when Changes was released as a single in 1972, but stalled at number sixty-six in the US Billboard 100. Despite that, Changes has featured on numerous Greatest Hits and Best Of albums. Maybe that’s where The Muffs heard Changes?

The Muffs arent a new band. They’ve been around since 1991. Fronted by Kim Shattuck, who was a member of The Pixes, The Muffs deliver a feisty version of Changes. They fuse elements of indie pop and garage rock. This is a cover the The Thin White Duke would approve of, and bookends Salute To The Thin White Duke perfectly.

Although I’ve only mentioned some of the tracks on A Salute To The Thin White Duke, there’s nothing wrong with the rest of tracks. They’re an interesting and eclectic selection of tracks from David Bowie’s back-catalogue. 

Classics, old favourites and even some unlikely candidates are combined on A Salute To The Thin White Duke, which will be released by Cleopatra Records on 13th November 2015. Whether you’re a David Bowie fan, or just someone interested in discovering new bands, it’s well worth adding A Salute To The Thin White Duke to your collection. It’s available on CD and LP, and is a fitting addition to Cleopatra Records’ series of “Tribute To” compilations. These Tribute To compilations see a new generation of up-and-coming artists homage to rock, psychedelic and pop royalty. 

Everyone from Pink Floyd and The Doors, through The Rolling Stones and Creedence Clearwater Revival, to Black Sabbath, The Beatles and Judy Collins. Each of these artists are musical royalty. So is David Bowie, who the latest generation of band pay a fitting tribute to on A Salute To The Thin White Duke.

A SALUTE TO THE THIN WHITE DUKE.

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