It’s probably best to let singer and keyboard player John Paul Strauss describe the rationale behind this album. ‘During the time we were working on the most recent Ten Jinn release, ‘Sisyphus’, came the very sad news about the passing of David Bowie. At the time (though we were very busy with working on the album and dealing with the upcoming release in 2017) I suggested to the other Ten Jinn members that as soon as ‘Sisyphus’ was completed, we should record a David Bowie tribute record before preparing for live shows or recording the next Ten Jinn record, ‘Worlds (the Four Worlds of the Hopi)’. While I was very excited about the prospect of playing live again and getting on to ‘Worlds’ (I even completed the first draft of the score) I felt very strongly about taking this detour in order to pay my respects to an artist, who was probably the single most important influence in my development as a musician in general and vocalist in particular.
I can’t be the only person who never expected an album like this from Ten Jinn. Since their second album, 1999’s ‘As On A Darkling Plain’, they have cemented a reputation as one of the most interesting progressive rock bands around, so a Bowie tribute album isn’t exactly what one would expect. There haven’t been many progressive bands who have recorded whole albums of covers (Dream Theater of course taking it to the extreme by re-recording complete albums, often very well indeed), let alone of music that us so far away from what one would expect.
What I also found interesting was the track selection, as while of course there are many hits, there are also many missing which one may expect on a collection like this, such as ‘Ashes to Ashes’, ‘Space Oddity’, ‘Suffragette City’, ‘Rebel Rebel’, ‘Young Americans’ etc. There is the feeling that here is a very personal collection, one that has a collective cohesiveness which works incredibly well. What I really enjoyed about the album is that although they have stayed close to the originals, they have also allowed themselves to put their own stamp on the songs. They have played it fairly straight, and consequently it has worked exactly as it was supposed to, namely as a tribute.
One of the real stand outs has to be ‘Dead Man Walking’, which originally featured on the 1997 album ‘Earthling’. While much focus will be on the wonderful acoustic guitars, funky percussion or superb vocals, what really makes this such an essential song is the wonderful fretless bass which adds so much class, warmth and emotion to it. Strauss’s vocals throughout are exemplary, and the whole band sound as if they have been performing Bowie songs their whole lives, such is the skill and joy they bring to this collection. This is a must for any lover of Bowie, as rarely is his material treated with such care.
About ZIGGY BLACKSTAR (A Tribute to David Bowie)
During the time we were working on the most recent Ten Jinn release, Sisyphus, came the very sad news about the passing of David Bowie. At the time (though we were very busy working on the album and dealing with the upcoming release Sisyphus in 2017) we decided that as soon as Sisyphus was completed, we would record a David Bowie tribute record before preparing for live shows or recording the next Ten Jinn Record: “Worlds (the Four Worlds of the Hopi).” While the band was very excited about the prospect of playing live again and getting on to Worlds (John even completed the first draft of the hour-long score) we felt very strongly about taking this detour in order to pay my respects to an artist, who was a very important musical influence for all of the band members in general, and the single most important influence in John’s evolution as vocalist in particular.
Choosing the songs for the record was not an easy thing (as there are so many great Bowie tunes) but one thing we decided on right away was to avoid any of the major hits from the 1980s or things we thought a lot of other people might do (since John was the one doing the lead vocals on the record, we mostly supported him in the suggestions he made). At one point we thought it would be really cool to do a version of Blackstar, but since it was from Bowie’s final album, it seemed perhaps a bit disrespectful to do so soon after his death. In the end, we decided on material mostly from the 1970s (with a couple of tunes from the late 1990s thrown in) that have very deep meaning for us.
ZIGGY BLACKSTAR (A Tribute to David Bowie) Track List
1. I’m Afraid of Americans 04:48
2. Aladdin Sane 05:48
3. Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide 03:04
4. Dead Man Walking 04:06
5. Fame 03:57
6. Future Legend 00:57
7. Diamond Dogs 05:00
8. Life On Mars 04:01
Ziggy Blackstar Album Credits:
The Band: Ten Jinn
John Paul Strauss – lead and backing vocals/keyboards.
Mark Wickliffe – drums/bass/electric guitar/backing vocals.
Ken Skoglund – electric and acoustic guitars.
Mike Matier – electric guitar.
Matt Brown – piano solo (Alladin Sane).
Joe Geiger – fretless bass (Dead Man Walking).
Helena Skoglund – backing vocals (Life on Mars/Fame/Future Legend).
J.T. Holmström – saxophone (Diamond Dogs).
Arranged by: Ten Jinn.
Produced by: John Paul Strauss, Mark Wickliffe, and Ken Skoglund.
Mix engineers: Ken Skoglund (Sound Control Sweden). John Prpich (Radd Studios, Los Angeles).
Mastering engineer: Ken Skoglund (Sound Control Sweden).
Cover Art by Nick Katona (Melodic Revolution Records). Revolution Studios, Orlando, Florida
Vocal editing by Steve Deutsch.
Other Ten Jinn Releases Sisyphus (2018) Melodic Revolution Records CD & Digital Alone (2003) Sweden Rock Records / Musea CD & Digital As On A Darkling Plan (1999) Wildman Records CD & Digital Wildman (1997) Wildman Records CD & Digital
Ten Jinn have taken upon themselves a monumental task. It’s one thing to do a cover song of a famous artist and quite another to do an entire album covering that one artist. And when the artist being covered is someone as huge as David Bowie, the mountain to climb looks pretty forbidding. Additionally, when that artist has recently left us and everyone is quite likely wanting to do tributes but at the same time perhaps having second thoughts about touching the sacred shrine so soon, there’s every reason to leave the notion well alone. Ten Jinn, however, have boldly decided to pay their respects to Mr. Jones by following their hearts and recording an album entirely of Bowie covers.
They say that the best way to do a cover song is to either make it totally your own and arrange it in a completely different style (as Deep Purple used to do with Beatles‘ songs) or to strike that delicate balance between capturing the original song’s motif and its appeal while simultaneously putting the covering band’s own stamp on it. I have never been a Bowie fan (I totally respect his talent and what he gave to popular music but I just never became a fan) but I am familiar with many of his hit songs. So it’s very interesting for me to hear what Ten Jinn has achieved with their Ziggy Blackstar album because I can hear the Bowie in the music, and even at times in the vocals, but at the same time these songs sound fresh and new to me. Some of the songs Ten Jinn have covered are unfamiliar to me so they sound like new material, and if asked for my opinion I might say that they have a Bowie-esque quality to them. Vocalist John Paul Strauss manages to affect some very close Bowie-isms but never sounds like a hopeful mimic. He is confident in his own voice and that’s one of the reasons the songs come across not as copycat tribute songs but as interpretations by John Paul Strauss and Ten Jinn.
The music nearly all sounds original to me. I don’t know most of the original songs well enough to say how close Ten Jinn‘s versions are to the originals, but from my perspective, they have gone ahead and arranged the music to their capabilities and once again I am hearing fresh new music. I admit I was surprised by the album opener “I’m Afraid of Americans” because that is one Bowie song I have always really liked thanks to Trent Reznor‘s involvement. During the first listen to Ten Jinn‘s version I felt that they made a valiant effort but could not beat the original. But after the second listen I changed my view. They still can’t beat the original but what they have done with the song is, once again, made it their own and in the end, their result is a stand-alone effort. It’s like when you hear Paul McCartney praise a band for their personal take on a Beatles cover; I think Mr. Jones would have approved.
Other moments that caught my attention were the insane piano solo in “Aladdin Sane” (I don’t know if that’s in the original but it’s very cool here) and the surprising (to me) intro to “Future Legend” because it sounds so Ayreon.
Basically, I’ll say this: Ten Jinn‘s album sounds great to someone who does not have a deep familiarity with David Bowie‘s music. It can be enjoyed as an album on its own. Bowie fans might be more critical and zero in on details that go past me. But I think Ten Jinn have done a splendid job of doing an album entirely of Bowie cover songs. They struck the right balance between tribute and originality.
During the time we were working on the most recent Ten Jinn release, Sisyphus, came the very sad news about the passing of David Bowie. At the time (though we were very busy with working on the album and dealing with the upcoming release in 2017) I suggested to the other Ten Jinn members that as soon as Sisyphus was completed, we should record a David Bowie tribute record before preparing for live shows or recording the next Ten Jinn Record, Worlds (the Four Worlds of the Hopi). While I was very excited about the prospect of playing live again and getting on to Worlds(I even completed the first draft of the score) I felt very strongly about taking this detour in order to pay my respects to an artist, who was probably the single most important influence in my development as a musician in general and vocalist in particular.
John and Ken in the studio mixing Sisyphus, October 3, 2016
Choosing the songs for the record was not an easy thing (as there are so many great Bowie tunes) but one thing we decided on right away was to avoid any of the major hits from the 1980s or things we thought a lot of other people might do. Since I was the one doing the lead vocals on the record, the band mostly supported me in the suggestions I made. At one point I thought it would be really cool to do a version of Blackstar, but since it was from Bowie’s last album, it seemed perhaps a bit disrespectful to do so soon after his death. In the end, we decided on material mostly from the 1970s with a couple of tunes from the late 1990s thrown in. All of the songs on this record have deep meaning for me and, in no particular order, include:
ZIGGY BLACKSTAR (A Tribute to David Bowie) Track List
1) Alladin Sane,
2) Future Legend
3) Diamond Dogs,
4) Life on Mars,
6) I’m Afraid of Americans,
7) Dead Man Walking, and
8) Rock and Roll Suicide.
Ten Jinn have launched a snippet of Life on Mars from the upcoming album ZIGGY BLACKSTAR (A Tribute to David Bowie) on SoundCloud
Ten Jinn released their fourth album “Sisyphus” on CD at the Majestic Theater in Gettysburg, PA during Rosfest: May 5th, 2018.
Sisyphus was originally released in Europe as a digital-only album in 2017.
About The Album Sisyphus is an eight-part programmatic work that tells the story of the founder and King of Corinth after whom it is named. Because of affronts to the gods while alive, Sisyphus was condemned in death to spend eternity in Hades rolling a boulder to the top of a mountain, only to have it roll back down each time he completed the task; this also speaks to the essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” by Albert Camus, who used the myth as a means to comment on the senseless, repetitive drudgery of modern life.
Originally written as a classical work (a symphonic poem for string orchestra and piano) the Ten Jinn production involved reworking the piece to include the addition of rock instrumentation. We got the idea to add vocals to make it more consistent with earlier Ten Jinn albums, and the plan was then to fill out the record with other new material; however, at one point during the process we decided to do an instrumental mix and use it as a “flip-side,” instead, because we wanted to include a version that was representative of the original idea, which had its own unique “flavor.”
John Paul Strauss: Lead and backing vocals, Keyboards
Mark Wickliffe: Drums, Bass & backing vocals
Ken Skoglund: Guitars & backing vocals
Mike Matier: Guitars
What the Critics are saying.
is it classical or prog? The answer is yes. All that’s missing is more of the same, which hopefully will come sooner than later from this seriously underrated act.
4 1/2 out of 5 Stars
– John Collinge, Progression Magazine
If you enjoy the band Enid, you will enjoy this one as well, and won’t get bored a minute here.
4 out of 5 Stars
– rdtprog, Prog Archives
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