Alistair Riddell

Space Waltz

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Make no mistake about it -- this record would have not existed had it not been for David Bowie. It's not just that Alistair Riddell himself affected an androgynous look rather like Bowie's early-'70s visage. This New Zealander also sounded very much like Bowie in the 1970-1972 period, with catchy pop melodies, glam inflections to the rhythm and vocal phrasing, and even the frequent allusions to science fiction in the lyrics. Bowie himself had passed through that phase by the time this was issued in Riddell's native New Zealand in 1975, but given how slowly trends traveled to that part of the world in those days, it might well have seemed pretty cutting edge. There's no getting past its blatant imitativeness, but if you are the kind who likes the early David Bowie sound enough to be satisfied by unoriginal approximations of the real thing, this is pretty good for what it is. Riddell goes through a gamut of glam affectations with convincing confidence, and if he's not the singer Bowie is, he's still okay. Nor is he on Bowie's level as a songwriter, but "Seabird" has the druggy, drawn-out downerisms of Bowie's bleaker side down pretty well, and both the 1974 New Zealand hit single "Out on the Street" and the melodramatically arching "Love the Way He Smiles" have a fairly authentic Ziggy Stardust outtake aura. According to the historical liner notes of the 2005 CD reissue on RPM, "most of the tracks were based on the Tellurians, a genetically engineered race from the planet Telluria whose inhabitants use sex purely as a reproductive process where no emotional love is involved." Well, you can't really tell without having read whatever book(s) sparked this brainstorm, but this doesn't mean this isn't a modestly enjoyable curio, little known internationally before its 2005 CD reissue in the U.K.

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