David Bowie, (The Rise and Fall of) Ziggy Stardust (and the Spiders from Mars)

Compare with Lou Reed around this time: Bowie had some of the same challenging subject matter, definitely a similar milieu, clearly cross-pollinated styles, and yet delivered a cleaner, clearer product with actual performance value. (Thought question: whose fault was Transformer, performer Reed or co-producer Bowie?) The turbulent early 1970s still ring true in "Five Years," but the net effect is more carefully constructed, and even prattly nonsense like "Soul Love" and throwaway tracks like "It Ain't Easy" or "Suffragette City" (a good glam bopper, at any rate) rub shoulders with richer productions in "Moonage Daydream," sharp character studies in "Lady Stardust" and of course gorgeous crown jewels like "Starman" and the title track. Even though his lyrics (and for that matter the bare wisp of a concept) aren't always on point, when they are they cut deep, even literally in closer "Rock'N'Roll Suicide" which manages to be sensitive without being (too) maudlin. Not all Bowie's contemporaries learned the artistic lesson this album teaches — maybe Ian Hunter, but probably one of the few — and definitely to their detriment. (Content: adult references and mild language.)