Last week, I was talking to a friend about going to the launch of Adam Rudegeair’s latest album The Bowie Project 2: It’s Always Time and she mentioned taking Bowie fan parents to the launch of the first volume of this project. “They hated it,” she laughed. “They didn’t recognise any of their favourite songs.”
To me, this is the highest praise anyone can offer to Adam Rudegeair for his work on Bowie’s music. Because, in an era of tribute shows and cover bands, he carefully and deliberately decides to follow another path. The Bowie Project is not a tribute – it’s a thesis; it’s a product of research and analysis. Rudegeair dived deep in the Bowie universe, took the songs, stripped them down to the bare essentials, analysed their components and took each element and presented it under new light. Looking beyond the surface, the myth of Bowie, the pop iconography, the clothes, the alter-egos, the avatars, he focuses instead on what is probably the most under-appreciated part of his work: the music itself. The Bowie project presents David Bowie neither as a pop icon, nor as a songwriter – but as a composer who has written some fascinating, complicated melodies, full changes (no pun intended – oh, who am I kidding?) and suprises.
It is not by accident that this project is presented by an all-acoustic ‘straight jazz type’ band – trumpet, saxophone, piano, bass and drums. For a musician like Adam Rudegeair, who is always game for an electric jazz-funk session, this is a deliberate and well-thought choice. The sound could not be more different than what normally comes to mind when you think of Bowie. The arrangement is also brilliant. Rudegeair gives each instrument ample room to breathe, to make a journey out of each melodic line, to truly make a new work out of some of the most seminal songs of the past four decades.
I was there at the launch of the first Bowie Project and I was swept away by this electrifying performance. The gig ended with an uplifting delivery of ‘Let’s dance’ that nearly brought the house down. It was not included in the first album; I was sure it would be on the second. I was wrong. As its predecessor,It is always time goesis not a ‘greatest hits’ album. The introspective, contemplative versions of songs like ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Loving the Alien’ make testament to Rudegeair’s commitment to explore the Bowie universe – to know and love the alien.