Ever since the passing of musical icon David Bowie, a torrent of tributes has poured out from every corner of the world. Some have been absolutely horrible, some incredibly touching, but none have been as innovative and creative as the man himself.
Now, we finally have the one that reaches the highest of peaks. Strung Out In Heaven: A Bowie String Quartet Tribute is the first in a series of covers that truly matches Bowie's own brilliance and serves as a fitting homage by twisting and turning his compositions into something new and fantastic.
Strung Out in Heaven is composed by multi-instrumentalist Jherek Bischoff and sung by Dresden Dolls singer Amanda Palmer. Bowie's influence on Palmer has been evident throughout her career, and it's only fitting that his death has inspired her to perform on such a luscious, loving tribute as this one.
Bischoff's new arrangements of the classics are truly stunning, but perhaps the best new interpretation is of Bowie's final title track, “Blackstar.” The audaciousness it took to rearrange and cover “Blackstar” only a month after its release clearly inspired a bold new look at the track's beauty and brilliant composition.
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Removing the electronic flourishes, and performed with strings and guitar, it shows a whole new side of the song Bowie had hidden under many layers of musical accompaniment. The sparse new arrangement gives us a look into how amazing Bowie could be as a writer. Palmer's vocals also more than match Bowie's interpretation, giving her version its own life and validity.
The rest of the EP focuses on more famous older tracks like “Life on Mars?” and “Space Oddity,” the latter of which notably features Palmer's husband, author Neil Gaiman, performing spoken backing vocals. These also show a side to Bowie's musicianship that would make the man himself proud.
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Palmer and Bischoff were able to bring their vision to life on the TED stage, performing "Space Oddity" at the annual convention; former vice president Al Gore replaced Gaiman on the backing vocals. Yep, that Al Gore. That's how awesome this project is.
Strung Out in Heaven is available now on Bandcamp for only $1, which is a damn fine deal for the Bowie fans still looking for solace in tributes to the legendary singer. Fifty-four cents will go to Bowie's publisher; the rest will go toward cancer research at Tufts Medical Center.