15 July 2018

Rudy Grant - Space Oddity/ Every Step I Made

Reggae cover of David Bowie's classic. It works slightly better than you'd suppose.

Label: Ensign
Year of Release: 1981

It never ceases to amaze me how many unexpected and ambitious reggae cover versions there are out there. Some work, whereas others set their sights high and miss by miles.

In 1981, Eddy Grant's brother Rudy, not content with stopping at one or two singles, decided to recording an album of covers which contained some unusual but generally workable choices, such as John Lennon's "Woman", Simon and Garfunkel's "Sound of Silence", and Stevie Wonder's "Lately". All of these attempts hang together well, and in the case of the Simon and Garfunkel classic, amazingly so.

This, however, is on dangerous territory. While the original version of "Space Oddity" may have a catchy melody at its centre, it's filled with odd fits and starts and instrumental diversions - which is what elevated the song above the mere 'novelty' tag some felt keen to give it during its initial chart run. It's an enormously sprawling, filmic sounding track with each flourish adding drama to the lyrical storyline. As such, it's a very tricky song to tack a steady reggae beat on to, and the way Rudy sidesteps this is quite interesting.

Instead of acknowledging its more ambitious elements, he cuts them out of the picture and reduces the track to a three minute groove, ignoring the aspects that made the original drip with atmosphere. It's closer to being a cover of Bowie's baffling eighties B-side reimagining of the track, and if you like the sparseness and emptiness of that version, you might find something to love here.

As for me, I'm glad something so bold and yet slightly silly exists. I can't help but think that it would have put a smile on Bowie's lips as well, and while I can't imagine there will ever be an occasion where I'll be able to DJ this, I'll be hanging on to it as a curiosity item for awhile yet. 

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