Album of the Week: Lazarus - original cast recording to the musical by David Bowie and Enda Walsh

Featuring a live take of the artist's off-Broadway musical, recorded by the cast just hours after Bowie died, as well three previously-unheard studio recordings from the singer's final album, Blackstar

Lazarus Cast Album
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Artist: Various/David Bowie
Genre: Alternative
Label: ISO/RCA

Ten months after the death of David Bowie, and we're left with what exactly? Apart from a void in pop culture, he has bequeathed us an amazing final album (Blackstar) as well as Lazarus, a work of musical theatre that began life off-Broadway in December 2015. (It opens at London's King Cross Theatre on November 8th; previews from October 25th.)

Written with Cork playwright Enda Walsh, Lazarus was intended as a sequel to Bowie and Nicolas Roeg's 1976 film The Man Who Fell to Earth. Bowie's ill health may have prevented him from appearing in the stage production, but his prints are all over the cast album.

The first of two discs is the 19-track stage soundtrack, recorded on January 11th, hours after Bowie died. There are versions of The Man Who Sold the World, Life on Mars, Changes, Where Are We Now, Sound and Vision, Heroes and All the Young Dudes. The songs are pulled out of recognisable shape by actors Michael C Hall, Cristin Milioti and Sophia Anne Caruso, but also invested with a sparser, weirder kind of theatrical bent that is suitably audacious.

Disc two comprises four songs: Lazarus (from Blackstar) and three that, we are told, constitute Bowie's final ever recordings. Written specifically for the musical and recorded at the same time as Blackstar (with the same terrific art-jazz band and empathetic producer Tony Visconti), they allude to death while maintaining the songwriter's sense of the abstract.


Translation: if you’re searching for real clues in the lyrics, search elsewhere.

That the songs are as good as anything on Bowie's swansong is clear: Killing a Little Time nods smartly to multi-limbed jazz-rock and When I Met You is blessed with a bracing chorus and controlled tune. No Plan, meanwhile, is a truly sublime ballad/torch song – a real Bowie knockout.

It seems there is still, against all odds, something in the air.

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea

Tony Clayton-Lea is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in popular culture