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David Bowie - The Man Who Sold The World CD (album) cover


David Bowie

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Needless to say that 1970 is the year of "In Rock" and Led Zep was peaking everywhere in the charts. "The Man Who Sold The World" will be the hardest album that David will ever release. The Spiders gang is almost there: David, and both Mick's (Ronson & Woodmansey) recorded the first important Bowie album.

The cover of the album is rather controversial and will be the first opportunity for David to play with his androgynous look. He will regularly confirm / negate this. Being opportunist he took advantage of a situation he totally created. It is also rather contradictory with the content of the album: David dressed up in a "men's dress" showing a gentle and sweet character while the album is the harder he will ever record!

David is going to get married to Angie, and needed to have his financial situation (which is far from brilliant) settled. Visconti organized a meeting with one of his acquaintances: the lawyer Tony De Fries. Another MAJOR meeting. He will soon be David's manager. For five years.

While I discovered Bowie (in 1973), I bought his back catalogue and was quite amazed with this album. It is one of his darkest works in term of lyrics. Full of schizophrenia and craziness. The absolute highlight is the huge opening song: "The Width Of A Circle". A mix of schizo frenzy and obvious homosexual references.

Ronson's work on this track (but not only) is just incredible. Of course, he listened to both Jimi and Jimmy. There is even a moment during which a riff comes rather close to the one from "The Jean Genie". One of the most guitar oriented Bowie track (together with "Station To Station"). The wild instrumental middle part is a great tribute to the guitar heroes. I am found of it. THE highlight.

Craziness is again the central point of "All The Madmen. David refers to his half-brother Terry who was confined in a mental hospital. Again lyrics are very explicit: "Here I stand, foot in hand, talking to my wall I'm not quite right at all. Dont set me free, Im as helpless as can be My libidos split on me. Gimme some good old lobotomy".

The other side of this album is related to some sort of apocalyptical analysis of how the world is ruled (and the ones who govern it). From "Saviour Machine" and its related "2001 A Space Odyssey" story to "She Shook Me Cold" and its serial killer character. "Ill slash them cold, Ill kill them dead Ill break them gooks, Ill crack their heads Ill slice them till theyre running red But now Ive got the running gun blues".

This album holds several good to very good songs but might well be difficult to bear if you are not into some sort of hard-rocking mood. But not all the album is full of these hard sounds; these are frequently combined with some acoustic parts. The overall atmosphere is oppressive, gloomy and not really the kind to listen to if you are a bit depressive. Hammill is at hand, lyrically.

"The Man Who Sold The World" is a very dark (but alas accurate) report of our society. Power, influence, violence and death: a daily business. I hope that one day, David will release an album called "The Man Who Saved The World".

Seven out of ten. But I'll give it an upgrade to four thanks to the lyrics.

"Who knows, not me, I never lost control, You're face, to face, With the man who sold the world".

Report this review (#174853)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Here it is, the first of three albums in a row by Bowie that tower over anything else that he has written. In this album David Bowie takes a hairpin bend away from the light folk rock of his first two albums to create what could indeed be the first true example of a progressive metal album (but not progressive metal song, as long as 'Schizoid Man' exists). This is also the first time David Bowie would create an alternate persona for himself, sharing his name withe album's title. The guitars of the mighty Mick Ronson, are down tuned and dirty. The drums are loud. Two types of synthesizer are used, the iconical prog rock standard, the moog, and the unusual stylophone. The musicianship on this album and the next is some of the best to be found in Bowie's eclectic career.

To begin the proceedings we have the mini-epic 'The Width of a Circle' with starnge, somewhat distrubing, and explicitly sexual lyrics, in a fantasy setting (possibly in two sense of the word ;). The music starts with a very nice riff, and twists and turns in many directions, to produce a very interesting song, which has become very famous amongst Bowie fans. Prog? Yeah! 'All the Madmen' is haunting tune telling a tale of a society where anyone with an 'organic mind' is locked away as insane, while the real insane, backward-thinkers roam the streets. The narrator has been told he can go free but would rather stay 'With all th madmen'. This tune is the first of what Bowie called a 'futuristic nostalgia' tune. Definitely a highlight. Next up is 'Black Country Rock' a more straight-forward rock(n roll) song of high quality. 'After all' is a favourite of mine. It is depressing and dark, with symphonic touches. It is the sequel to a track of Bowie's self tiled album called 'There is a Happy Land'. While that song was happy, set in a land consisting solely of children, this song involves some of these children growing up. The lyrics are full of haunting darkness, wiht the extremely spooky refrain of 'Oooooh by Jiiiiingo'. Scary! With 'Running Gun Blues' Bowie returns to his folk rock days, albeit with more violent lyrics. This is a criticism of the Vietnam war, and is told form the point of view of a soldier on a manic killing spree. The delightful tune, and spritely vocals create a distrubing contrast with the lyrics.

'The Saviour Machine' returns to hard rock, this time with a more epic and symphonic touch. One of the most thought-provoking story telling lyrics on the album, I won't spoil the surprise for you this time. I will just tell you it is very powerful. 'She Shook Me Cold' is the heaviest song here, and probably in the man's career. The guitars take the front seat in what is probably Ronson's best ever performance. This matches Purple or Sabbath for heaviness, and is darker than one, and equal to the other (I'm sure you can work out which way round). This, like the opener is very sexually oriented. 'The Man Who Sold the World' is the BRILLIANT title track. The tune and lyrics are perfect and I don't know what instruments are used, but they are very interesting. The vocals have been altered somehow and the rythm is almost danceable, despite how dark the track is. We finish on a progressive note (literally I guess), with 'The Supermen', and its fantasy lrics, and symphonic arrangement. If this isn't prog, then what is?

This album, overall is heavy yet, very progressive, creationg a brilliant soundscape. Essential to fans of Bowie, and an item of extreme interest to heavy metal fans.

Fans of Heavy Prog, Eclectic Prog, and Progressive Metal should enjoy this, and to people wanting to look at the roots of heavy metal in general, this is essential. I can ward this nothing but five big, chunky, juicy, heavy metal stars!

Report this review (#174923)
Posted Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Oh, by jingo!

The Man Who Sold The World has always been my favourite David Bowie album. It is probably also the most progressive one he ever did (depending on your definition of 'progressive' I suppose) and certainly the hardest rocking one he ever did. The opening song, The Width Of A Circle, is over eight minutes in lenght and rocks quite hard. The bass guitar is surpisingly loud in the mix (which I like!) and well played. The bass guitar is credited to famous producer Tony Visconti who worked with many Prog and Prog related bands and artists in the 70's.

I love the lyrics of this album, in my opinion among the best lyrics Bowie ever wrote. Some themes that are explored: madness, the divine, humour, the human condition, violence, war, etc. Typical Prog themes in a way, but original and they make you think. And as opposed to many later Bowie albums, everything here is written by Bowie himself and there are no covers.

Bowie himself is credited with vocals, guitar and stylophone. Mick Ronson is here on guitars, of course, Woody Woodmansey on drums and a Ralph Mace on Moog Synthesiser. I keep hearing other keyboard instruments as well, plus possibly some woodwinds, but these (if they are really there) remain uncredited.

My favourite songs are probably The Width Of A Circle, All The Madmen, After All, Saviour Machine and The Supermen, which is the bulk of the album.


Report this review (#177363)
Posted Saturday, July 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars When listening to this album today as opposed to say 30 years ago in particular the opener The Width Of A Circle you can immediately pick up on how progressive it sounds, the conceptual direction of the album, the leftfield composition of the songs, reference All the Madmen. IMO the earliest form of Crossover/Art rock, purely subjective of course! It must have been a privelige to have seen acts like Bowie and The Floyd at The Marquee all those years ago...

Tony Visconti plays some awesome bass riffs on this album, check out ' Black Country Rock'. The albums has a distinctly psychedlic edge too and sorry but the Floyd similarities seem now so obvious. One wonders how Syd Barrett's direction would have taken had he not chosen another destination, similar to David Bowie? Anyhow digressing from this album The Man Who Sold The World is an excellent album and is a must for any Bowie enthusiast.

Report this review (#179230)
Posted Saturday, August 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
Easy Money
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars For anyone still looking for that ever elusive classic progressive rock album by David Bowie, you have found it here. The Man Who Sold the World combines Bowie's usually smart, and sometimes smart-assed, art rock with the longer more progressive song structures that were very popular during the early 70s when this album came out. Bowie is one of those artists that is so good that he has more than one best album, so along with Low and Black Tie White Noise, this is also Bowie's best album.

Bowie's influences on this album include early Gabriel led Genesis, Arthur Brown, Syd Barret, but most importantly Peter Hammill and Van der Graaf Generator. In some ways this album could be seen as one of the better VdGG albums that VdGG never put out. One of the hallmarks of early 70s progressive rock was the dramatic repeating chorus often backed by a Mellotron or real vocal choir. This album has dramatic repeating choruses in spades, and they all sound great. The lyrics on most of these songs are vague but interesting and seem to deal with themes like madness, alienation and an uncertain future. The lyrics on Saviour Machine tell the story of a future Messiah who denounces himself and preaches that true salvation will only come from ignoring him.

Another interesting feature on this album, and one that I have never heard on any other Bowie album, are these frequent break-out jams in which Ronson, Visconti and Woodmansey play heavy rock improvs grounded in moving bass lines in a style similar to Cream, Mountain or Black Sabbath. These jam sessions sound great and I'm surprised Bowie never returned to that style on later albums. This album's combination of heaviness and 'artsiness' must have been a big influence on Nirvana, not only did they cover the song that bears the album title, but Bowie's She Shook Me Cold sounds like it could have been the inspiration to several songs off of Nevermind.

This album is highly recommended for people who love early 70s progressive rock, but especially recommended for all those folks who think Bowie only played glam rock, or younger people who's main familiarity with Bowie is that awful Let's Dance album. The songwriting on here is excellent and is definitely equal to any other classic early 70s album.

Report this review (#179469)
Posted Tuesday, August 12, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars I accidentally came across this album and was pleasantly surprised. The title song is well known and is very good, but what's more important, most of the album is even better; what a surprise!

I've never expected experiencing Bowie as a hard rocker, this is, at many moments, on pair with Black Sabbath, mostly due to heavy guitar and bass riffs, but also due to not-so-very-inspiring dark themes - madness, evil, death, drugs, corruption, nobody loves me, the world is cruel and I'm very angry/sad, discontent, discontent, discontent! - standard, nothing really groundbreaking - definitely the weakest point of the album (I apologise if I got something wrong here). That's why I usually don't care much about this kind of lyrics no matter how well they're written - they often spoil the music.

Anyway, lets get back to the music which is almost groundbreaking: progressive elements are noticeable, but discrete, just the way they should be on an album such as this one; glam and early metal elements come more to expression which actually squeezes this among those proto-metal albums. Well, what do you know, Bowie as a metalhead!

His vocal delivery is great and theatrical; similar to Hammill and Gabriel, but I don't think he was influenced by either of them (this is 1970 album); it's his own style. Songs are fresh, diverse, enjoyable and of high quality, only Running gun blues doesn't get my attention. She shook me cold clearly shows Hendrix's influence on Ronson's playing and Visconti is particulary good on keyboards.

Overall, a very decent heavy-prog album and probably Bowie's best.

Report this review (#180645)
Posted Saturday, August 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Man who Sold the World is one of Bowie's best releases. The one thing that makes this record standing apart from Bowie's later albums is it's underground hardrock sounding full of psychedelic findings. This album is not so different sounding than the Space Oddity, but the songs are better written and things seem to work out better. With this record Bowie was already screaming for attention by clothing like a woman, but the sound is far from the more commercially sounding Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, which are also good, but lost the psychedelic touch.

Some point out the greatness of Width of a Circle and even dare to call it progressive. I do agree this is a great song, but what I think what really makes this record so good is the absence of weak(er) tracks. For me "All the madmen" - with the great flute arangements -, "Black Country Rock" - with it's great vocals and unusual sounding hardrock, although in bluesrock schemes, "After All"- with it's moody sound - and so on and on are all great.

We find Bowie here in his most creative moment. He had not found yet any standard for songwriting. Therefor he sounds a bit searching which lead to creativity. One of the best (if not the best) records Bowie did ever deliver. This record is advised for everyone interesting in underground hardrcock, psychedelic rock or in Bowie.

Report this review (#185554)
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars If ever I was forced with the horrible task of choosing just one David Bowie album to accompany me to that storied desert island, it's likely that 1972's THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD would make the boat. Granted, it would be very difficult to leave the other main contender for my affections, the Mick Ronson (guitar, Mott The Hoople) era companion piece ZIGGY STARDUST, behind. Track for track ZIGGY is arguably the more unified whole, but there are simply too many outstanding tracks on this one which I couldn't do without on my coconut-strewn sand spit.

My bitter exile would be sweetened by the rocking lead, driving bass and sweeping acoustic strains of the epic opener "Width of a Circle," the absolutely essential "All the Madmen," the infectious, joyous "Black Country Rock" and the psycho-anthemic "Running Gun Blues." Meanwhile, my sun-seared cerebellum could seek succor in the lullaby-like "After All," while the driving, cautionary sci-fi themed rocker "Savior Machine" might lead me to less lament the technological world I'd left behind. Thundering bass and great lead guitar aside, the erotic verses of "She Shook Me Cold" might lead to a fevered -- but ultimately unfulfilling -- undertaking: that of constructing a buxom coconut-breasted "girl Friday" from a washed-up Wilson soccer ball, palm frond skirt, sundry swatches of my discarded threadbare clothing, and some of those countless plastic water and detergent bottles which always end up in the sea. (Yes, much like Tom Hanks in Castaway -- but this time without the unhinged, hopelessly dependent, disquietingly homoerotic relationship with a gory piece of underinflated sports equipment). On second thought, it might be best to avoid that track... The words of the title song would doubtlessly speak volumes to me in such a situation ("You're face to face with the man who sold the world..."), and that wonderful Ronson lead motif could provide me with the just the hook I'd need to catch some protein and omega 3-rich fish -- must keep my strength up for raft building! Finally, album closer "The Supermen" could inspire the raising of a private army of coconut shell- armoured warriors to annex the next islet over, as the track's pounding, tribal drums give the signal to advance! (Or maybe to just caper in ash-painted delirium around the signal fire..)

Eccentric reviewing techniques and belaboured metaphors aside, THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD is a fabulous, essential early Bowie album. Crank it up -- it's not as if there are any neighbours to disturb!

Report this review (#279786)
Posted Thursday, April 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars No other Bowie album has so much spontaneous creativity, rocking power and grooving fun as The Man Who Sold The World. Each song is an example of song writing excellence and some of them even look a bit progressive from a distance.

More importantly, the band sounds tight and passionate, not as confident and extravagant as the early prog masterpieces from those years, but still quite remarkable compared to most mainstream rock in 1971. Of exceptional note is Mick Ronson, Bowie's lead guitar player, a man with a great feel and passion in his playing. He never got more room to shine with Bowie then on this album.

The song writing sits somewhere inbetween Syd Barret influenced psychedelic rock (After All, Running Gun Blues) and early 70's blues rock. Somehow, early Jethro Tull even comes to mind. Songs like Black Country Rock and She Shook Me Cold sound very similar to the Benefit album, that is without the flute and with an entirely different type of vocalist obviously, but somehow this rock music has the same crunch. Bowie sounds particularly British here, quite funny.

If you're looking for Prog, I can't guarantee your satisfaction. There are certain psychedelic influences, and the arrangements go beyond the standard rock sound of bass, guitar and drum. But the songwriting is straightforward. The Width of a Circle may be 8 minutes long but it doesn't have the compositional fluency of Prog epics, it's more like a medley of different short songs really.

But all of these songs are consistently strong, charming and genuine. Too bad this only lasted for one album, as Bowie went on to pursue more commercially viable directions on the ensuing releases. 3.5 stars

Report this review (#280807)
Posted Friday, May 7, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars In my opinion, this is the most progressive Bowie album he has ever released, for one reason; THE WIDTH OF A CIRCLE, the Toud De Force that opens this classic Bowie album, 8 minutes of quite arty progressive music, oh but thats not the only song that rules on this album as some standout tracks include the obvous title track THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD, ALL THE MADMEN, AFTER ALL and the final track THE SUPERMEN which arint just great songs but feature great musicmanship and have terrific storylines to them. Thre isnt really a concept to this album but a lot of songs are inspired by the works of great literary figures such as Friedrich Nietzsche and H. P. Lovecraft. As with every Bowie album (and indeed most albums released at the time) the production is great with a real raw sound on some tracks and a real sheen on others;

The Width of a Circle - 10/10 All the Madmen - 7/10 Black Country Rock - 7/10 After All - 9/10 Running Gun Blues - 7/10 Saviour Machine - 7/10 She Shook Me Cold - 7/10 The Man Who Sold the World - 10/10 The Supermen - 9/10

My Conclusion? another great Bowie album and a real great addition to any collection.

Report this review (#283108)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars This is often regarded as the first "real" David Bowie album, and maybe there's some truth to that, but I don't think it's that great. My understanding is that, for various reasons, Bowie had a relatively small amount to do with the music on this album that bears his name; the songs are all based on elements he came up with, sure, but new guitarist Mick Ronson and producer Tony Visconti ended up fleshing out the majority of the ideas he threw out. Bowie's impact primarily comes in the lyrics, the vocals, the atmosphere, and the "shocking" album cover with him in a dress. If those aspects are important to you, chances are you'll like this album more than I do; if they aren't, you probably won't.

So anyway, this being largely the work of his new guitarist and his producer, this largely ends up as a messy hard rock album that often borders on heavy metal. Of course, Bowie's voice doesn't really work with this approach; he sounds far too weak and wimpy here to live up to the riffs and sounds that often dominate. Still, there's at least one classic here in the metal area of things, courtesy of the opening "The Width of a Circle." I kinda hated it at first because it was so loose in structure and without any especially strong riffs, but the guitar work is energetic and varied enough that it won me over, and the "heavenly" section with the "oh oh oh ..." vocals is rather nice. Unfortunately neither "Saviour Machine" (which has some weird annoying synth sound on top of the main guitar riff), "She Shook Me Cold" (interestingly ugly at first, but turns into a boring jam) or "The Supermen" ultimately satisfy me on the heavy rock side of things. They're dark and moody and twisted, I get it, but I just don't find them interesting enough for me to care, and that's a good chunk of the album down the drain right there.

Of the remaining five tracks, the infamous title track is easily my favorite. I know it was slightly overexposed in the early 90's thanks to Nirvana covering it, but so sue me, I like the riff, I like the "Oh no, not me ..." counter-melody, I kinda like the lyrical subject matter, and I just think it's clearly the best song by pretty much any measure. The other four aren't fantastic, but they're good enough: "All the Madmen" is a good mid-tempo heavy stomper (though the carnival sounds, as much as they may match the subject matter, annoy me a bit) about a world where the only sane people left are in asylums; "Black Country Rock" is another decent mid-tempo rocker that's at its best when the guitar parts harmonize; "After All" is a nice low-key acoustic number on an album that badly needs a nice low-key acoustic number; and "Running Gun Blues" is an okayish acoustic-to-electric song with "controversial" lyrics and a terrible vocal delivery. Namechecking, wooo.

The thing is, there are some elements that make me want to talk myself into liking the album more. I mean, the atmosphere and the lyrics do work together in a pretty intriguing way on the whole, and it definitely has some strong standout tracks. It would probably help if the album had more strong material in the second half (aside from the title track, the second half is kind of a wasteland) and it left a stronger impression on me at the end. As is, there are plenty of Bowie albums I'd rather listen to than this one.

Report this review (#288660)
Posted Tuesday, June 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars As with many of the other reviewers here, this is probably my favourite David Bowie album. I'm generally quite a big Bowie fan, so that also makes it amongst my favourite rock albums, full stop.

It's an album that is quite hard to pin down, but it does manage to fall into a host of different pigeon-holes without sitting entirely comfortably in any of them. In terms of its form it is pretty progressive in the way that term is used to describe complex rhythms, key shifts and dynamic song-structure. It is also quite a hard-rocking album from a time that the genre was still pretty fresh. Having said all that, the influences are obvious [principally Hendrix I'd say] and in terms of cutting edge originality, although he's often credited as such, I don't think Bowie is a genuine innovator. That doesn't diminish this one jot - Bowie's take on things is always refreshingly idiosyncratic and exudes quality. He also always seems to surround himself with very talented individuals and exploits those talents very thoroughly - to the degree that his collaborators are sometimes seen as being literally exploited. Personally I think you only need to listen to the solo works of his team to determine where the balance of the creative direction lies.

One regret I do have is that Bowie's albums only featured the bass of producer Tony Visconti this once. The work is revelatory. Fabulous and under-rated as the guitar work of Ronson is, the melodic counter-play of the bass throughout this album adds a depth and complexity rarely heard from a four-string strummer. Its prevalence does of course add to the weight and the darkness of tone that dominates this release. The lyrical content is inky in its concerns; madness is an ever recurrent leitmotif along with murder, death and disturbing sexual encounter. But it's blackly comic too and there's a sardonic wit here that's regrettably absent from much of Bowie's later works.

It is possible to look at this album as carrying a concept - that isn't exactly rare amongst DB's output, but it does seem more consistently pursued here than on any other with the possible exception of the much later 1.Outside - which shares the gloom, but not the wit, nor the wealth of melodic invention. The lyrical content does seem far more cohesive and consciously constructed than most of his later work [he's famous for using the Dadaist technique of cut-ups for generating song-lines, which whilst it promotes freshness does also make for more random direction]. There is also the prog-lyric hallmark of the internal rhyme/para-rhyme scheme and there's some lovely stuff here:

President Joe once had a dream The world held his hand, gave their pledge So he told them his scheme for a Saviour Machine

They called it the Prayer, its answer was law Its logic stopped war, gave them food How they adored till it cried in its boredom

The style of delivery here is that which was to become so characteristic of Bowie's oevre for much of his long career; weird and arch - developed fully for the first time here and absolutely appropriate to the overall tone. Importantly everything seems to match up and gel here. All the contributors appear musically at the top of their game and the arrangements are rich without being over-done. The songs themselves are all strong, too. In spite of the tonal unity there's a fairly diverse range of both style and meter - the work ebbs and flows from song to song [and within song in regard to The Width of a Circle].

So is this album prog, hard-rock, metal, dark or funny? It's all of those things and although it is largely passed over in terms of critical attention amongst Bowie's catalogue, I'd say along with Low, it is a staggeringly impressive work. It may not break completely new ground - but it is entirely unique and probably far more influential than is generally supposed. As solid a five star rating as anything I'd consider...

Report this review (#305210)
Posted Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars I've been a huge David Bowie fan ever since my early teens, back in the late '90s, where I had a constant access to pretty much all of his '70s records. Having said that, it still took me a while to get around to experiencing The Man Who Sold The World, an album that I heard for the first time somewhere around 2003.

I remember vividly that Hunky Dory was my first complete David Bowie experience and I've pretty much went through all of his albums from there on, leaving The Man Who Sold The World far behind. This was of course completely unfair on my part since this release has some of his best material that he has ever recorded. The downside is that this great material is mixed together with a few lesser tunes but the final result still manages to be great in the end.

The material featured on The Man Who Sold The World never really feels in balance like it does on Bowie's next few records and instead jumps sporadically all over the place. There are a few excellent numbers like the album opening 8-minute track The Width Of A Circle, forgettable tunes like Black Country Rock and She Shook Me Cold, but most importantly, the masterpieces like All The Madmen, Saviour Machine and the infamous title track! I think that the explanation behind such a weird mix of compositions has to do with Bowie's uncertainty towards the direction he wanted to take his music and this eventually resulted in him giving Mick Ronson much more room than what he usually gets. The result is a much heavier album that fans of Ziggy Stardust might be accustomed to, but I personally love it!

The Man Who Sold The World is a very unique piece of David Bowie history that certainly deserves a place in any music collection, even though I wouldn't recommended it as an introduction album to Bowie, since this release sounds a bit different from what we've come to expect from him later on in his career.

***** star songs: All The Madmen (5:39) After All (3:52) Saviour Machine (4:26) The Man Who Sold The World (3:57)

**** star songs: The Width Of A Circle (8:06) The Supermen (3:40)

*** star songs: Black Country Rock (3:34) Running Gun Blues (3:12) She Shook Me Cold (4:15)

Report this review (#306584)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars "The Man Who Sold The World" is a classic beyond doubt. It has a certain dark, brooding, menacing feel to it. The opener "Width of a circle" sets the tone well with its hard-rock edge. It was paraticularly "heavy" for its time, just like the early Black Sabbath albums were. As for the guitar work, there are homages to Hendrix but Mick Ronson manages to pull it off and still sound the way that only Ronno can. Tony Visconti's bass work is quite excellent here too. Listen out for the psychedelic "All The Madmen" which is about coming to terms with insanity or simply alienation. "After All" is strangely beautiful, whilst "Black Country Rock" is a full on rock 'n' roll belter. The title track is also a highlight with its haunting sound and themes of searching our identity.

All this, and the great cover of Bowie in a dress, playing cards strewn on the floor of Haddon Hall makes it more than worth while. If you are a Bowie fan, this is absolutely essential (but you would probably already have it!) Lovers of progressive rock should have it too. I think that David was going from strength to strength and even better releases were yet to come! Four solid stars.

Report this review (#432669)
Posted Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars One of the most interesting hard rock albums out there! Bowie's career is so diversified in terms of music and quality, and this is really his first great album, and probably most underrated and overlooked. The guitar playing here is phenomenal, as is the bass playing, played respectively, by Mick Ronson and producer Tony Visconti.

David Bowie is not a great melodist. His usual routine is to have quite poor melodies, backed by great instrumentations (though he's had his share of good melodies over the years). Here, the melodies are great, and his faux-cockney vocals sound really good. Never before or after did he sound as good as he does here, as consistently. It's the diversity in the lyrics, from madness, to blood lust, to a melancholy waltz with lyrics about God knows what. Bowie's next album, goes into full on folk-pop, and his previous offering to this was quite folky, but this mixture of hard rock, folk, lyrical imagery and great guitars/vocals, makes this Bowie's earliest masterpiece. Check this one out before his more well known one's, and you might be surprised how good it is. I'd give it an "A-".

Report this review (#456695)
Posted Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Rating: 8.5/10

Great 2nd album for Bowie.

Although it always suffered, unfairly of course, some kind of resistance by a part of the audience and critics.

Part of this is indeed because it remains today as one of Bowie's most unaccessible records.

So it is possible that a lot of them didn't or couldn't understand it.

But certainly Bowie was expanding both his musical styles and songwriting/interpretation.

The demolition start with "The Width of a Circle" and "All the Madmen" show even progressive rock signs and though it was never a Bowie strength, he surely makes it interesting and musically rich.

Of course "The Man Who Sold the World" -the song- is another highlight mostly because of its simple beauty -both music and lyrics are instantly attaching-.

Definitively not a recommended starting point for Bowie's work but one of the most creative, powerful and complex ones.

Report this review (#459197)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars Like Bowie's previous album (Space Oddity), this one has a title track in a mildly different style from the other songs on here which completely steals the show. Unlike Space Oddity, the other songs don't fall much short of the title track's high standards! With Mick Ronson promoted to Bowie's full-time musical collaborator and Bowie distracted during the recording process by his wedding, this album sees Ronson stamping a more hard rock direction on most of the songs - another stylistic shift, though Bowie is more than up to rising to the challenge, proving that he can belt out a rock number just as his previous albums had him crooning to Anthony Newley-styled pop or singing in a psych-folk style.

Musically and lyrically, the album builds on what has gone before, adding a mildly progressive edge on the instrumental side whilst Bowie's songs develop his preoccupation with sci-fi messiahs and other strange topics. It wouldn't be until his next album that Bowie would hit on the glam style which would take him through Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane, Pinups and Diamond Dogs, but the heavy proto-glam on display here is an intriguing experiment which most Bowie fans will want to savour at some point, and which Bowie neophytes will probably be able to enjoy too.

Report this review (#461983)
Posted Wednesday, June 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars 'The Man Who Sold The World' was where I came in with David Bowie although I only remember the version with the black and white cover and its picture of Ziggy Stardust, guitar in hand, impersonating a can-can dancer, rather than the one with the effete man-dress sleeve. You really have to marvel at Bowie for his serial reinvention and for always being at the cutting edge; thanks to his perpetually modulating personae his image has probably taken more of a pounding than a well-torpedoed hull.

On this album he cast himself against type by turning to Americanised guitar-oriented heavy rock, albeit with a hoofing great dose of prog. And the lyrics had a decidedly dark and intellectual posture. Here Bowie's words talk: about supernatural sex, about insanity, about Nietzchian philosophy, about war. The end result of this marriage of roots rock and arty-farty texts is an almost perfect storm of futuristic hard rock.

Report this review (#540535)
Posted Sunday, October 2, 2011 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Prog Metal Team
4 stars It must have been a shock to the system for fans of Bowie's Space Oddity release to hear something like this as his follow-up. Embracing the harder edged rock scene burgeoning in Britain, this album is as much about Mick Ronson's heavy guitarwork as it is Bowie's songwriting and lyrics, which are dark and rife with a paranoid atmosphere. Fitting for the year 1970. It's pretty much the furthest Bowie would embrace hard rock, although much of the credit should be given to the producer, who had a large hand in this release as Bowie had his new wife on his mind much of the time during the recording and didn't completely oversee the album's construction. The results, nevertheless, are a gas.

Growing up in the US, I never saw the original UK cover of Bowie in that man-dress back in the day, but instead the black and white Ziggy sleeve was how I remember this effort. Funny how it was considered that the US wouldn't go for the original UK cover. I suppose the US fought a war against Britain a couple of hundred years ago to be spared that sort of thing. Well, he did interviews in that sort of getup in the US, so tough luck on that!

"The Width of a Circle" opens things with some feedback before launching into an energetic groove with a space rock aura at times. It's long, but moves and shifts often enough to feel like a much shorter tune. "All the Madmen" is another beast with proggy elements and a non- formulaic song structure. Great stuff. Mick puts on a showcase during many of these songs, particularly concerning the opening track and the latter half of "She Shook Me Cold" where his soloing sounds like a hybrid of the solos in "Voodoo Chile" and "Dazed And Confused".

Despite the overall loud volume, there is plenty of variety and mellower tunes to complement the straight up rockers, such as "After All" which is a nice bit of respite from the aggression. The title track, which unfortunately is considered by some as "that Nirvana song", is a well deserved classic, not a full on rocker but has a non-poppish attitude while being incredibly catchy with a killer guitar hook.

The album ends with a song that has an H.P. Lovecraft vibe (the writer, not the band) and Bowie seriously gets into the lyrics. It's dark and more than a bit odd and it's sung with such an exaggerated accent that VdGG's frontman must have thought "Is that dude making fun of me?"

Despite not being an iconic album to the extent that a few of his other works achieved, it's one of his most thrilling and entertaining. It may not be the first album to get when discovering the man's work, but maybe after checking a couple of his widely heralded releases, don't pass this up.

Report this review (#574911)
Posted Friday, November 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars After the slight flop of Space Oddity, Bowie decided, in his anger at the music industry to make a slightly more angrier and hard rock album. And with Bowie's art pop approach to music, he scanned the area and saw what was popular. So with Hard Rock coming from the States, and the Prog Rock scene coming from the UK, Bowie decided to meld the 2 and create a godly amalgamation.

So did it work for him. Yes and no. When this album came out, it didn't do the best for Bowie. It did alright for him, but really didn't achieve the success his future career would soon bestow upon him. I do think as time progresses, this album will get another look and everyone will see that it is actually a brilliant album.

Sound wise, this must be Bowie's most consistent album. Usually on Bowie's albums, the sounds and paces of the songs can change a lot throughout, but on this album they all seem to have a similar tone throughout.

Bowie's vocals are definitely one of the biggest highlights of the album. Throughout his career his voice has opted for a lower and more defined range, but in his early career, especially shown on this album, Bowie's voice seemed to have no range whatsoever, and was hitting notes even trained opera singers would have trouble belting.

The albums sound is also backed up with his musical ensemble, who contains non other than his future guitar wizard and musical partner Mick Ronson, and some other musicians who would be involved in his future classic line up, The Spiders From Mars. If anything, this could even be considered the proto Ziggy period of Bowie.

The album opener "The Width Of A Circle", one of Bowie's longest compositions, is up there among my personal favourites. Almost like two songs in one, the first half shows the more rock orientated sound of Bowie while the second deals with some slight more soulful moments. The real highlight of the track is Bowie's vocals, which imitates Mick Ronson's guitar playing in a brilliant fashion.

As much as I like the song "After All", I can't help but find something very Spinal Tap about the vocals, especially with the phrase 'oh by jingo.' Other than that, it is a very well arranged song and does have some rather surprisingly beautiful moments.

"Running Gun Blues," a song about the Vietnam war has some surprising lyrics (Gooks is the word that comes to mind. A brilliant satire about the war and some pretty nice rocking moments throughout, especially Bowie's screaming vocals.

The title track is probably the most known track from the album, due to the many covers. In my opinion, it would probably be the weakest track on the album. The arrangement is great though throughout, especially with the walking bassline in the chorus.

The album closer "The Supermen", a Nietzsche inspired lyrical tale ends the album in a very pompous and over the top manner. Brilliant end to a rather gilded affair.

In conclusion, this is definitely up there with one of my personal favourites of Bowie. It's not my favourite album, not by a long shot, but during this period of Bowie's career, I do see the seeds of his future and relative genius. I recommend really giving this album a listen, it may surprise you.


Report this review (#1009468)
Posted Thursday, August 1, 2013 | Review Permalink

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