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David Bowie - Hunky Dory CD (album) cover


David Bowie

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In 1971, the relation with Philips are at their lows and De Fries negotiated a three album contact with RCA. Just over two months later, "Hunky Dory" was released.

In some sort, it is a come back to a more folkish sound after the hard-rocking "The Man Who Sold The World". A much "lighter" album with delicate arrangements.

Do notice the very good piano work. From Mr. Rick Wakeman. He already played on David's second album. David said once that he would have liked to integrate Rick as a full-time member but Rick will opt for "Yes". I can't really imagine Rick on stage during the Ziggy tour. Might have been funny though.

There are some jewels on this album. Even if "Changes" won't be a huge commercial success as a single, the chorus has become very famous and sooooooo catchy. A song which might sound as innocent, is in fact again using the theme of a super race who will dominate the world (David already used these Nietzsche theme in "The Supermen" on "The Man.").

He also reflects this in the lyrics of "Quicksand": "I'm not a prophet or a stone age man. Just a mortal with the potential of a superman". Maybe a bit pretentious though.

But THE highlight is of course "Life On Mars?". A superb and melancholic rock ballad. Again, Rick is just great on the piano and the chorus part is probably the most melodic one David has ever written. A fantastic moment of music.

David is also writing three songs deeply inspired by an important source of inspiration: "Andy Warhol", "Song For Bob Dylan" and "Queen Bitch".

Even if the first one is a bit boring, the lyrics are rather premonitory of what will take place a little later (Ziggy). In respect with the second one, David is a great admirer of Bob Dylan and at the time the man was rather scarce on stage. Fans were urging for a come back and David decided to give it a push with this song. A nice homage actually:

"Oh, hear this Robert Zimmerman, I wrote a song for you. About a strange young man called Dylan. With a voice like sand and glue. His words of truthful vengeance. They could pin us to the floor".

"Queen Bitch" is of course dedicated to Lou Reed and his gloomy world. Great riff ("Sweet Jane" where are you?), approaching vocals at times and the mood which is so Lou Reed. Another highlight (the fourth or fifth one).

David is referring to his half-brother Terry (at least it is supposed so because he was never explicit about it). He did it already with "All The Mad Men". A touching acoustic song.

This album is completely different from "The Man.". More intimate, less rocking which might sound as a paradox since the whole Spiders gang is now in place (Bolder replaced Visconti in the band).

The legend is on its way. The explosion is near. Four stars.

Report this review (#174854)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is, quite simply, everything that I love about music. It's dramatic, depressing, energetic, epic, satirical, sexy and PROGRESSIVE! It is hard to pin down the style and genre that this album encompases, but needless to say, the heavy guitars have been left far behind. It could be described as progressive glam. Bowie twists and turns through eleven tracks, nine of them being absolute gems, one being a mediocre transitioanl track, and one being in my humble, honest, and correct opinion the best song ever. (The correct was for dramatic effect, please don't be offended if you are not of this opinion). On my favourite album ever. By my favourite artist ever. So how does one go about reviewing one's favourite album. Well, since I probably have a considerable amount to say about each song, I'll do what I normally do, and take it track by amazing track.

So, 'Changes', both a commercial hit, and an eerily prophetic description of Bowie's future career. This self portrait of our favourite chameleon (musically speaking) is a great opener to an album that will spawn better songs, but none more famous or instantly recognisable. Bowie's chant of ch-ch-ch- changes is utterly iconic, and the phrase 'strange fascination' is the title of a book written about him. 'Oh! You Pretty Things' is a brilliant tune, epitomising Bowie's glam rock period (although this album is not pure glam, this song is). It is a good piece of story telling as well, describing the uprise of children as a higher race of humans, the 'homo superior' since 'homo sapiens have outgrown their use'. An utterly brilliant sing along chorus cements this song's legendary status as a glam rock anthem along wiht Mott the Hoople's (Bowie-penned) 'All the Young Dudes' and T. Rex's 'Bang a Gong (Get it On). 'Eight Line Poem' is th only time the quality suffers on this album, having more lyrical merit than musical. But these lyrics only occupy eight lines (unsurprisingly) off a two minute song, and interest may be lost during this track. Not to say that is bad, as a drop in quality on such a great album is far from disasterous. 'Life on Mars?' remedies any boredom, with one of Bowie's greatest songs. This one is beautiful yet depressing, as well as having one of David's greatest vocal performances. This is one that will be on every single compilation, played on every single radio station, and sung at every karaoke event, but it is not one bit less amazing for it. Not many tunes can stand up to over exposition like this one. 'Kooks' is a funny and humourous track, seemingly about a very odd, and possibly homosexual couple, adopting a child, predicting the fun to be had (not of a sexual nature, thank goodness Bowie leaves that topic alone for once). This ranks amongst Bowie's most truly uplifting tunes. But 'Quicksand is pure depression. Name-checking historical character's such as Himmler and Crowley very early on, you know this isn't going to be a happy ride. Bowie speaks about meaninglessness and futility, with very tortured vocals, and a tune as somber as death. If you are suicidal please do not listen to this, it may just push you over the edge with lyrics such as 'Don't decieve with belief/ Knowledge come's with death's release'. Fortunately we are treated to an extremely cheerful song next, a cover of Tiny Tim's 'Fill Your Heart'. David puts on a very high pitched voice here, to sing the very uplifting lyrics, even more hapilly than on 'Kooks'.

Next we have several character sketches. 'Andy Warhol' is a light hearted criticism of the famous New York artist. It starts with a discussion about the pronunciation of Warhol, before the song starts. This one is notable for an extremely minimalistic solo, fitting in as being a satire of Warhol's work. 'Song for Bob Dylan' is a very heart felt and underrated. Bowie takes on the tone of classic Dylan ('witha voice like sand and glue'), and pleades wiht him to return to his roots of classic folk rock, rather than the subpar commercial music he had taken to. A very catchy chorus is a highlight of this song. 'Queen Bitch' is one of Bowie's most full on glam songs, but unfortunately does not have an anthemic chorus. That aside it is a very brilliant song focusing on Lou Reed of The Velvet Undergound fame (another of my favourite bands). Bowie would go on to produce Reed's 'Tranformer' album, which I intend to purchase one of these days. And finally, as I promised you, there is the best song ever. 'The Bewlay Brothers' is a CRIMINALLY overlooked gem. This song is so emotional with the some amazing lyrics, drenched in wonderful mellotron courtesy of Mick Ronson (not Wakeman, who only played piano on this album!) The weird ending finishes the song, and album, perfectly. Its talk of gravy and shoes maybe a inspired by a part of Bowie's impenetrable, complex and drug-inspired psyche that we will never understand.

So, to conclude, Hunky Dory, is simply amazing, and in my opinion every fan of good music should not be without this. I will doubtless play this regularly until the day that I die.

This is particualrly recomended to fans of classic, and particularly glam, rock, but an open minded prog fan should have a space in their heart (and shelves) for this disc of incredible and eclectic music. Without a doubt in my heart, I shall give this five stars.

Report this review (#174928)
Posted Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This album is a masterpiece of songwriting if not of production. Two obvious hits (Changes and Life on Mars) are set within the eclectic mix of post-Hippie psychedelia, acoustic acid-folk musings, plain hard rocking with distinguished guitar riffs by Mick Ronson, British music-hall dramatic tunes and glam-rock visuals. Rick Wakeman's piano is mostly the leading instrument and it provides a very artistic sensation invoking classical art of the past. Bowie has here completely developed his unique songwriting style and performance that would be used as a basis on his subsequent works. A must in any decent music collection!


P.A. RATING: 5/5

Report this review (#175379)
Posted Thursday, June 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
Chris S
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars It is amazing to think Rick Wakeman collaborated with so many great artists like Bowie and even Strawbs but Hunky Dory has to be one of David Bowie's finest albums. The first album released through RCA and it has some of his finest most notorious tracks like the opener Changes and the masterful Life On Mars.

Great play on Andy Warhol, the challenge to the great Bob Dylan on Song To Bob Dylan. Noticeable contributions also from Trevor Bolder on bass. Tis a small world this progressive world. Hunk Dory is a must have for any new David Bowie enthusiasts. Any establish Bowie collector will already have this near the top of the pile. Thoroughly entertaining.

Report this review (#176145)
Posted Saturday, July 5, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars David Bowie's first pop record.

While "the man who sold the world" and "A space oddity" are a mix of psychedelic/experimental music and (hard)rock this record is much more pop orientated. Space oddity did bring up a good radiohit but the record didn't deliver many more songs which were "radio friendly". Hunky Dory however can put forth each song for radioplay.

From this position I could give this record a low rating because this is a progressive network we're working in, but that doesn't do any fair to the catchy songs on this record. I'm not gonna describe the songs, but i'll try to give you an idea of the spirit of the record. If you have heard their hit "changes" and can imagine a record full of this kind of songs than you'll come pretty close to what is this record all about. Than you slow down some of the songs and make some of the songs a bit heavier than you've got Hunky Dory.

3,5 stars for this effort.

Report this review (#185555)
Posted Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars I rememer when I bought this album in 1973, 12 years old. The family was on its way to the holiday camp and we kids brought our "old" record player along. We only had a dozen of records, so a new arrival was something special. Some albums are strange. I´ve probably heard "Hunky Dory" more than any other record and it still present something new. It has that kind of eternal quality that few other albums offer.

In comparison to Bowies previous record, the hard rocking "The man who sold the earth" ,"Hunky Dory" seems like a radical turn in direction, which is (i belive) not the case. Bowie use the same formula, but instead of a full frontal approach he choose a more delicate way of arrangements. Rick Wakemans contibutions to realise this should not be underestimated. Together with Mick Ronson, he help Bowie to create a soundscape between the "folk rock" of David Bowie" (aka Space oddity) and the more avant garde influences from the Velvet underground. The final result needs no comments. It´s one of those records that only gets better and better.

Report this review (#250294)
Posted Friday, November 13, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Lots of okay jazzy country or countrified jazz and the occasional folk-sounding tune populate this album. In all, it teeters on the generic, and is sometimes downright hokey. If anything, the album starts out highly enjoyably and ends fantastically, but most of what's sandwiched in between is of very little interest.

"Changes" From its funky jazz introduction to its melodic verses over major and minor-seventh chords, this short ditty is a fun one, and contains one of Bowie's best vocal performances. This staple of classic rock radio remains one of my favorite songs from him.

"Oh! You Pretty Things" Hammered-out piano chords and Bowie's thin but unmistakable voice make up this second song, and it's particularly rewarding when it explodes into an enjoyable fullness. The chorus has almost the same progression as the one from "Changes."

"Eight Line Poem" Over sparse piano and twangy guitar, Bowie sings in an exaggerated way- kind of an uncomfortable bore, really.

"Life on Mars?" Not only does the title give this impression, but the music of this sounds like a precursor to the upcoming album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It has a great refrain, with swirling strings and a fabulous piano.

"Kooks" Something of a bouncy honky-tonk song, this one is cute and a little fun, but that's about it.

"Quicksand" This song is more of a folk tune, with heavy-handed acoustic guitar and whiny vocals.

"Fill Your Heart" One of Bowie's most saccharinely happy songs, this one makes good use of the peppy strings and saxophone.

"Andy Warhol" This track has strange electronic noises and some talking and laughing before the song proper starts. Musically, it's the most forceful of the acoustic tracks, but the vocal melodies bog the piece down. It eventually loses its way and just falls apart.

"Song for Bob Dylan" Bowie does an okay job emulating Bob Dylan's lazy vocal inflections, although the highlight of this little tribute is the solid electric guitar lead.

"Queen Bitch" The only song on the album I would consider a proper rock song, this has a strong electric guitar riff and a flamboyant air that rather serves as a herald of Bowie's well-known glam rock style.

"The Bewlay Brothers" The final song is a steady work with a dramatic build. While retaining the rustic flavor, this one has a bit of an exotic feel in places. This rather generic album ends magnificently, with one of Bowie's most creative offerings.

Report this review (#275593)
Posted Tuesday, March 30, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the start of the Bowie everyone knows and loves, the glam pop/rock era. Now while not really prog during this time there was always a great sence of avant guard and expirimentation on most of David Bowie's works, and this is no different. The first five songs on this album i think is teriffic, the pop/folk of CHANGES, the poppy OH! YOU PRETTY THINGS, EIGHT LINE POEM, LIFE ON MARS and the quirky KOOKS really floor you when the album starts with just how good the songwriting is, i think it goes a little downhill before gaining it back with the daft titled ANDY WARHOL (written about Mr. Warhol himelf) and the tribute to Bob Dylan with SONG FOR BOB DYLAN. This is also the first albums in a series of albums in which Bowie is joined by the brilliant Mick Ronson and started one of the greatest rock partnetships in rock history, so quite the album;

Changes - 10/10 Oh! You Pretty Things - 9/10 Eight Line Poem - 9/10 Life on Mars? - 10/10 Kooks - 9/10 Quicksand - 7/10 Fill Your Heart (Biff Rose, Paul Williams) - 7/10 Andy Warhol - 9/10 Song for Bob Dylan - 9/10 Queen Bitch - 8/10 The Bewlay Brothers - 7/10

My Conclusion? what can i say without repeating myself? another great Bowie album, worth the buy.

Report this review (#283109)
Posted Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Wow, where did this come from? Unless I'm missing an obvious candidate, this would have to have been the biggest Breakthrough Album For Somebody Who Kept Showing Promise But Couldn't Quite Put It All Together since Face to Face, right? On this album, David left rambling heavy rock behind him and instead opted for an album of well- crafted, quirky pop songs, and the effort was so successful that it's not clear why he didn't do this sooner or make any more albums similar to this. It gets weaker in the second half, but not tremendously so, and it's one his most solid collections of songs ever.

The first half, of course, contains two of his biggest hit singles ever, and they're both top- notch as far as Bowie goes. "Changes" is a little rambling in the verses, but the instrumental breaks and the chorus are as interesting as can be, almost reminding me of prime Elton John but retaining a brand of intrigue that's definitely unique to Bowie. "Life On Mars?" somehow didn't grab me much the first couple of times, as it struck me as just an unremarkable over-orchestrated ballad; now, I'd have to rate it as one of the greatest over- orchestrated ballads I've ever heard. The lyrics, about wanting to lose yourself in a fantasy world because the real world is dull and uninteresting, are phenomenal, and Bowie belts them with passion over a combination of a good orchestral arrangement and great Rick Wakeman piano lines. Who'd have thought such an interesting combination of bizarre social commentary and catchiness could have come from a "My Way" parody?

The first half, aside from the semi-fillerish, kinda lazyish country of "Eight Line Poem," also contains three songs that are among my favorite Bowie pop songs. "Oh! You Pretty Things" is upbeat piano pop of the highest caliber, both in the verses (which strangely, though not enough for me to claim any sort of ripoff, remind me of Procol Harum; I keep getting "The Milk of Human Kindness" going in my head when I listen to this) and the ridiculous chorus, which basically turns the track into a sexually ambiguous Paul McCartney song. "Kooks" might be intended as a relatively slight track, intended for his son, but it strikes me as a nice ode to a warm friendship, and I've always enjoyed it. "Quicksand" doesn't have an especially strong melody, but it gets by on atmosphere and, shockingly, emotional power; the line, "And I ain't got the power anymore" has to be one of the most emotionally punchy moments in his whole catalogue.

As mentioned, the second half isn't quite as fantastic as the first, but it's still decent. "Fill Your Heart" is a silly cover with singing that might generously qualify as mediocre, and not one I especially look forward to hearing. Then comes a three-song "tribute" portion that strikes me as kinda bizarre; "Andy Warhol" starts with a seemingly random synth sequence played over conversation between Bowie and the producer about how to pronounce his name, but at least it turns into a mildly interesting up-tempo, downbeat acoustic number. It kinda strikes me as a stylistic leftover from Space Oddity; the good half, I mean. "Song for Bob Dylan" has some nice electric guitar licks, but aside from the namechecks, I'm not really sure what it has to do with Dylan; the lyrics certainly don't seem especially influenced by Dylan, aside from maybe a couple of lines in the chorus. Fortunately, "Queen Bitch" (a clear Velvet Underground/Lou Reed tribute) is top-notch, laying out all of the glam-rock elements that David would draw upon for the next couple of years, and it can compete with the best material from those albums.

The album ends on a somewhat deceptive note with "The Bewlay Brothers," but it's not a bad note. David returns to acoustic singer-songwriter mode, and the climactic moments, from when those painful (in a good way) guitar noises pop up, through the "... we were so turned on" lines, are enough to make the song worthwhile. The "main" melody isn't especially impressive, and I haven't the slightest idea what the lyrics are about (or if they're supposed to have meaning), but the song is a success no matter what.

So hats off to David Bowie! This wasn't quite his commerical breakthrough (it still took Ziggy to get him over the hump), but it's his artistic breakthrough, and history has rightly treated this well. I'd actually consider recommending getting this one first; it's not representative of his overall sound, but then again, no Bowie album is representative of his overall sound, so you might as well start with something that relies solely on musical merit, if you get me.

Report this review (#289013)
Posted Saturday, July 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Hunky Dory was my first David Bowie album and a love at first sight began to develop!

Even though I've later on developed a bigger crush with other Bowie albums, this release will always keep the honorary position of being the one that started it all. Side one is just flawless, featuring such well established classics like Changes, Oh! You Pretty Things and Life On Mars?. Unlike The Man Who Sold The World, which showed that Bowie was still struggling to find a direction, Hunky Dory feels like a very competent album that shows off all the best sides of the artist's repertoire and leaves very little room for improvement. This type of an overnight transformation is highly unusually and primerally shows the raw talent that David Bowie had in him. This talent would eventually be put to even greater use after the whole Ziggy Stardust craze died down and people began to acknowledge Bowie for his versatile artistry.

Side two of Hunky Dory might not be as strong as the first but I honestly didn't care much about it back in the day. This concern has only became apparent to me in the last few years where I started to question this album's high status in my collection. The two last songs, titled Queen Bitch and The Bewlay Brothers, are just not on par with everything that comes before them. But after revisiting Hunky Dory earlier today I was once again convinced that my love for this release is just as strong as ever and therefore there is no way that I'll back down from awarding it the highest honor of the essential rating!

Even if you dismiss this review as just another crazy fan rant, I still would recommend that you'll at least give Hunky Dory a visit since it definitely needs to be heard by more people. It might not be Bowie's artistic peak in terms of Art Rock but musically this is easily among his best performances both as a composer and performer.

***** star songs: Changes (3:34) Oh! You Pretty Things (3:12) Eight Line Poem (2:53) Life On Mars? (3:49) Kooks (2:49) Fill Your Heart (3:07) Andy Warhol (3:53)

**** star songs: Quicksand (5:04) Song For Bob Dylan (4:12) Queen Bitch (3:14) The Bewlay Brothers (5:22)

Report this review (#306591)
Posted Monday, October 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars As with many people, this is my first Bowie purchase and an excellent introduction to the man's chameleonic work. It delivers a few fantastic songs, as one might expect, but then surprises you with even more.

Hunky Dory sees David in a period of rising stardom, itself lending to his successes with the massive hit 'Changes', a catchy pop number driven by Rick Wakeman's piano (but more on him later). The album also yielded what is arguably one of Bowie's best songs, in fact, arguably one of pop music's best songs. I am of course referring to 'Life on Mars', the incredibly emotional dali-esque observation, containing enough super- chords to make one's eyes water; also accentuated by Rick's piano flurrying and the thick string arrangements of Mr Mick Ronson. But the music hidden beneath these mammoth singles survives on in a much more intimate way.

From rocky standards such as 'Song for Bob Dylan' and 'Queen Bitch', bluesy ballads like 'Eight Line Poem' and 'The Bewlay Brothers', and sing-along acoustic ditties such as 'Fill Your Heart', 'Andy Warhol' and 'Kooks', the album is varied but not what I would describe as diverse, because the instrumentation and vocals are very consistent. Consistently good! One of the highlights for me is 'Oh! You Pretty Things', with its odd piano verses and Beatlesy chorus. This song would have been as equally a successful single as 'Changes'. Another honourable mention must be paid to 'Quicksand', which is almost a less epic alternative to 'Life on Mars', clarifying David Bowie's talent at writing beautiful chord sequences.

All I can say about this gem is that, while its singles have received their due share of public adoration, its other tracks seem to have been overlooked by the masses (or perhaps by David himself). I am forcing myself to avoid the five-stars because of what will come, but Hunky Dory almost deserves five for 'Life on Mars' alone. Adhering to the Prog Archives descriptors though, this is an excellent addition to any collection. Not essential, but not to be missed; it's good!

Report this review (#404723)
Posted Monday, February 21, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is one where Bowie started to grow into a huge icon. "Changes" kicks it all off with its theatrical tone, focusing on David's constant artistic reinvention. It's very familiar but quite possibly the most sophisticated pop song ever created.

Overall, "Hunky Dory" covers many bases, from folk to rock to string enhanced ballads. Rick Wakeman plays piano on a few songs on this album, and really characterizes it. Bowie's guitarist, the criminally under-rated and incredibly versatile Mick Ronson, also had a hand in the sparse string arrangements that lace many tracks.

Songs like the bouncy "Kooks", the dramatic and powerful "Life On Mars?" and "Oh! You Pretty Things" are well-crafted jewels and fine examples of what pop music should sound like. The album is really well structured as well - each side of the original LP has happy/upbeat songs for the most part but finishes off with darker, emotive songs ('Quicksand' and 'Bewlay Brothers').

Bowie also pays tribute to some influences here too, including "Andy Warhol" which is a gentle folk rocker with some twisted lyrics and a hilarious spoken intro. Towards the end you'll hear the great glam rocker "Queen Bitch". Its lyrics are directed at those who try too hard to dress up but totally miss the point of doing it. (" God, I could do better than that!!" Bowie sings ... great lyrics on this one!). In all, it's an excellent David Bowie classic and a great place to start digging into his work.

Incidentally, the style of the album cover was influenced by a Marelene Dietrich photo book that Bowie took with him to the photo shoot. 4 shining stars.

Report this review (#434042)
Posted Friday, April 15, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars Rating: 10/10

Definitively David Bowie's career masterpiece.

In the decade in which he set up a whole new wave in different terms -on how intimate and shameless songwriting could get; how to eventually fashion and look, ergo "glam" could be a complement to music, ergo "glam rock"; and finally how to combine all this with serious craft work and music, ergo getting into a stage to perform and don't make people laugh; by the contrary have a big impact on them (both musically and esthetically) and grab their totally full attention-, David Bowie precociously -this was his 3rd release- creates a timeless work, not only attached to its time -for which it was mirror and definer-, but also a hopefully future for songwriters post-Dylan.

Actually you can hear "Hunky Dory" right now and it will still sound fresh.

Not futuristic, but fresh, actual.

Part of this accomplishment is the fact that Bowie took clues and signs from his main influences -and pretty much solo artist teachers- and added to it his own style -the thin fragile kinda shame guy that takes a lot of courage to pull out truth from every verse-, creating a unique way of creation and interpretation and, on the way, making his first masterpiece at the age of 24.

See, if any doubt, 2 of the titles from the track list: "Andy Warhol" and "Song for Bob Dylan".

Of course "Hunky" is a masterpiece; Bowie develops an incredible personal vision on music, as shown on the stammering piano line of "Changes" -also featuring one of Bowie's greatest vocal performances and chorus on a song- and "Oh! you pretty things".

It sounds new.

Not because of the use of machines or exotic instrumentation.

Because Bowie was conceiving a new way of creating and playing music.

It wasn't the tools he was using, but how he was using them.

Report this review (#459198)
Posted Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars The birth of Bowie's glam era sees all the different strands of his past efforts coming together to finally create an album which would mould and shape fashions to come rather than reflecting the fashions of the time. A pitch-perfect compromise between the rock and roll bravado of The Man Who Sold the World with the gentler folk and psych-influenced work from the first two albums, it's the most confident and self-assured of Bowie's pre-Ziggy album releases.

Just about every idea developed on the previous three albums is revisited here and perfected, in performances that blow Bowie's previous efforts away completely. The debut album, for example, never quite managed to include any quirky novelty songs even remotely as charming as Kooks, which wins me over every time despite being the silliest song on the album. (And despite having a "couple of kooks" for parents, Duncan Jones - previously known as Zowie Bowie - seems to have done pretty well for himself as an imaginative and critically acclaimed director.) Quicksand is a better slice of mystical New Age folk than anything on Space Oddity. And The Supermen and The Wild-Eyed Boy From Freecloud seem to have their successors in the subjects of Oh You Pretty Things.

As well as some iconic, top-notch rock songs - including opening track Changes, and the triumphant Velvet Underground tribute Queen Bitch - the album includes just enough of an art rock vibe to remain interesting to prog fans. As well as the prog folkish Quicksand, there's the gorgeous Life On Mars, which includes tasteful string arrangements and a slice of Mellotron from the enormously talented Mick Ronson and a breathtakingly beautiful piano performance from Rick Wakeman, who would turn down an invitation to be a Spider From Mars after this album in order to take on his much-celebrated first tour of duty in Yes.

It's not full-on prog, of course... but then again, if it were it would be in one of the prog categories, and not "prog-related". By the standards of this field, it's an absolute gem, and Bowie's first five-star masterpiece.

Report this review (#480259)
Posted Monday, July 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
4 stars To many, this is the first masterpiece album from Bowie. Maybe it's not in the masterpiece category for me, but I do like this one a lot, and it's much better than the preceeding The Man Who Sold The World, or the uneven Space Oddity. This includes well known songs 'Changes' and 'Life On Mars?', both among his greatest. This album is clearly in the singer-songwriter genre, flirting with various styles, but not much harder rock. I like the way Mick Ronson's guitar steps back a little and gives more room to Rick Wakeman's cabaret-style piano playing or other sophisticated arrangements. Bowie plays sax himself, by the way.

He had done dancehall-kind of music before, here he returns to it with 'Kooks' and 'Fill Your Heart'. 'Song For Bob Dylan' and 'Bewlay Brothers' are approaching folk genre. Besides Robert Zimmermann, also another American icon, Andy Warhol, is tackled here.

This album is good-natured, charming and very well produced. It may have some songs that are nothing special, and of course it's up to you (what kind of Bowie you prefer) how much you'll enjoy Hunky Dory. But a classic, no doubt.

Report this review (#624507)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Hunky Dory is arguably David Bowie's first classic album. It's unique yet familiar simultaneously, featuring some of his most well-known tracks, as well as a platter of lesser-known pop gems.

Bowie sounds a little whimsical and generally less intense than his Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke personas, with Hunky Dory representing a unique and individual place in his extensive music catalogue. Instead of most of the songs relating to an androgynous alien rocker or a cocaine-addled soul man's off-centered view of the world, on this record, Bowie is just being Bowie - singing tales of hypothetical young people trying to live life, to an impressively accomplished standard.

The lyrics are a deep and enriched by personal tensions and evocative imagery which Bowie brings through with his vocals - finally finding the unique singing voice he'd been searching for since the beginning of his career. 'Changes' is, without question, one of Bowie's undisputed classics. It sets the tone of the album well providing the foundation for Bowie's rebellion against misunderstanding.

'Oh! You Pretty Things' regurgitates the same formula to the same effect, but there are small glimmers of sorrow to balance out the upbeat tone of the tunes with touches of something more pensive - 'Fill Your Heart' is a good example of this. Even though the lyrics are hopeful and positive, the change of pace just before the end of the chorus is dark and almost cleansing in its own way..

The biggest song in terms of reputation is undoubtedly 'Life On Mars' - a sweeping epic packed with orchestration, unforgettable lyrics and melodic guitar. Aside from the aforementioned three "classics" ('Changes', 'Oh! You Pretty Things' and 'Life On Mars') are some overlooked tracks that are superb. 'Queen Bitch', the avant-garde 'Andy Warhol', and the jovial 'Kooks' being just a few choice cuts.

Hunky Dory is an excellent set of early Bowie classics, before he got caught up in the future-shock paranoia of his ever-changing personas. This record takes on a character of its own - a refreshing, pure and exhilarated Bowie. It's a nice balance to Bowie's more iconic glam rock 'Ziggy' phase, and as such, distinguishes itself as an essential part of any Bowie collection.

Report this review (#933239)
Posted Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars Listening to Hunky Dory with a packet of Hunky Dory Salt & Malt Vinegar crisps. Pretty great combination.

This album in many ways was a slight breakthrough for Bowie. After 3 albums which failed to breakthrough to any real markets or niches, Bowie released this album, and wouldn't you know it, 4th time's a charm.

If you do listen to this album, you can really see why this was a big success, and in my opinion, one of Bowie's best albums. I think overall it is definitely his most pop orientated album and even though weird splatters are heard throughout, the album is a lot more cohesive and radio friendly.

Musically the album is a lot more piano orientated, with Rick Wakeman (pre Yes years) showing brilliant piano and keys playing. The hard rock edge from "The Man Who Sold The World" is heard at times, but the real sound of the album centres around folk rock and early baroque pop.

Two of the albums biggest singles "Changes" and "Oh!You Pretty Things" are just perfect examples of Bowie's brilliant songwriting ability. Being able to take a catchy chorus, but still not taking away the power and brilliance of the songs themselves.

Even a simple song like "Eight Line Poem" is an incredibly brilliantly arranged song, with some really beautiful guitar work from Mick Ronson.

"Life On Mars?" is my opinion is one of Bowie's best, one of my personal favourite songs of all time and one of the greatest compositions ever. Even to this day, the song still astounds me, with the soaring chorus and rather strange lyrics. I'm still confused about the meaning of this song, but the more I listen to it, the more I understand of it. But I will never truly understand it.

The albums 3 tribute sounding songs "Andy Warhol", "A Song For Bob Dylan" and "Queen Bitch" are also massive highlights and rather comical moments on the album. "Queen Bitch" in particular, which is supposed to be influenced by The Velvet Underground, does better them a lot, especially with Bowie's ability.

The albums 2 longest compositions "Quicksand" and "The Bewlay Brothers" show of Bowie's dramatic side. With soaring strings and rather odd arrangements, they really hold your attention throughout.

In conclusion, this album reminds me a lot of Cat Steven's "Catch Bull At 4", they are basically, to me the pioneering albums of the 70's and really proved that in this era, some of the world's greatest songwriters where emerging out of the wood work. One of my personal favourite Bowie albums, with a little bit of something for everyone. If anything, this album proves that a toned down image and simpler songs really do bode well for Bowie. Sadly, things for him would become way more complicated.


Report this review (#1005664)
Posted Friday, July 26, 2013 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars This early work by Bowie has irresistible charm and depth, sticking to that sort of energetic mid-tempo pop-rock that appeals to pretty much everyone. Not yet the "glam rocker," Bowie here has crafted some handsomely arranged rock n' roll that wraps up a variety of styles and tones - from the boogie-woogie, to folk, to western, to classical, and back to rock n' roll again. It's a great listen, often lush and always emotive.

A handful of standouts, like the immensely likable "Changes," intricately composed "Life on Mars?", and experimental "Andy Warhol," grab one's attention. The other songs, while offering many points of interest for the careful listener, do drift somewhat into the background of acoustic and string textures. For me, the impression is that Hunky Dory would make excellent dinner-party music; inoffensive in its mild tone but also fun for its genuine charm. There's a timelessness here and in Bowie's performance. Bowie's voice and lyrics are of course excellent, as is the songwriting in general. Instrumental work is fine; not much to laud but effective overall.

Recommended but not essential. Hunky Dory is great if you're interested in Bowie the musician, or for thoughtful pop-rock that proves that the '70's really are the time to go for creative and genuine music.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 3 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Report this review (#1650800)
Posted Thursday, December 1, 2016 | Review Permalink
5 stars My Vote for Best Bowie Album.

While I generally prefer Bowie's later-70s albums, I think Bowie made his masterpiece with this album (made before Ziggy Stardust). Yes, it has a couple of his most radio-accessible tunes, like "Life on Mars", "Changes", "Kooks" and "All You Pretty Things", but if you listen closely the lyrics here are actually quite profound, for-telling of the real changes that not only Bowie would like to see, but which did in fact happen, and wrapped up on a language celebrating the new generation and new kinds of thinking (perhaps something akin to the importance of Bob Dylan's "The Time's, they are...", but through the eyes of a master writer using fantasy to produce social commentary). But while those are all great songs in their own right, the real treasures of this album come later, in the more avant-garde and poetic pieces, like "Quicksand", "Andy Warhol", "Queen Bitch" and especially "The Bewlay Brothers". These are compositions with real weight and depth, and Bowie here is very poetic, while also producing tunes that are very musical. While I have listened to tons of other Bowie albums, it was always this albums that sparked the most questions - I wish he were still around so I could ask them. I give this album 9.0 out of 10 on my 10-point scale, which puts this just into the 5 PA stars realm. This is the only 5-star Bowie album, in my opinion.

Report this review (#1698161)
Posted Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permalink

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