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HUNKY DORY

David Bowie

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David Bowie Hunky Dory album cover
4.19 | 353 ratings | 17 reviews | 41% 5 stars

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Studio Album, released in 1971

Songs / Tracks Listing


1. Changes - 3:37
2. Oh! You Pretty Things - 3:12
3. Eight Line Poem - 2:55
4. Life on Mars? - 3:53
5. Kooks - 2:53
6. Quicksand - 5:08
7. Fill Your Heart (Biff Rose, Paul Williams) - 3:07
8. Andy Warhol - 3:56
9. Song for Bob Dylan - 4:12
10. Queen Bitch - 3:18
11. The Bewlay Brothers - 5:22

Lyrics

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Music tabs (tablatures)

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Line-up / Musicians


* David Bowie - vocals, guitar, alto and tenor saxophone, piano
* Mick Ronson (as Michael Ronson) - guitar, vocals, Mellotron
* Rick Wakeman (as Richard Wakeman) - piano
* Trevor Bolder - bass, trumpet
* Mick Woodmansey (as Woody Woodmansey) - drums

Releases information

RCA -1971
Rykodisk -1990
EMI/Virgin - 1999

Thanks to micky for the addition
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DAVID BOWIE Hunky Dory ratings distribution


4.19
(353 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(41%)
41%
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(43%)
43%
Good, but non-essential (12%)
12%
Collectors/fans only (3%)
3%
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)
1%

DAVID BOWIE Hunky Dory reviews


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars IS THERE LIFE ON MARS ?

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.

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Review by Seyo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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!

PERSONAL RATING: 4,5/5

P.A. RATING: 5/5

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Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

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Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

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Review by tarkus1980
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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)

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Review by thehallway
PROG REVIEWER
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!

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Review by Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Review by Matti
COLLABORATOR Neo-Prog Team
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.

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Latest members reviews

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#1005664) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Friday, July 26, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 p ... (read more)

Report this review (#933239) | Posted by lukatherfan | Wednesday, March 20, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 fi ... (read more)

Report this review (#459198) | Posted by Mattiias | Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#434042) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Friday, April 15, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 teri ... (read more)

Report this review (#283109) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#250294) | Posted by Dr Pripp | Friday, November 13, 2009 | Review Permanlink

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 fri ... (read more)

Report this review (#185555) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 a ... (read more)

Report this review (#174928) | Posted by burtonrulez | Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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