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David Bowie The Man Who Sold the World album cover
4.00 | 455 ratings | 25 reviews | 24% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 1970

Songs / Tracks Listing

1. The Width of a Circle (8:05)
2. All the Madmen (5:38)
3. Black Country Rock (3:32)
4. After All (3:51)
5. Running Gun Blues (3:11)
6. Saviour Machine (4:25)
7. She Shook Me Cold (4:13)
8. The Man Who Sold the World (3:55)
9. The Supermen (3:38)

Total Time 40:28

Bonus tracks on 1990 remaster:
10. Lightning Frightening (1971 outtake from the Arnold Corns sessions) (3:38) *
11. Holy Holy (1971 re-recording of Aside from 1970 non-LP single) (2:20)
12. Moonage Daydream (1971 Arnold Corns version) (3:52)
13. Hang On to Yourself (1971 Arnold Corns version) (2:51)

* Previously unreleased

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / vocals, guitar, Stylophone, (harmonica ?)

- Mick Ronson / guitar, backing vocals (Moog, recorder ?)
- Ralph Mace / Moog modular synthesizer
- Tony Visconti / bass, piano, guitar, backing vocals, producer
- Mick Woodmansey / drums, percussion
- Tim Renwick / guitar (10)
- Mark Carr-Pritchard / guitar (12,13)
- Freddi Buretti / vocals (12,13)
- Trevor Bolder / bass (11-13)

Releases information

Artwork: Michael J. Weller

LP Mercury ‎- SR-61325 (1970, US)
LP Mercury ‎- 6338 041 (1971, UK) New cover art (by Keef)

CD RCA ‎- PD 84654 (1984, Europe) New cover art
CD EMI ‎- CDEMC 3573 (1990, Europe) Remastered by Toby Mountain w/ 4 bonus tracks
CD EMI ‎- 521 9010 (1999, Europe) 24-bit remaster by Peter Mew with Nigel Reeve

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DAVID BOWIE The Man Who Sold the World ratings distribution

(455 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(24%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(49%)
Good, but non-essential (23%)
Collectors/fans only (4%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DAVID BOWIE The Man Who Sold the World reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy

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".

Review by SouthSideoftheSky
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.


Review by Chris S
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Easy Money
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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.

Review by Peter
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR 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!

Review by Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by seventhsojourn
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by Prog Sothoth
COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by VianaProghead
5 stars Review Nš 205

"The Man Who Sold The World" is the third studio album of David Bowie and was released in 1970. It was Bowie's first album with the nucleus of what would become the "Spiders From Mars", the band who would be famous due to his future fifth studio album "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars", released in 1972. "The Man Who Sold The World" has been claimed that this was the album that marked the beginning of the glam rock.

The line up on the album is David Bowie (vocals, guitars, stylophone, organ and saxophone), Mick Ronson (backing vocals and guitars), Tony Visconti (backing vocals, bass guitar, piano, guitar and recorder), Mick Woodmansey (drums and percussion) and Ralph Mace (Moog modular synthesizer).

"The Man Who Sold The World" has nine tracks. All songs were written by David Bowie. The first track "The Width Of A Circle" is a hard rock song with heavy metal overtones. The song is divided into two different parts and it has a very explicit sexual lyrics. It starts with a very nice riff and all over the song it turns in many musical directions. It became in one of the most favourite songs of his fans. The second track "All The Madmen" is a song that opens with acoustic guitar and recorder before transforming into a heavy rock song featuring a great electric guitar work by Ronson. This is another excellent track that provides a kind of an atmosphere of some insanity and dementia throughout the album. The third track "Black Country Rock" is a blues rock number that compared with the two previous songs on the album we can say that it's a kind of respite from the musical thematically heaviness of the beginning of it. This is another excellent song with great vocal work and an unusual and strange hard rock blues sound. The fourth track "After All" is another great song but that sounds very strange when we listen to it for the first time. It's a very unusual song because it was written in a context of a rock song in a waltz time that reminds us a surreal circus due to the instrumental break. This is a very melancholic song, very sinister and dark that transports us to a surrealistic nightmare of a child. The fifth track "Running Gun Blues" is a kind of a return of Bowie to his folk rock roots of the beginning of his musical career. It's a song with some violent lyrics that criticize the Vietnam War. This is another great song, where the extremely beautiful tune contrasts perfectly and magnificently with the violent criticism of its lyrics. The sixth track "Saviour Machine" is a return to the general hard rock tune of the album. It's clearly an epic song with great psychedelic musical influence and with a slightly touch of the symphonic music. This is another song with more provocative lyrics and a great musical ambience. It's a very powerful song, probably the most powerful song on the album. The seventh track "She Shook Me Cold" is the heaviest song on the album and is also probably the heaviest song on all Bowie's musical career. Ronson's guitar work is clearly influenced by the hard rock and heavy metal sound of Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. It features, without any doubt, one of the best guitar performances by Ronson. The eighth track is the title track "The Man Who Sold The World". This is a classic Bowie's track, one of the best and one of the most known songs of him. This is probably the highlight of the album mostly because of its simple and extremely beautiful music and lyrics, instantly catching and attaching. It's a truly brilliant track and absolutely perfect with the effect, on me. I'm not able to stop listening to it constantly. Sincerely, I always loved this track. The ninth track "The Superman" is another great track. This is one more song on the album inspired by the literary works of Friedrich Nietzsche and H. P. Lovecraft. It's another dark song with great lyrics that curiously and instantly reminds me strongly Van Der Graaf Generator and Peter Hammill. This song represents the perfect way to close this incredible and admirable album.

Conclusion: "The Man Who Sold The World" wasn't one of my first contacts with the musical world of Bowie. My first contacts were "Space Oddity" and "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" in the middle of the 70's. So, and despite my first contact with the album be only much later, it was soon love at the first sight. "The Man Who Sold The World" is a fantastic and an incredible album, and represents a great step forward from their previou studio album "Space Oddity" and a giant step from their eponymous debut studio album. In my humble opinion, it's one of the best Bowie's studio albums and t's also, for me, one of my favourite albums of Bowie, together with "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" and "Low". "The Man Who Sold The World" is, without any doubt, the hardest and heaviest rock album made by Bowie and that became, in a certain way, the precursor of what would be his fifth studio album "The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars". "The Man Who Sold The World" is one of the most interesting and cohesive hard rock albums I've ever heard and it represents his first great musical work. However and unfortunately, it's also probably the most underrated and overlooked album of Bowie.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Kempokid
4 stars While David Bowie's music broke out into the scene with the amazing track, Space Oddity, it wasn't really until this album here that I feel that his songwriting further matured even more, being able to create an entire album of quality, compared to his very spotty first and second attempts. Not only is this what I consider the true beginning of the worthwhile David Bowie albums, but this is also one of his heaviest, taking a lot more cues from hard rock while maintaining the more soft, beautiful melodic touches whenever the time calls for it. There's overall a more prominent focus on somewhat distorted riffs and an often darker mood, leading to an album that while a bit inconsistent, manages to be very distinct and interesting nonetheless.

The album starts off very strongly with The Width of A Circle, a track that fully utilises its 8 minutes to create a deeply memorable song with a number of twists and turns. The intro riff is nothing short of excellent, which segues nicely into the groovy main portion of the song which shows off some really great bass playing and drumming, further accentuated during the section where there's simultaneously a bass and guitar solo. To further cement this song as one of the countless amazing moments in Bowie's career, the song shifts at the halfway point and builds up into a slower, more emotional take on the intro riff, this time with vocals, before breaking out into something extremely fun and bouncy. While the scope of the previous song is quite impressive, it's All The Madmen that I pick out as the true highlight of this album, being absolutely packed with emotion in the form of a powerful tone of paranoia and despondance. While lyrics aren't often the aspect of a song that will really make or break a song for me, this is one of those cases where the extremely sombre lyrics elevate the song by an insane amount, creating a downright haunting listening experience that never fails to leave some kind of impact on me, especially with the absolutely perfect chorus. This is honestly one of Bowie's best songs in my opinion. Unfortunately, it's at this point where the album's flaw becomes more apparent, as its inconsistency arguably begins with Black Country Rock, which is an all around fun rock tune but ends up feeling a bit less powerful as a result. That said, I feel as if this song nonetheless manages to be good despite its unfortunate placement after 2 absolute powerhouses, as it's nonetheless a very entertaining song with some nice riffs and vocal melodies.

WIth this said, I can't quite say similarly about the merely decent After All, which is quite pleasant, but a bit uneventful in comparison, not really escalating at all, but not really doing enough to justify staying the same throughout, ultimately leading to a decent song, but nothing particularly great. This downgrade in quality is further exacerbated by Running Gun Blues, which is fairly repetitive and only saved by Bowie's animated delivery of the chorus, making it feel less monotonous than it probably is. Things are put back on track by Saviour Machine, which all in all feels a lot more typical Bowie across the board, with a more consistent pace and full of moments that are really fun to sing along to, all with tasteful use of synths and guitar solos to spice the song up and give it an almost proggy edge to it. Overall, the song's another essential one that often feels a bit underrated. On the opposite side of things, She Shook Me Cold is easily the worst song here and offers very little in terms of basically anything. The song feels anitclimactic and messily put together, not to mention twice as long as it actually is. While the song isn't outright terrible, barely any of it feels properly paced or thought out, with solos going on for far too long while the drumming just doesn't feel right, way too much crash cymbal. With that said, what better way to salvage the album after this misstep than with a song as iconic as the title track? There's a reason this is as beloved as it is, as everything from the catchy riff to the wistful tone it all has makes it such an amazing song that just feels extremely vibrant and powerful despite being fairly repetitive, overall working quite well here. It's almost a shame that this wasn't the final song on the album, since The Supermen is honestly fairly forgettable, being far from a bad song, but not even comparing at all to the finality that I felt the title track had, but still brings the album to a nice close, albeit not one that's all too remarkable either.

I overall enjoy this album for it going for a darker, heavier approach to most of David Bowie's work, and love it on the basis of it being the first of the many great albums to have followed. While inconsistent, I nonetheless find this a good album regardless due to the charm that permeates the album and the numerous amazing songs peppered throughout, even if they're often balanced by some clearly inferior cuts. Overall, while not the best David Bowie album, this is definitely one that's worthy of a few listens thanks to the great stuff decently outweighing the mediocrity by a respectable margin.

Best tracks: The Width of a Cricle, All the Madmen, Saviour Machine, The Man Who Sold the World

Weakest tracks: Running Gun Blues, She Shook Me Cold

Verdict: The heavier nature of this album in comparison to most of Bowie's albums makes it quite an interesting one, coupled with the numerous tracks that deserve a ton of praise for how charming and powerful they are. This wouldn't be the first album by him that I'd recommend to people due to the inconsistent nature of it, but this is still an album very much worth listening to regardless of some flaws.

Review by DangHeck
4 stars Bowie's third solo album, The Man Who Sold The World, was actually the first to feature later Spiders From Mars guitarist Mick Ronson and drummer Mick Woodmansey. 1) Woodmansey?! What a name... and 2) Two Micks?! haha. Whatever. I recall feeling strongly about this album back whenever I first listened, but I frankly never go back to it. Maybe this listen will change that...?

And right off the bat, in for a wild ride with the now-mini-epic, the 8-minute "The Width of a Circle"! This song shows the colors of the album it kicks off: heavier and bluesier than what came before. But undeniably, this is classic early Bowie, with beefy guitar, grooving rhythms and softly jangling acoustic guitar. This track is just... awesome. Just having listened to Black Sabbath's Vol. 4 (released two years later in 1972), I can't help but think this song, in its hard-edged Blues Rock style is also representative of early Heavy Metal. Certainly then, being 1970, they were not referencing Sabbath here; perhaps Deep Purple, then. With glints of something other just prior, around minute 4, all is stripped away to a spacy, ethereal soundscape featuring acoustic guitar, laxed drums and sweet lead guitar melodies. This is quintessential early Prog/Proto-Prog. It ends as it starts: Excellent.

"All the Madmen" is an eerie song that is more reminiscent of what came before for Bowie, but also feels as though it were some queer homage to King Crimson, I'm surprised (though delighted) to say... Damn... I'm just soooo taken aback by its awesome. And the very of-the-time bass playing is so delicious. Wow. Around 2:30, all falls away to the madness. Creepy voices surround David's otherwise solitary vocals and then we return, now met with lovely Baroque reeds work. Epic! Prog-lovers welcomed, assuredly!

Next, we have the comparably short "Black Country Rock", a swelling Hard Rock number with plenty of earworm/ear candy goodness. I'll say it now, as though I wasn't already experiencing it: I'm swimming in frisson and euphoria. Not a feeling I get, let alone expect, from this subgenre. Good-ness. Couldn't be a starker juxtaposition than "Black Country Rock" to "After All", the latter an acoustic number with some interesting instrumentation and very interesting backing vocals. Cartoonish, even. Also, sax! And then it's a... circus-like waltz? The lead guitar melody line at the end is very nice. I don't feel a lot toward the whole of the song, though.

A different sort of quirk continues on "Running Gun Blues". But when it gets in it, it is booming. Helluva song, eh? Homicidal Bowie haha!? "G**ks"?!?!?! What the actual f*ck is this, David?... I hope this is just 'Nam commentary... Oh, yeah. That's literally how it's considered haha. Still not sure that justifies the use of a very outmoded slur... Next, "Saviour Machine"! This is a very classic early-70s Bowie tune, through and through, featuring some tension amidst forward-driving rhythm. Overall, it's pretty good. On "She Shook Me Cold", this feels a bit more confident and even more of the time. I think the Led Zeppelin comparison that's been made here is apt. But also evident is their supposed emulation of Jack Bruce. It's a booming song.

Finally culminating to this moment, next is the title track, "The Man Who Sold the World", made somehow more famous by Nirvana, thanks to their covers-heavy MTV Unplugged performance in 1993. I think it's iconic and though it's, to me, an excellent song, there are many other Bowie songs [especially from this era] that I would deem more "classic" and more essential. Regardless, it is classic for many a reason. Finally finally, our closer is "The Supermen". This is a great track. The vast and apparently numerous, even thunderous, backing vocals are wonderful. Another classic in the Proto-Prog Pantheon.

Love it. Helluvan album. Sorry I neglected it for so long, especially given the extraordinary strength of the first three songs.

Latest members reviews

4 stars I realized that the posts in my Bowie thread became very long, so I thought I might as well just post them as proper reviews. So this is what I do now. The Man Who Sold the World, in my opinion, is the first really great David Bowie album. On David Bowie/Space Oddity (1969) there is a very unique ... (read more)

Report this review (#2496330) | Posted by The Anders | Friday, January 22, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars The first really distinctive output by Bowie. Clever arrangements, rich sound with progressive-rock keyboards and brass instruments. Bowie is on top of the game combining various influences ranging from folk-rock, distant psychedelia/avantgarde, progressive rock,hard rock and other contemporary ... (read more)

Report this review (#2311845) | Posted by sgtpepper | Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 sc ... (read more)

Report this review (#1009468) | Posted by arcane-beautiful | Thursday, August 1, 2013 | Review Permanlink

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 di ... (read more)

Report this review (#459197) | Posted by Mattiias | Saturday, June 11, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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, b ... (read more)

Report this review (#456695) | Posted by Buh | Friday, June 3, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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, ... (read more)

Report this review (#432669) | Posted by Frankie Flowers | Wednesday, April 13, 2011 | Review Permanlink

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 pi ... (read more)

Report this review (#305210) | Posted by Chris2210 | Monday, October 18, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 in ... (read more)

Report this review (#283108) | Posted by FarBeyondProg | Saturday, May 22, 2010 | Review Permanlink

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 writte ... (read more)

Report this review (#185554) | Posted by the philosopher | Tuesday, October 14, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 S ... (read more)

Report this review (#180645) | Posted by Mlaen | Saturday, August 23, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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 ... (read more)

Report this review (#174923) | Posted by burtonrulez | Monday, June 23, 2008 | Review Permanlink

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