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David Bowie Hunky Dory album cover
4.16 | 613 ratings | 26 reviews | 40% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
rock music collection

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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)

Total Time 41:33

Bonus tracks on 1990 remaster:
12. Bombers (previously unreleased) (2:38)
13. The Supermen (alternate version) (2:41)
14. Quicksand (demo version) (4:43)
15. The Bewlay Brothers (alternate mix) (5:19)

Line-up / Musicians

- David Bowie / vocals, guitar, alto & tenor saxophones, piano (2,3,11)

- Mick Ronson / guitar, Mellotron (?), backing vocals, arrangements
- Rick Wakeman / piano
- Trevor Bolder / bass, trumpet (?)
- Mick Woodmansey / drums & percussion

Releases information

Artwork: George Underwood & Terry Pastor w/ Brian Ward (photo)

LP RCA Victor ‎- SF 8244 (1971, UK)

CD RCA ‎- PD84623 (1985, Europe)
CD EMI ‎- CDEMC 3572 (1990, UK) Remastered by Toby Mountain w/ 4 bonus tracks
CD EMI ‎- 521 8990 (1999, Europe) 24-bit remaster by Peter Mew with Nigel Reeve

Thanks to micky for the addition
and to Quinino for the last updates
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DAVID BOWIE Hunky Dory ratings distribution

(613 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of rock music(40%)
Excellent addition to any rock music collection(42%)
Good, but non-essential (14%)
Collectors/fans only (3%)
Poor. Only for completionists (1%)

DAVID BOWIE Hunky Dory reviews

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Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by ZowieZiggy

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.

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!


P.A. RATING: 5/5

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.

Review by Epignosis
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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.

Review by tarkus1980
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.

Review by Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator
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)

Review by thehallway
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!

Review by Warthur
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.

Review by Matti
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.

Review by 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

Review by VianaProghead
4 stars Review N 206

'Hunky Dory' is the fourth studio album of David Bowie and was released in 1971. The album received critical acclaim and is regarded as one of Bowie's best works. It has been described as an album having a kaleidoscope of different genres of music, tied together by the very personal Bowie's sense of vision about the world and society, such as his ambiguous sexuality, kitsch and class. The album's cover was clearly influenced by a photo of Marlene Dietrich.

The line up on the album is David Bowie (vocals, guitar, alto and tenor saxophone and piano), Mick Ronson (vocals, guitar and mellotron), Trevor Bolder (bass guitar and trumpet) and Mick Woodmansey (drums). It's also remarkable the participation of Rick Wakeman on the album, playing piano as a guest musician in some tracks on the album.

'Hunky Dory' has eleven tracks. All songs were written by Bowie except 'Fill Your Heart' written by Biff Rose and Paul Williams. The first track 'Changes' is clearly a song chosen to be released as a single. It became in one of Bowie's best known songs and it's also one of them where its lyrics show better his chameleonic personality with the frequent reinventions of his musical style throughout his musical career. The second track 'Oh! You Pretty Things' is a song based on Wakeman's piano and Bowie's voice. This is a very simple song with a very catchy refrain which shows that a simple song can be a great song. The third track 'Eight Line Poem' is a song based on a sparse piano, a sparse guitar and Bowie's voice. This is another very simple song basically written around its lyrics. It isn't a bad song, but sincerely, I think it has less interest and quality than the other two previous songs. The fourth track 'Life On Mars?' is also clearly a song chosen to be released as a single, as happened with 'Changes'. It became also as one of Bowie's best known songs and it features a very beautiful piano work by Wakeman. This is, without any doubt, one of the greatest songs written by Bowie and that sounds like the precursor of his next studio album 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars', released in the following year. The fifth track 'Kooks' is a song that Bowie wrote to his newborn son Duncan Jones. This is also a very simple song, very beautiful, funny and humorous. Despite be a very light song, I always loved it because it sounds to me, as a very nice and warm song. The sixth track 'Quicksand' is a dark and depressing track where Bowie uses the concept of 'Superman' of Friedrich Nietzsche on its lyrics. Musically, it's a very beautiful song with multi tracked acoustic guitar and string arrangements by Ronson. The seventh track 'Fill Your Heart' is the only song on the album which wasn't written by Bowie. This is one of Bowie's happiest tracks, with very uplifting lyrics and with a nice use of strings and saxophone. It's a song in the same vein of 'Kooks', but probably is even better than that song is. The eighth track 'Andy Warhol' is, as its name indicates, a song about one of Bowie's greatest inspirations, the pop artist Andy Warhol. It's an acoustic song with a very distinctive flamenco riff on the acoustic guitar that continues throughout the song. This is an excellent folk rock song in the same vein of songs of their second studio album 'Space Oddity'. The ninth track 'Song For Bob Dylan' is also another homage song to one his greatest inspirations, but this time is Bob Dylan. It's interesting to note that the song is very similar to Dylan's songs and Bowie sings in the same style of Dylan. This is a very good song with some nice electric guitar work. The tenth track 'Queen Bitch' is another homage song on the album. Bowie was a great fan of Velvet Underground and he wrote this song as a tribute to the band and Lou Reed. This is a typical rock song with a strong electric guitar riff. It represents perfectly the very well known Bowie's glam rock style. The eleventh track 'The Bewlay Brothers' is a song written as a ballad and it's also, probably, one of Bowie's most dense and impenetrable songs. This is a very emotional song with some strange lyrics and is astoundingly performed. It has wonderful mellotron and nice acoustic guitar works. This is, in my humble opinion, one of the best songs of the album and one of the greatest Bowie's songs ever.

Conclusion: 'Hunky Dory' is another excellent album of Bowie. However and despite be released one year after his previous studio album 'The Man Who Sold The World', it's a completely different musical work. This is a more intimate album and a much less rocking album than its predecessor is. It seems to me a complete paradox and an album put out of the place, because it appears between the two rockiest, hardest and heavy rock albums made by Bowie, 'The Man Who Sold The World' and 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars'. But we are talking about Bowie, the chameleon artist. So, this isn't really a huge surprise. But, and despite I like very much of 'Hunky Dory' and considerer it one of the best and most fine albums of Bowie, it isn't one of my favourite albums from him. My favourite Bowie's studio albums are 'The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars', 'Low' and 'The Man Who Sold The World'. 'Hunky Dory' come in a second choice with albums like 'Station To Station' and 'Heroes'.

Prog is my Ferrari. Jem Godfrey (Frost*)

Review by Kempokid
5 stars Often when people are asked to point to David Bowie's first truly amazing album, Hunky Dory is the one that gets mentioned, for reasons that are quite esay to see once giving it a listen. What we've got here is an album that took the grandiose anthems of the previous couple of albums and then ups the ante even further, with countless hooks everywhere underpinned by some remarkable variety in terms of tone and overall feel. This ultimately provides a listening experience that's far more consistently engaging while also having some incredible highlights that still remain some of Bowie's greatest work.

When talking about these highlights, the unforgettable Changes and Life On Mars? are the ones likely to immediately come to mind, and for great reason. With Changes, while the verses are all around well constructed, it's the iconic chorus that really seals this as such a wonderful song, the wonderful escalating flourish of strings right before it erupts into such a simultaneously upbeat, yet wistful feeling burst of energy being charming no matter how many times you've heard it. Life On Mars on the other hand takes a far more grandiose approach, where every moment of the song is leading up to the awe inspiringly climactic chorus. While the melody of the verses is somewhat repetitive, the key changes give it the constant feeling of escalation that makes the song as memorable as it is. In terms of a couple of other songs that are particularly noteworthy, you've got Oh You Pretty Things, which is a similarly fun and infectious track with a very upbeat sound that manages to be outstanding once again based mostly around the charm and amazing melody that Bowie is able to create to such an effective degree. The biggest outlier on the album, yet one of very high quality, is Queen Bitch, which is not only far more energetic, but utilises a more abrasive guitar tone, which when combined with the more sarcastic vocal delivery that Bowie provides on this track, makes this sound very much like a Velvet Underground song. Not only does this bring some freshness to the album, but it's a blast to listen to.

While Hunky Dory likely contains some of the highest highs in David Bowie's career however, it's definitely another very inconsistent album, and one that's extremely top heavy, with most of side A being noticeably better than the second half of this, with the exception of the inconsequential, forgettable Eight Line Poem. It definitely feels like this side of the album was dedicated to the quirkier cuts of the album, and this works to varying degrees of success, as while the majority of these songs are very good, they don't really compare for the most part to the breathtaking highlights of the first half. What makes this less of a problem for the album is that when I listen to songs like Andy Warhol and The Bewlay Brothers without thinking about the masterpieces that came before, they really do reveal just how great they are in their own right, ultimately revealing this to be an album largely composed of amazing tracks, just with some being on a higher calibre.

It's really easy to see why many people consider this album to be one of David Bowie's absolute greatest, given how many stunning moments this has spread throughout, with the filler still for the most part having some semblance of charm, even if FIll Your Heart and Eight Line Poem definitely feel a few cuts below the rest. This is just a really entertaining album all across the board that balances decent variety with a constant sense of fun in order to create a near unforgettable listening experience, and the start of the long line of truly amazing albums that David Bowie would release.

Best tracks: Changes, Oh You Pretty Things, Life On Mars?, Queen Bitch

Weakest tracks: Eight Line Poem, Fill Your Heart

Verdict: This is just one of those albums that is basically essential listening, with there being so much charm packed into almost every moment, making it just an overall joy to listen to, despite the fact that it can initially feel inconsistent. This is one of the albums that I'd consider a great place to start when listening to David Bowie's catalogue for sure, at least for his glam era.

Review by Necrotica
5 stars Even before Hunky Dory was released, the British public got a nice glimpse of what direction David Bowie would take his career in: the alternate cover of The Man Who Sold the World. Whether or not they were aware of it at the time, they were witnessing the birth of the androgynous, glammed-up persona that Bowie would experiment with for the rest of the 70s. The long blond hair, the satin dress, the expressive pose? it all creates a definitive link between the formative Bowie of the past and the idiosyncratic Bowie of the future. And with the artwork of Hunky Dory, the transformation was complete: the singer-songwriter pulling his long locks back in a pose inspired by Hollywood Golden Age actresses Greta Garbo and Lauren Backall. This was a new era for Bowie, and his image certainly wasn't the only thing that changed.

After all, Hunky Dory also serves as the true launching pad for his classic glam/art pop sound, something the Thin White Duke would soon become synonymous with. Gone are the heavy guitars of The Man Who Sold the World, now replaced by Rick Wakeman's elaborate piano melodies and Ken Scott's orchestral synths. In fact, the subject matter of the opening track "Changes" pretty much says it all: Bowie gives us an autobiographical account of his intentions to distance himself away from the typical rock music of the time, as well as being able to finally call his own shots. The peppy piano work is simply infectious, and Bowie sounds much more confident behind the mic than on past efforts; you can really tell he was putting a lot of passion into the finished product, something that continues on the rest of the songs.

Another development found on Hunky Dory is the increased complexity and eclecticism of Bowie's songwriting, both musically and lyrically. Some of these tunes are simply impossible to even predict if you haven't heard them before; for instance, "Oh! You Pretty Things" is never content with staying on the same key for any given moment. Then there's the sweeping, cinematic ballad "Life on Mars?", a song whose harmonized guitar leads and dramatic vocals act as a precursor to what Queen would do a few years later. In fact, there are quite a few parallels you could draw between Hunky Dory and Queen's future musical direction: the latter's love for pastiche and camp can be found in songs like the light folk rock romp of "Kooks" and the Velvet Underground-inspired ode to drag queens "Queen Bitch". Still, the way Bowie approached that element of his work on Hunky Dory set him apart from his other glam rock contemporaries. Not only was he paving the way for most of those artists, but he was also turning his quirks and idiosyncrasies into a singular style and approach he could only call his own.

I don't think I'll be breaking any hearts when I say that Bowie was never one of the best singers on a technical level, but the amount of energy and personality he puts into these performances pretty much renders that point moot. Going back to "Life on Mars?", much of the reason that song is so celebrated is because of how Bowie delivers his surrealistic lyrics; the song tells the story of a girl who wants to escape the doldrums of reality, but the [%*!#]ing gusto Bowie puts into that chorus is enough to make one swear by every word he sings. There's a certain conviction in his voice that's infectious, even on something as silly as the brassy swing of "Fill Your Heart", in which he puts on a strange over-the-top voice. Perhaps the best example of his unique vocals and penmanship - apart from "Life on Mars?" - comes in the form of the lovely folk rock ballad "Song for Bob Dylan", which is obviously about the legendary singer-songwriter of the same name. The genius of the tune lies in the fact that no one seems to know whether Bowie was being reverent or sarcastic with his appraisal of Dylan; somehow, his vocals and obtuse lyrics could tiptoe that line perfectly.

"Idiosyncratic" is the word of the day, ladies and gents. Hunky Dory was the true birth of David Bowie, and serves as an incredible glimpse into his beautifully unusual style; this was the first time that he was given full creative control, and he had immediately proven why he should have been given the reins from the beginning. Hunky Dory wasn't just Bowie's creative breakthrough (his commercial breakthrough would come with the next album), but an absolute classic in its own right. If you're new to his work, this is a fantastic starting point that embodies everything that made David Bowie an incredible artist.

Review by DangHeck
3 stars Onto another from Bowie that I'm so excited to hear through again (just over a year after my Man Who Sold the World review). It's also been some time since I've heard Hunky Dory, and really, despite my extreme admiration for Bowie, he's not an artist/band I find myself returning to with any real intention. Of course we have Mick Ronson on guitar, and we get a return from the great Rick Wakeman, who plays piano on all but two songs. Let's jump right into it!

Our start is the ever-popular hit single "Changes", which has such a striking sound, though it won't be alone in its sonics for too long. It's funky at times (for Whitey), but is otherwise an artsy Pop ballad. And an incredibly effective one at that. And the way the chorus vocals are ramped up to the max is just a choice. Firmly entering his Glam era (Praise the Lord), "Oh! You Pretty Things" is such a great display of what kind of wild, artsy bullsh*t Glam thankfully had to offer; and David Bowie was foremost in this experimentation. Still indebted to the Edwardian-reverential vibes of pure Psych Rock, there's something likewise very familiar and of-that-time strewn through. As with this last one, Bowie takes the keys on "Eight Line Poem", in Wakeman's stead. The sweetness and softness of the lead guitar reads similar to George Harrison to me; slightly more rootsy than it is bluesy.

Following this slight, though still appropriate lull is the monumental "Life on Mars?". Sprawling and epic, this ballad is of course as essential a Sinatra-slight as you can find. What's hard for me to express, as much as I enjoy this song, it doesn't strike me as even Bowie essential (let alone Rock essential). It is lovely. But also, how 'Rock' can Trad-esque Pop even be? Up next is "Kooks", another more overt glance backwards, bearing similarities to the lilting Baroque Pop of his earliest albums, though introducing once again more Music Hall and (broadly) Roots 'n Blues. This is followed by "Quicksand", one I'm not sure I remember all too well from my years-now-gone last listen. To be frank, this feels like the more emotional, more boring material from Glam contemporaries T. Rex (I'm whatever the opposite of a fan is). Approaching minute 2, we finally get some interest, as rhythm section suddenly ramps up in the mix (from nothing). Regardless, as is to be expected for Hunky Dory, there's still quite a lot of interest, but really only in the second half; that first bit was painful slogging for me.

Pouring into the second side of the disc, we have the fun, light "Fill Your Heart". With little in the way of drums (literally just some brushing on the high-hat), this has a forward drive that'll make you tap your foot (if you aren't terribly depressed). And I believe the first time hearing Bowie on tenor sax since "Changes", this is a welcomed addition. Approaching minute 3, through to its end, Rick gives us an increasingly more boogie-woogie thang on the 88s. If you couldn't stand that, maybe you'll be excited about the expectedly artful track "Andy Warhol", which has studio chatter of David making sure 'Warhol' was spelled correctly. This has such a good sound, reminiscent to me, thanks to the acoustic strumming and light percussion specifically, of early America. Got a real kick out of the lines "He'll think about paint / And he'll think about glue / What a jolly boring thing to do". At its darkest moment, fast approaching its end, it honestly reminded me of Comus! Interesting.

In another devotion, David gives us "Song for Bob Dylan", a playful tune squarely in Dylan's style (the Folk-Rock thing). Interestingly enough to me, though this is in that Roots-Folk vein, I hear echoes of what Glam Rock would become, in part; I distinctly think of Mott The Hoople here. Next is "Queen Bitch", the heaviest in a bit, and some sincere Proto-Punk Glam Rock. Additionally, to glance even further ahead, this song gives me vaguely Britpop vibes ('Britpop' should have a hyphen in it, obviously...). And finally, here we go back into spacy Folk territory with "The Bewlay Brothers". It's pretty lovely and has a mysteriousness about it that I'm definitely pulled into.

To be honest once again, Hunky Dory, classic as its greatest bits most certainly are, is not a phenomenal album. But those awesome bits are worth the trek.

True Rate: 3.25/5.00

Latest members reviews

4 stars Listening diary 27th September, 2021: David Bowie - Hunky Dory (glam/pop rock, 1971) On the sum of everything, I'd probably call this my favourite Bowie album, even if most of that is due to its incredibly strong first half. It's probably his most straightforward and unpretentious, but that's w ... (read more)

Report this review (#2597406) | Posted by Gallifrey | Tuesday, September 28, 2021 | Review Permanlink

5 stars When Hunky Dory was released in late 1971, David Bowie had almost finished recording Ziggy Stardust. Perhaps knowing what was to come, his new record label RCA did little to promote this album, and it initially sold poorly, despite some very positive reviews. But after the breakthrough with Ziggy St ... (read more)

Report this review (#2545045) | Posted by The Anders | Sunday, May 23, 2021 | Review Permanlink

4 stars I can see a strong piano songwriting influence here, maybe partly by Elton John? I hear that in some sequence chords and songwriting style. The keyboard mastermind Rick Wakeman sits on the piano before he joined Yes! The album is quite poppy, gone are agressive guitars and rocking rhythm section ... (read more)

Report this review (#2311862) | Posted by sgtpepper | Sunday, February 2, 2020 | Review Permanlink

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 yo ... (read more)

Report this review (#1698161) | Posted by Walkscore | Friday, March 3, 2017 | Review Permanlink

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. Ive 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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