Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hunky Dory (1971)


1. Changes: Masterpiece #4. Bowie has an uncanny knack of picking the perfect songs to kick his albums off with. Just think of it, Space Oddity, Width of a Circle, Station to Station etc, and on this album particularly he has announced straight away, from the first song that this is what the album will be like, which is an extraordinary thing. This is why I love this guy, for songs like Changes. It may not be a masterpiece on the same level as “Heroes”, but when you think of this album, regardless of your overall opinion, you can't help but feel as though there's no other song that should be here. A perfect start to this album and incredibly only recorded a mere 6 months after ‘The Man Who Sold the Word’ wrapped up. It certainly wouldn’t have belonged on that. Nothing here would. A perfect pop tune and with a timeless quality and underlying humour (and some great sax). 10.0

2. Oh, You Pretty Things!: Masterpiece #5. No one's ever written songs like this. Apart from Bowie of course. It's almost like a glorified demo, but it doesn't need to be anything more than that to convince me of its greatness. Might I also mention that this song’s got the cleanest singing of Bowie’s career? It's effortless pure genius. 10.0

3. Eight Line Poem: A lovely little ditty between two timeless classics. Always loved Mick’s country-tinged lead, and that’s Bowie on piano. Beautiful live version appears on one of his ‘Live at the Beeb’ bootlegs worth tracking down. 8.0

4. Life on Mars: Masterpiece #6. They’re coming thick and fast now aren’t they? This song is just about the most beautiful thing he's ever written. There’s a live version online you can watch from 1980 on the Johnny Carson show that is one of the best performances of any song by any artist I have ever seen. So much talent. This is supposed to be a re-write of ‘My Way’, but ‘My Way’ is horrible and this is perfect. Just perfect. But really, this is Bowie’s song, and easily sits among his five greatest. 10.0

5. Kooks: Fun tune for ‘little z’. Good little song. Fits nicely on this album. 7.5

6. Quicksand: Masterpiece #7. “I’m closer to the golden dawn, emersed in Crowley’s uniform of imagery”. And BOOM, Bowie announces his greatness. What an introduction! There's so many things to get worked up about in this song. You can focus on the piano solos (an instrument that dominates this album - which is awesome), Bowie’s 12-string guitar shapes, or you can focus on the amazing lyrics. You can even focus on the delivery - which is among Bowie’s finest. I like to think of it on a whole, as one of the greatest triumphs in rock and roll. And if that seems like I'm overreacting then you really need to listen to this song again. 10.0

7. Fill Your Heart: A Biff Rose cover and a guilty pleasure. Guilty? Not sure why. Pleasure? Absolutely. Those rolling piano moves from Rick Wakeman keep me coming back, as does Bowie wry delivery. Not the best song on the album by a long shot, but a lot of fun and a great way to kick off side two. 6.5

8. Andy Warhol: Great strum-athon from Bowie and Mick. And was Andy pissed! A song about Andy Warhol when most of Britain had never heard of him. 7.5

9. Song for Bob Dylan: There’s nothing remotely bad on this album, but if I was to pick a least-favourite, Bowie-written, track this would be it. I love the sentiment and the Zimmerman voice but this track kinda falls apart around the chorus ‘Here she comes, here she comes, here she comes again’. That’s not to say I still think it’s great. 7.0

10. Queenbitch: Unrepresentative of the album, but points the way ahead. And how about those guitars! Buzzing like chainsaws throughout the song, perhaps taking your mind off the nonsensically brilliant (more) Dylanesque lyrics. Bring on the Spiders From Mars! 9.0

11. Bewley Brothers: Revisiting themes raised on ‘All the Madmen’ from his previous album, hard to make sense of some of the spikey imagery he’s throwing around but there is a method to the madness, quite literally. Damn, this album's perfect. Gotta listen to it again. 9.5


VERDICT: Recorded and released quickly, Hunky Dory captures Bowie in transition from the proto metal of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ to the grand concept of ‘Ziggy Stardust’, and is simply a perfect album full of beautifully performed songs at a time when singer-songwriter’s were all the rage. It’s Bowie’s acoustic album, displaying his enormous potential, made up of songs about and for old friends, love, and a love of mysticism and rock n roll, all mixed up to create a gem of an album, one I've never been tired of hearing.

NEXT: Rock n Roll Star!

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