Leaving behind his early generic material, Bowie crafts some genuinely ambitious songs here - "Cygnet Committee" for example runs for nine and a half minutes, the guitar presaging later Bowie guitar sounds, and the lyrics can have things read into them and appear to be deep, without any single definitive meaning evident.
Elsewhere, "Don't Sit Down" adds character to the album, being a frivilous 43-second piece that ends with Dame Bowie laughing and breaking up. Then there's the likes of "Janine", mixing acoustic and electric guitars, demonstrating Bowie had a fine way with a pop hook even as early as 1969, something he'd been developing since his mid-60's singles, singles that without fail flopped spectacularly, despite the best efforts of Bowie and his various managers to promote them.
Bowie was the kind of guy who was very clever at self promotion, he was adept at mixing with the right people, and appearing to have things in common with them, by omitting to mention all the things you DON'T agree with somebody about, and just focus on the things you do - present a single side of yourself.
As such, Bowie is in vaguely-folky hippie singer/songwriter mode here, competing with the likes of Marc Bolan with acoustic guitar, and singing lyrics that make little sense, but sound good. Bolan was a touch ahead of Bowie at this stage though, writing arguably more consistent material and was having the greater commercial success. For despite "Space Oddity" being a huge hit, it was very much seen as a one off. Bowie was being written off as a one-hit-wonder and didn't in fact have another hit for a good three years.
About "Space Oddity" then, the breakthrough single. Singing about space just as man landed on the moon was partly opportunistic. But it's a gorgeous haunting song, a stone-cold classic. One problem the album has is there's nothing else as remotely commercial, nothing else has anything in common with the title track at all. Indeed, the title track was only written for a video presentation of himself and his talents, and the potential of the track was subsequently recognized and capitalised upon, but Bowie had already moved on.
by Reviewer: Adrian Denning
(blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews