Hunky Dory by David Bowie

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Hunky Dory by David Bowie
Hunky Dory by David Bowie

Album Released: 1971

Hunky Dory ::: Artwork

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2.Oh! You Pretty Things3:12
3.Eight Line Poem2:56
4.Life On Mars?3:53
7.Fill Your Heart3:07
8.Andy Warhol3:56
9.Song For Bob Dylan4:11
10.Queen Bitch3:18
11.The Bewlay Brothers5:22


Bowie returns to folkster mode, but with real melodies and - most important of all - some real musical backing ... Rick Wakeman's excellent piano work dominates this album, in the way that Mick Ronson's guitar dominated the previous one.

It starts off with Bowie's definitive statement of intent "Changes", and in the next song he's warning that you've got to make way for the homo superior! "Life on Mars" continues the journey started with "Space Oddity" - Bowie dreams of other planets, because he wants to escape this one with its physical constraints, and people with boring clothes and haircuts. Those Martians all look weird and I bet they're really groovy!

The next song "Kooks" is an ode to his young son, that's both cloying and touching, as most sappy odes to children are. Side One's (and the album's), real low point though is the godawfully-sung cover of the godawful fey piece'o'dandy crap "Listen to Your Heart" - something like that should have stayed stuck in whatever Tin Pan Alley garbage can Bowie dug it out from.

That track also begins the Bowie tradition of including one unlistenable camp cover of some justly-obscure showtune per album, which I suppose is his perverse way of making none of his albums listenable all the way through - I always have to get up and lift the needle / fast-forward the tape / skip to the next CD track.

The tributes to "Andy Warhol" and "Song for Bob Dylan" are simply fair, but the tribute to Lou Reed, "Queen Bitch", swishes like Cruella DeVille baby, with the classic guitar riff crunch contrasting with Bowie's gayer-than-thou lisping quite effectively.

Despite a handful of low points, Hunky Dory is a classic, and Bowie's second-best album. The reissue adds - among other things - "Bombers", a rocker in the Ziggy mold and easily the best bonus track on any of the reissues.

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by Reviewer: Creative Noise (blogging at Creative Noise)

On Hunky Dory David Bowie found his groove, or rather, he reinvented his old one.

He threw away that weird Heavy Metal / Art Rock piddle he was messing around with on The Man Who Sold the World, and returned to doing what he did best - pop music. In a big way, Hunky Dory marked his return to the music-hall of his debut album, except these songs aren't nearly as silly.

While I do like silly music, it's OK that Bowie wanted to get more serious. That was the way of the early 1970's after all, and besides Bowie proves here that he can write pretty interesting philosophical lyrics.

Mick Ronson was still hanging around lending Bowie his wicked cool guitar licks, but you'd have to squint your ears to hear him sometimes. Since Bowie was taking a more theatrical route, he had his pianist Rick Wakeman take center stage. Of course, we all know who Rick Wakeman is, he of the mad piano-playing skills!

Just listen to Wakeman playing those big dramatic arpeggios in “Life on Mars?”. I don't know much about awesome piano playing, but I can envision that something terribly cheesy and cheapish could've happened there. Instead, Wakeman gives us a piano that's rich, dazzling, and big. It's a great melody too - whenever the grandiose chorus pops up, it's like it launches my mind into outer space (where it belongs).

Perhaps the most notable development is that Bowie finally figured out how to write consistently good melodies. Not everything is a home run, but almost everything is.

I already mentioned “Life on Mars?”, but get a load of “Changes”, a real corker of a song! It has a bit of a lounge/Jazz beginning, which is nice, but the most memorable thing about it is the pop-rock chorus, which is so snappy it'll have you singing Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-CHANGES! along with it quicker than I can change my underpants (roughly 7.4 seconds). And “Oh! You Pretty Things” is similar, starting out with Bowie singing a nice though ultimately uninteresting melody, but then the chorus comes in and hits you over the head like a ton of marbles.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

Bowie had decided to become a songwriter for hire, and penned a hit for Peter Noone - "Oh You Pretty Things" - and also penned a song for fiery Scottish shouter Lulu. Hence, on the strength of the songs he was writing and also that he'd written a hit, Bowie was signed to RCA.

Hunky Dory was another modest seller, yet marks the beginning of the Bowie's 'classic' period. He had an aggressive manager and a good team surrounding him, what with Mick Ronson coming into his own on Hunky Dory, proving himself an adept arranger for strings as well as a fine guitar player.

Keyboard superstar and then top session man Rick Wakeman provided fine piano and keyboard flourishes, and Bowie - free from the burden of actually writing David Bowie songs (as most of these songs were in fact written for other artists) - turned in his finest album yet.

For Hunky Dory is a quantum leap from Bowie's previous material, with everything of a higher quality. The songs themselves were all classics / future Bowie standards, the production and arrangements were assured and professional, and Rick Wakeman's and Mick Ronson's touches were frequently gorgeous.

"Changes" can be seen as the talismatic song of Bowie's entire career. "Life on Mars?" was a later hit single, and - along with Ziggy's "Starman" - followed on from the themes sketched out in "Space Oddity". "Changes" was released as a single in January 1972, not to promote Hunky Dory but rather his then forthcoming Ziggy Stardust project. Odious Radio One DJ Tony Blackburn made it his 'single of the week', enough to prove that Bowie did indeed have commercial potential, though it would take his transformation into Ziggy to actually realise it.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)

After the Hard Rock of The Man Who Sold the World, Bowie took a softer approach with the follow-up. In the middle of the singer-songwriter boom of the early-70's, Hunky Dory was too camp to be mistaken for James Taylor, yet it is nevertheless dominated by acoustic instruments, with Bowie's acoustic guitar and guest pianist Rick Wakeman taking centre stage.

Ronson is still part of the band, but "Queen Bitch" is the only riff-rocker on the album, and Ronson's largely pushed into the background on that. The lighter tone of the album draws attention to Bowie's songwriting having improved markedly. Whereas The Man Who Sold the World was a bunch of interesting genre experiments with only a couple of strong songs, the majority of these compositions are intelligent and interesting enough for Hunky Dory to perhaps be Bowie's best set of songs.

The singer-songwriter tone of Hunky Dory also means that it's about as personal as Bowie gets, delivering a career statement of intent in "Changes", confessing obsession with artifice in "Life on Mars", expounding his personal beliefs in "Quicksand", paying homage to influences Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan, and The Velvet Underground on consecutive songs, and - most personal of all - an endearing song to his young son in "Kooks".

Hunky Dory starts with one of Bowie's hookiest and most recognisable songs, "Changes". It's deservedly a radio standard, and one that I never tire of. Close behind in the pop stakes are "Oh! You Pretty Things", which is just too weird to be a big hit, catchy as it is, and the soaring Wakeman-dominated "Life on Mars".

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by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia (blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct])

Before Bowie took his dystopian notions to some sort of fantastic extreme with his forthcoming Ziggy phase, he took a step back from warning us of what was to come with Hunky Dory, probably the major anomaly in his catalog.

I mean, I can see the progression from his debut to Space Oddity, and even follow how Oddity could become The Man Who Sold the World, but for that not to transition straight into a Ziggy Stardust glam meltdown, but rather to detour into this mostly melodic, mostly poppy, mostly sincere little record is flat-out bizarre.

A comparison would be if say, Neil Young had released Harvest inbetween On the Beach and Tonight's the Night - it's jarring to say the least. And while Hunky Dory is lovable (much more loveable for casual listeners than Man or Ziggy, for sure), it's also a spotty album, and way over-rated by people who want Bowie to be John Lennon instead of - you know, whoever Bowie wants to be this week.

But Bowie - for the last time for quite a while - actually makes a clear unambiguous statement about his own art here, warning in the defining "Changes" that things are about to get 'strange', and letting us know that whatever happens, it's just the phase I'm going through. This apparently tried to head off anyone dumb enough to get angry when, say, Bowie traded a leisure suit and white leather loafers for a spaceman outfit and sequined platform boots in 1974.

"Changes" is a lounge song, apparently based on the sound of some British crooner named Anthony Newly, but it's also catchy as syphilis and that singalong chorus of Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes! is undeniably great, on and album that's otherwise a bit short on hooks.

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by Reviewer: Capt Bonanza (blogging at Capn Marvel's Bonanza [Defunct])