Wednesday, February 3, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: The Man Who Sold the World

Released on November 4, 1970 through Mercury Records, David Bowie’s third album The Man Who Sold the World would mark a major artistic breakthrough for the British singer. Produced by Tony Visconti, the album would mark the first official appearance involving two men who would be part of the band that would later become the Spiders from Mars in guitarist Mick Ronson and drummer Mick “Woody” Woodmansey. With Visconti playing bass and keyboard contributions by Ralph Mace, the album would mark a major change in musical direction in comparison to the previous albums Bowie did as the first was based on dancehall/baroque pop and the second was a folk rock album. In this album, Bowie goes full-on hard rock with elements of folk and blues as some of it would set the template for many genres to come such as punk and Goth music.

While it is clear the most famous cut of the album is its title track due to the fact that it was famously covered by the band Nirvana twenty-three years after its recording. It’s a song that seems like a strange one for even a band like Nirvana to cover with its very abstract lyrics but it is one of Bowie’s most poignant as it features some unique bass and guitar riffs that include an amazing solo from Mick Ronson. The lyrical content of the song play into elements of surrealism and the plight of man dealing with the world as the lyrics are evident in the album closer The Supermen that is a wild rocking song in a mid-tempo setting that features some unique drum fills by Woody Woodmansey. One major cut of the album that is probably the most haunting is After All as it is this unsettling folk-based ballad that features some unique guitar tones by Ronson and haunting keyboards by Ralph Mace while the lyrical content is very dark as the song is considered a precursor to the Goth genre.

Cuts like The Width of a Circle, Black Country Rock, Running Gun Blues, and She Shook Me Cold are these blazing rock tracks that would serve as a template for the ideas Bowie would do in the years to come during the glam era. Much of these songs involve some a heavy rhythm section and Ronson’s work on guitar as they feature some amazing solos and riffs while another rocker in All the Madmen is a song with some unique tempo changes and time signatures that includes a great performance on the drums by Woodmansey as the lyrics in the song is one of the most frightening as it plays into the concept of madness and man’s troubled encounter with the world as it is one of many themes Bowie would uncover in the years to come.

The Width of a Circle also would feature unique time signature changes in the middle of the song where it would start off very fast and then slow down while the lyrical aspect of it is just as powerful in terms of the concept of fear. Running Gun Blues would have Bowie make comments on the Vietnam War while She Shook Me Cold is a love song gone wrong. Black Country Rock has bits of blues and country in its musical presentation but the lyrics are minimal as it is filled with some dark humor. Saviour Machine is a mid-tempo cut where Bowie’s vocals are very haunting to express the dark lyrics as it plays into man vs. machine as it features some early modular Moog synthesizer textures from Mace.

From the 1992 Rykodisc expanded reissue of the album features three tracks from the Arnold Corns project he was creating where he was trying to create a singer that didn’t exist with songs that Bowie wrote. One of these songs is a rarity called Lightning Frightening as it is this strange blues-based song with blues-based guitar slides and harmonicas as well as saxophones. Two other cuts from that version that would be included in reissues for other albums include early versions of Moonage Daydream and Hang On to Yourself as the former is slowed-down with a slightly slower tempo and more snarling vocals while the latter is more of an acoustic-based track with a bopping temp. A 1971 re-recording of Holy Holy that was a non-LP single is another rarity as it’s a cut that sort of stands out as an idea Bowie would later do in the world of glam.

The Man Who Sold the World is a quintessential album from David Bowie as it is the first of many albums that display him not only coming up with a unique identity. It’s also an album that manages to do so much as well as be one that can fuckin’ rock. It has the energy and onslaught that would later become the template for punk while it is also quite scary at times in terms of its lyrical content. It’s also this album that manages to do so much to display what Bowie would do in the coming years in a certain period in his career. In the end, The Man Who Sold the World is an incredible album from David Bowie.

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - Hunky Dory - The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Aladdin Sane - Pin Ups - Diamond Dogs - Young Americans - Station to Station - Low - “Heroes” - Lodger - Scary Monsters (and Super Creeps) - Let’s Dance - Tonight - Never Let Me Down - Tin Machine - Tin Machine II - Black Tie White Noise - Outside - Earthling - ‘Hours…’ - Heathen - Reality - The Next Day - *

Live Releases: David Live - Stage - Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars - Tin Machine Live: Oy Vey, Baby - Bowie at the Beeb - (Live at Fashion Rocks (w/ Arcade Fire)) - (Live Santa Monica ‘72) - (Glass Spider Live) - (VH1 Storytellers) - (A Reality Tour)

Soundtracks: Christiane F. - Labyrinth - The Buddha of Suburbia

Miscellaneous: Peter and the Wolf - Baal - Sound + Vision - (Early On (1964-1966)) - (All Saints) - Toy - (Nothing Has Changed)

© thevoid99 2016

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