Thursday, February 4, 2016

29 Days of Bowie: Hunky Dory

Released on December 17, 1971 from RCA Records, Hunky Dory marks a crucial period in David Bowie’s career as it would be the first of several events in the course of nearly two years. The album marks Bowie’s first collaboration with producer Ken Scott who would be a key figure during this period co-producing this and the three albums that would follow in that period. The album also marks the first album to feature bassist Trevor Bolder who along with guitarist Mick Ronson and drummer Woody Woodmansey to be part of the backing band that would become the Spiders from Mars. The album would be a mixture of folk, rock, and pop in very different styles yet it has away for all of these songs to gel together into what some consider to be the first of many masterpieces by David Bowie.

The album opener Changes is definitely a standard of the kind of songs Bowie would make as it’s this nice mixture of pop and rock with lyrics that could mean anything as it features these nice melodies and riffs in the background to a bopping rhythm. It’s among these great songs in Bowie’s repertoire as a songwriter as songs like the folk-based Kooks and Oh! You Pretty Things display Bowie’s mastery in creating the kind of pop music that is direct and to the point while having lyrics that be a little abstract but also fun. In the former, it’s a song that Bowie wrote about the birth of son Duncan and the kind of family the boy might encounter. The latter is a song driven more by a piano with Bowie bringing some melancholia despite its upbeat tone.

Another upbeat cut from the album Fill Your Heart is a song that Bowie didn’t write as it’s a cover of a Biff Rose track that was co-written by Paul Williams. In context with the rest of the album, it does fit in as it play into the many emotional aspects that is featured on the album. Even in folk-based ballads like Quicksand and The Bewlay Brothers as both songs contain some very dark lyrical content as the latter plays up into the concept of insanity and torment as it relates to Bowie’s older half-brother Terry Burns. The former is definitely a song that really plays down the concept of Messianic idolatry that definitely owes itself to Nietzsche. The very simplistic Eight Line Poem is a cut in the album that is Bowie at his most simple as it’s sort of a country-based song on the record and certainly one of the most overlooked deep cuts of any Bowie album.

Then there’s three cut where Bowie pays tribute to a trio of individuals who inspired him in Bob Dylan, Andy Warhol, and Lou Reed. Song for Bob Dylan definitely has a bit of country flair while Andy Warhol is a more upbeat, folk-based tune. For Lou Reed, Queen Bitch is the most rock-based track on the album as it pays tribute of sorts to Reed and his work with the Velvet Underground. Then we have the song Life on Mars? which is often considered Bowie’s greatest ballad as it is largely accompanied by Rick Wakeman’s piano as it has these amazing chords and riffs as well as this sense of imagery in the lyrics that includes some soaring guitar solos by Mick Ronson.

From the 1990 reissue edition from Rykodisc comes four bonus tracks that features demos and rarities. Bombers from a rare album sampler is a song originally written for the Arnold Corns project as it was unreleased until it was re-mixed for the 1990 reissue as it’s mixture of piano rock with some guitar work from Ronson. Alternate versions of The Bewlay Brothers and The Supermen, the latter from The Man Who Sold the World, as the latter is a mixture of folk and rock with some unique tempo changes while the former features a more pronounced mix that plays more into the Mellotron as well as in the vocals. The demo version of Quicksand is definitely a gem in terms of what Bowie was doing with just his voice and an acoustic guitar.

Hunky Dory isn’t just one of David Bowie’s best albums but it’s also one of the best albums ever created. It’s an album from top to bottom where all of the songs are great as well as having this nice flow in its sequencing. It’s adventurous but also an album that has a sense of imagination in its words and music. In the end, Hunky Dory is a magnificent album from David Bowie.

Related: Favorite Albums #2: Hunky Dory

Studio Releases: David Bowie (1967 album) - David Bowie (1969 album) - The Man Who Sold the World - 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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