David Bowie
Hunky Dory


5.0
classic

Review

by Sepstrup USER (20 Reviews)
January 10th, 2007 | 174 replies


Release Date: 1971 | Tracklist

Review Summary: 1971's "Hunky Dory" spawned a number of hits, most notably the gorgeous "Life on Mars". David Bowie opted for a piano-based pop sound on this record, creating one of his strongest efforts to date. A classic.

#107 On Rolling Stone's Top 500 albums of all time

When notorious hype-machine NME conducted its poll among contemporary musicians time (Radiohead, Placebo, U2, Suede and Marilyn Manson among others) to discover the most influential musician of our time, guess who came in first? David Robert Jones, sometimes known as The Thin White Duke, sometimes by his alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, but far most commonly as David Bowie. From the time when he released his self-titled debut in 1967 to his 60th birthday two days ago, he has practically invented glam rock, jumpstarted Iggy Pop and Lou Reed’s career, collaborated with master of ambience Brian Eno, and thus created the famous Berlin trilogy (“Low”, “Heroes” and “Lodger”), dabbled in folk, heavy rock, pop, electronica and soul, and created a myriad of great albums in the process. Despite the fact that his career spans almost forty years, most fans, critics and greatest hits compilations look to the seventies, the decade of glam rock, the Ziggy Stardust persona, Bowie’s blue-eyed soul music, and the aforementioned “Berlin” trilogy; the decade where Bowie was at the cutting edge of popular music. Truly these were Bowie’s golden years, in which he released classic upon classic, with creativity more or less unmatched by any musician of 20th century. Having tackled both folk and rock on his first three albums, Bowie sought a different approach for his fourth. He told pianist Rick Wakeman that he wanted to make a more piano-oriented album, played him the songs that would come to make up “Hunky Dory” and asked him to play them on the piano, allowing him to write his own arrangements. The result was a catchy, beautiful, accessible and above all genius record, that many Bowie fans still cite as their favourite.

The album encompasses several moods and sounds, while still being rooted in a piano pop sound. Many tracks here find their way to various compilations (Bowie has a lot of those), but none became immediate hits. “Life on Mars” only became a hit after the following album “Ziggy Stardust” was released and Bowie garnered increased attention. It soon became popular, and for good reason. The verses are driven by a beautiful piano, complimented by a dramatic classic arrangement as the unbelievably catchy chorus comes crashing in. The lyrics are completely non-sensical: “It’s on Amerika’s (sic) tortured brow / Mickey Mouse has grown up a cow”. I don’t think anyone, even Bowie himself can make any sense of them, but somehow it means something with Bowie’s passionate delivery. The song manages to be incredibly epic, but still brief at 3:54. A fitting, dramatic conclusion follows, as a descending violin run leads to a glorious crescendo of instruments and a gentle piano line trails off until the song finishes. “Life on Mars” is the best song Bowie ever wrote, and as such it can’t be considered anything but one of the greatest songs ever written.

The fact that the album has such a monumental song doesn’t detract from the rest of the songs though. The dramatic tension built up by “Life on Mars” is released by the vivacious “Kooks”, which is conversely followed by “Quicksand”, the albums melancholic highlight. It is perfectly placed, in between too unabashedly bubbly songs like “Fill Your Heart” (by Biff Rose and Paul Williams, the only non-original here”) and “Kooks” (a song for Bowie’s newborn son, known to the world as Zowie Bowie, poor thing), and in the middle of the album too, acting as a centrepiece for the album. This demonstrates the albums perfect balance. Admittedly, most of the “hits” seem to be placed on the albums A side, but there is almost as much to be found on the second half.

Lyrically, it seems that Bowie is drawing inspiration Bob Dylan, with his often seemingly non-sensical, stream-of-consciousness lyrics. These are most evident on album closer “The Bewlay Brothers”. While no coherent meaning can be drawn from the lyrics, the words and themes always compliment the sound. It’s not meant to be dissected, but rather enjoyed. His lyrics are vividly descriptive though, as on the tribute song to his inspirationBob Dylan, whose voice he likens to sand and glue. It is in the second verse, however, that he has written his most accurate description of Dylan’s genius: “You sat behind a million pair of eyes and told them how they saw”. While Dylan has always been reluctant to be labelled the voice of a generation, he has definitely been a spokesman of sorts, writing about subjects that many could relate to. The song is a poignant ode to one of modern music’s greatest song writers and one of the best songs on the album. “Queen Bitch”, the album’s only real rocker, foreshadows Bowie’s next album, glam rock masterpiece “Ziggy Stardust”. The song has been dedicated to the Velvet Underground, who must have been an inspiration as Bowie moved into the glam rock territory. Pop artist Andy Warhol also gets a nod, with the song of the same name, featuring Bowie’s trademark baffling lyrics: “Andy Warhol looks a scream / Hang him on my wall / Andy Warhol, silver screen / Can’t tell them apart at all”.

“Hunky Dory” is the album where Bowie cemented his position as a truly gifted song writer. A few songs don’t compare to highlights such as “Life on Mars” and “Quicksand” but that says more about the highlights than the rest. Every song is great in its own right, about half of them are completely essential and “Life on Mars” stands as the greatest song I have ever heard in my life. David Bowie, in his constant exploration of new musical territory never attempted to make another album like this. He went on to create other, different masterpieces, but he never surpassed ”Hunky Dory”.



Recent reviews by this author
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah Some Loud ThunderRoxy Music Siren
Tiger Tunes Absolutely Worthless Compared to Important BooksBob Dylan Street Legal
Leonard Cohen Dear HeatherSpleen United Godspeed into the Mainstream
user ratings (916)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (5)
Everything is hunky dory....

Ross Delany (5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Iai
Emeritus
January 10th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Great review.

I don't why this one still isn't in my collection. I have about 5 or 6 Bowie albums, too, but somehow I've never got around to this one.

Kyle
January 10th 2007


667 Comments


Nice review, it convinced me to download the album so lets hope it's a good one.

bdizfoshiz
January 10th 2007


273 Comments


good review. i love david bowie, i don't have this one though, maybe i should change that.

Jom
Staff Reviewer
January 10th 2007


2689 Comments


Excellent review, but I've never heard a thing from this album.

MrKite
January 10th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Nicely done, chap.
I'm trying to find Bowie stuff but I'm not doing very good.

Two-Headed Boy
January 10th 2007


4527 Comments


User Album Rating: 5
Such a good album. Nicely done.

MrKite
January 10th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Why's your rating black?

Iai
Emeritus
January 10th 2007


3553 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

He hasn't actually rated it. Just typed out the text in his message.

Jom: I would have thought you'd have heard "Life On Mars", knowingly or not. It's one of Bowie's 5 most popular/famous/well-known songs, at the very least. There's actually an advertising compaign running now with a guy sat on a beach playing it on an acoustic guitar, although I don't know whether it's a worldwide thing or just UK/Europe.This Message Edited On 01.10.07

Hatshepsut
January 10th 2007


1997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This album is amaaaazinggg.

Why did he do that?

I'm pretty sure you people have heard of at least one song on here. I listened to the first two or three tracks and said "OOOOOHHHH so this is what it's called."This Message Edited On 01.10.07

Sepstrup
January 10th 2007


1563 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks for the feedback guys. This is the most comment-generating review I've done so far. I really urge you all to check it out, it's one of the best albums I own.

Neoteric
January 10th 2007


3243 Comments


User Album Rating: 10000

I've only heard three songs off this but they've all been great, superb review as well.This Message Edited On 01.10.07

Hatshepsut
January 10th 2007


1997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5


Ch-ch-ch-chaaaanges

Kaleid
January 10th 2007


711 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Great review of a great album. Anyone who likes Bowie should own this.
It's pretty much been said in the review. It's one of those albums that just feels comfortable and easy from start to finish. 'Oh You Pretty Things' is especially good and 'Life On Mars' is an all-time classic that will go down in the annals of music history as 'one of the best'. SERIOUSLY :thumb:


BludgeonySteve
January 10th 2007


558 Comments


This is a fantastic album. I love how unique Bowie is (I mean unique other than those who copy him poorly).

Zebra
Moderator
January 10th 2007


2647 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

All of these songs are good but none of them really stand out except for Kooks and maybe even Changes. I always dig Bowies hit singles but when it comes to listening to a full length album I always get bored towards the end. Great work on the review, although I disagree with your opinion.

MrKite
June 8th 2007


5020 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

So far Queen Bitch is my favorite off of this. I haven't given it a good enough listen yet to give any real opinion.
I'm very much infatuated with Mr. Bowie at the moment.
QB and Bewlay Brothers were great choices to finish this off.This Message Edited On 06.07.07

Anthracks
August 11th 2009


3774 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

WE WERE SO TURNED ON

Digging: Ariel Pink - Pom Pom

NebSnurb
August 21st 2009


535 Comments


lol lol lol lol lol lol lol lol ^

shindip
August 21st 2009


3536 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Album is goddamn fantastic.

analoguecrazy4
January 2nd 2011


13 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Just got into this after listening to Ziggy for a month. Im in love with this album, the songwriting is phenomenal and Rick Wakeman makes a hell of a contribution with his beautiful Piano work. My favourite songs on here are Kooks and Quicksand, which is almost as epic as Life On Mars. After also listening to Space Oddity, Man Who Sold The World, Ziggy and Low; i can without a doubt say this is my favourite Bowie album. Im a Keyboardist myself and this inspires me every time i listen to it.



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2014 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy