David Bowie
The Man Who Sold the World


4.5
superb

Review

by Major Tom CONTRIBUTOR (139 Reviews)
July 27th, 2011 | 28 replies | 14,414 views


Release Date: 1970 | Tracklist

Review Summary: A strange, mad celebration…

The Man Who Sold The World was an absolutely pivotal release for David Bowie. It saw the first of many criticalities, including the inclusion of future Spider from Mars, Mick Ronson; a new-found grasp of musical and thematic direction; and a vastly improved vocal and lyrical performance from a maturing poet.

The album is every bit as mind-bending and twisted as the iconic artwork adorning the cover of Bowie’s 3rd LP - an album which would go on to become one of his finest accomplishments, as critical reception warmed over the years. The nine, twisted hard-rock tracks on offer are rife with flirtations with insanity, brought on by the influence of Nietzsche, and Bowie’s family issues, including the visits from his mentally deteriorating half-brother and the recent death of his father.

The musical component (which included producer Tony Visconti on bass) is a tightly coiled, freakish folk/hard-rock cocktail, marked by fuzzy, hissing bass chords, razor sharp, gnarled lead riffs, off-kilter percussion, and even an ancient synthesiser cropping on a couple of tracks. It’s fair to say that The Man Who Sold The World is easily one of the heaviest albums Bowie ever recorded.

The twisted, distorted hard-rock and demented arrangements blend perfectly with Bowie’s intensely personal questioning of purity and darkness; his lyrics reaching an early peak of paranoia and bizarreness. The album finds Bowie battling with the personal demons he labelled the “devils and angels” within him, all wrapped up in a fantastically frightening science fictional blanket, informed by his recent fascination with Nietzsche’s writings.

It all comes together brilliantly on highlights such as the lengthy opening cut, ‘The Width Of A Circle’, which builds upon its infectious lead riff and progresses into a full-fledged classic, unfolding and setting the scene for things to come, both lyrically and musically, with Bowie’s inward-gazing confession: “Then I ran across a monster who was sleeping by a tree / And I looked and frowned and the monster was me”, articulating his personal revelation with the analogical “monster” - a Nietzschean caricature, another of which would surface in closing number ‘The Supermen’.

Other standouts include the beautiful, horror-tinged madness of ‘All The Madmen’, with its catchy chorus, sprightly synthesised backing and fantastic guitar work; the Bolan-esque warble present on the grinding, snarled ‘Black Country Rock’; the freakish folk of ‘After All’, and the ultra-violent ‘Running Gun Blues’.

The title track deserves a special mention, seeing as it’s one of Bowie’s most obvious early classics. It’s terrifically odd and menacing, with Bowie’s haunting, ghostly vocals blending with the subdued bass and propulsive riff. ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ went on to display its grand influence when Nirvana performed a superb cover of the song on their legendary MTV Unplugged set in 1993, which Cobain complemented with “the debt we all owe David”.

The Man Who Sold The World was a crucial turning point for David Bowie as it marked the first time he found a solid direction in which to channel his ideas. This time it came in the form of maniacal hard-rock, which, when combined with some of Bowie’s finest, twisted, self-searching poetry, made for a truly astounding and groundbreaking release. It may not be as consistent or hit-worthy as some of his later work, but The Man Who Sold The World was undeniably one hell of a way to enter the seventies - a decade which would soon witness the true birth of it’s Bowie-shaped master.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jethro42
July 27th 2011



12391 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

After one spin, I realize how much Bowie was already among the biggest influential rockers. Album rawks hard, and your review gives it justice. Good read as usual. I might give it a 4.5 sometime soon. Mr Thin White Duke is a genius.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cheers, Jethro. True words, also - such an influential work.

omnipanzer
July 27th 2011



21442 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Best one yet Tom, I felt some passion in that review.
Cheers mate have another POS.

Digging: The Ettes - Shake the Dust

omnipanzer
July 27th 2011



21442 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

P.S. I've started finding myself looking forward to these.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Thanks omnipanzer, glad you enjoy them, man.


AggravatedYeti
July 27th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

mmm, mmmmm, good.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

AggravatedYeti - Did you just eat the album!?


AggravatedYeti
July 27th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

...yes

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Cool, just checking.

Acanthus
July 27th 2011



9537 Comments


I might give this one a listen, as the passion present in the review makes me curious.

Jethro42
July 27th 2011



12391 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

What is this Sputnik, David Bowie is overlooked now.

Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Acanthus - You might like it, man, some good weird stuff on here.

Jethro42 - Tell me about it man, thought there would be more people checking this out. Shame.

Jethro42
July 27th 2011



12391 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Instead of writing a review a day, I'd suggest you to post every two or three days for a while to give to many people as possible the time to notice there is a Bowie discog ongoing. Just an idea though.


Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Funny you said that cos i wasn't planning on posting one tommorrow - haven't written my Ziggy review yet. Plus, Hunky Dory is already up cos i reviewed it a while back before i started this discog.

AggravatedYeti
July 27th 2011



7684 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Hunky Dory is so fucking good though just delete and repost for consistency's sake.

wabbit
July 27th 2011



6988 Comments


Hunky Dory is by far his best album

Jethro42
July 27th 2011



12391 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Another thing to be considered as well, it's vacation time. Keep the good work up man, your Bowie thread is going to have visitors in time.



Tom93M
Contributing Reviewer
July 27th 2011



1106 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

AggravatedYeti - Hmm, i might do. Be a lot neater if i delete.

Jethro42 - True. Thanks, man.


Awesomesauce
July 28th 2011



1084 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah great album. Haven't listened to this in years.

SCREAMorphine
July 28th 2011



1752 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

The only full Bowie album I've listened to, great review too



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