“Hunky Dory” by David Bowie - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1971Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

Each passing album has been getting better since 1967 – “Hunky Dory” is the first proper good ‘un. Previous bass player and producer Tony Visconti sat this one out, as new bassist Trevor Bolder and producer Ken Scott stepped up to the mark. The string arrangements of Mick Ronson were to the fore on the album’s finest moments.

The album starts majestically with “Changes” which features Bowie himself on saxophone, with Rick Wakeman's on keyboards and Mick Ronson handling string arrangements. Artistic re-invention is the order of the day: “look out you rock n rollers.” The magical mystery which surrounds much of Bowie’s work bubbles to the surface once again on side 1 with “Life On Mars?” and, once again, it’s the key trio of Bowie / Wakeman / Ronson who make it happen. The singer noted that Wakeman “embellished the piano part” of his original melody and guitarist Mick Ronson “created one of his first and best string parts” for the song. Unbelievably, Bowie’s trite old cabaret roots immediately rear their ugly head again on the following “Kooks”, a song for his new-born son, Duncan Jones. It’s the audio-equivalent of “coochy-coo”. Torn between the light and dark, “Quicksand”, ensures the album’s recovery is instant – despair never sounded so damned gorgeous.

Side 2 has a flamenco-flavoured tribute to “Andy Warhol”, a rather dull soft rock “Song For Bob Dylan” (must be digging on the Band period) and a sizzling nod to Lou Reed, “Queen Bitch”, which sounds completely out of place on the album, but absolutely steals my utmost affection. Bowie himself considered the album to be one of the most important in his career. Speaking in 1999, he said: “Hunky Dory gave me a fabulous groundswell. I guess it provided me, for the first time in my life, with an actual audience – I mean, people actually coming up to me and saying, ‘Good album, good songs.’ That hadn't happened to me before. It was like, ‘Ah, I'm getting it, I'm finding my feet. I'm starting to communicate what I want to do. Now: what is it I want to do?’ There was always a double whammy there.” Had I been there, he’d have been on my 1972 watch list for sure. What would he get up to next?

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:37] 8.3.png David Bowie - Changes (David Robert Jones) Cerebral Pop
A2 [03:12] 6.1.png David Bowie - Oh! You Pretty Things (David Robert Jones) Pop
A3 [02:55] 5.7.png David Bowie - Eight Line Poem (David Robert Jones) Songwriter
A4 [03:53] 8.0.png David Bowie - Life On Mars? (David Robert Jones) Psychedelia
A5 [02:53] 3.3.png David Bowie - Kooks (David Robert Jones) Pop
A6 [05:08] 7.8.png David Bowie - Quicksand (David Robert Jones) Folk Rock / Americana
B1 [03:07] 6.5.png David Bowie - Fill Your Heart (Paul Rose, Paul Williams) Crooner / Cabaret
B2 [03:56] 6.6.png David Bowie - Andy Warhol (David Robert Jones) New Wave
B3 [04:12] 4.8.png David Bowie - Song For Bob Dylan (David Robert Jones) Soft Rock / A.O.R.
B4 [03:18] 8.9.png David Bowie - Queen Bitch (David Robert Jones) Proto-Punk
B5 [05:22] 6.1.png David Bowie - The Bewlay Brothers (David Robert Jones) Alternative Folk

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2020 All Rights Reserved