Friday, March 14, 2008

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

While gaining some notoriety with “Space Oddity” as well as the Man Who Sold the World LP, Bowie rise to prominence really started with this album and the single, “Changes”. While not an AM hit, it received enough FM radio airplay to garner a fan base which then, of course, exploded with the release of the follow-up, Ziggy Stardust.

This record is one of David’s many transitional steps. He started his career as a folkie, went almost hard-rock with the aforementioned Man Who Sold the World and on Hunky Dory he almost straddles the two as he strives to create his own style.

I really can’t imagine why “Changes” wasn’t a huge hit – it is a great tune that every teenager can relate to. I can only guess that Bowie’s androgynous image was working against him in these pre-glam times. I think that classic radio has created a bigger hit in hindsight than it originally was. Reprising this theme in “Oh! You Pretty Things” David sings of the “homo superiors” (in a nod to his gay fans as well as to Marvel comics' the X-men) but this is really a metaphor for the rebellious teens who would become the core of the glam fan base.

“Eight Line Poem” is a nice forum for Mick Ronson’s guitar playing but is, truthfully, not a very substantive song. But, “Is There Life on Mars” is a great one with a melody that shows off Bowie’s range as well as his songwriter skills. Oddly enough, Rick Wakeman of Yes fame plays keyboard on this album, along with Bowie and Ronson. So while Mick shines throughout, this record if fairly keyboard dominated.

A truly sweet song for his first born (Zowie Bowie), “Kooks” is a self-deprecating look at Dave and Angie, who obviously loved their child. This is followed by the sparse folk-oriented “Quicksand” which harkens back to the “Space Oddity” days. While I don’t consider this one of the highlights of the album, it does contain the line “knowledge comes with death’s release” that the Nomads used to create a great, rockin’ tune in the 90’s! “Fill Your Heart” is more of the same type of folk-rock.

But then comes “Andy Warhol” (so to speak!). While this is acoustic guitar driven, it is an upbeat number and a classic tune. A cool climb and descent riff by Rono starts the song and Bowie sings funny lyrics about the pop artist and includes a damn catchy chorus. His next tribute to a star is “Song For Bob Dylan” which is somewhat folk-rock sounding as Mick does his best to propel it with his electric guitar. Good stuff!

The most r’n’r sounding tune on this record is definitely “Queen Bitch”. Still beginning with Bowie’s acoustic guitar, Ronson then comes in with his heavy metal guitar roaring out of the speakers and driving the song with a bit of a counter-play to David’s rhythms. A smartly-written build up leads into the cool chorus and forms a superb creation! Undoubtedly one of Bowie’s most under-rated songs.

Hunky Dory closes with “The Bewlay Brothers” and while not bad, I don’t think that this is quite the intense piece that is was meant to be. A precursor to “Rock and Roll Suicide” from Ziggy, but not quite there yet.

This is probably Bowie’s last folk record (that I know of, anyway) and while it suggests some of what is to come, it is not as solid as his next two records. In fact, I may prefer Man Who Sold the World, but that is probably simply my preferences for loud guitars talking! Still, a record that any self-respecting lover of 70’s rock should own!