Saturday, February 09, 2013


All the nightmares came today and it looks as though they're here to stay

Brimming with invention, Hunky Dory is actually a beautiful dream realized.

Still relatively unknown at this point, Bowie crafted a very intelligent set of songs that would later be held in quite high regard. Better still, the actor within the musician brought a voice to the sessions that conveyed a maturity well beyond his 24 years. At times, his vocals sound cracked as though they were being delivered by a man in the twilight phase of life. There is also a confidence that emanates from every note, beginning with the brilliant "Changes" and following through on each subsequent track until "The Bewlay Brothers" gracefully fades into the run-out grooves.

Now that you've found another key, what are you going to play?

All of the pieces in the puzzle came together for these sessions. We have the "Spiders from Mars" (Mick Ronson, Trevor Bolder and Mick Woodmansey) great tunes and a major label deal. Adopting the trappings of the burgeoning "glam" movement would be the final step toward attaining the fame that would come during 1972 with The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie also enlisted the services of Rick Wakeman, whose virtuosic piano figures prominently throughout. (I wonder if he wore a cape while he was tracking?)

Orchestral and horn arrangements are deployed effectively, augmenting, but never burying, the great melodies on offer. "Oh You Pretty Things" and "Queen Bitch" foreshadow the sound of "Ziggy". Ronson pulls distinctive, crying notes from his Les Paul adding further depth to the powerful, "Life On Mars". These selections, along with "Changes", provide the highlights on a very strong disc. "Kooks" is a charming runner up, taking a stylistic page from Neil Young's "Til the Morning Comes" with well placed horn solos.

Name checking Andy Warhol and Dylan with fulsome tributes, the lyrics are incredibly well developed. Smart without sliding into pretense, he keeps you interested by carefully pruning each line. Verses contain only what is completely necessary. The extra sweat sacrificed to make this happen was well worth it. Music hall quirks, otherworldly noises and an entirely English sensibility all find their place in the mix with a healthy dose of camp. The recipe works well enough to earn Hunky Dory a place in the top five LPs that Bowie would ever produce. Given his distinguished career output, that speaks volumes.

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