Friday, December 28, 2012

David Bowie - Hunky Dory

While Space Oddity and The Man Who Sold the World were nice slices of vintage 1970's Bowie, they didn't have the hit potential of Hunky Dory. This is where Bowie managed to strike a balance between his general weirdness and solid rock and roll that appeals to both androgynous beings from outer space as well as the general populous. Many of Bowie's best songs from the 70's are on this album. "Changes," "Oh! You Pretty Things," "Life on Mars?" and "Kooks" are all fantastic, and those are just highlights from Side 1.

Hunky Dory takes the psychedelic folk of Bowie's earlier work and adds hefty dose of pop to the mix, which makes for a tasty glam concoction which is neither too heavy nor too light in its cosmic or sexual themes. If you've ever wondered what glam was all about, this is as good a starting place as anything in the T. Rex or Roxy Music stable. Pound for pound this is probably my all-time favorite David Bowie album.

David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World

Record cover aficionados will probably know The Man Who Sold the World more for the cover in which Bowie is wearing a dress and lounging seductively on a settee than this one in which he is performing a fairly impressive kick. I bought this alternate cover edition because it came with a poster featuring the cover art, and that selfsame poster hung on all the walls of every crappy bachelor apartment I ever lived in.

The Man Who Sold the World is an interesting listen from start to finish. There isn't a lot of greatest hits compilation fodder on this album, but it still forms a very cohesive whole. The Man Who Sold the World rocks harder in general than every other Bowie album up to this point. Just look at that high leg kick again. Bowie is totally rocking it out. I really liked "Running Gun Blues" and "All the Madmen," but they're just the tracks that stood out to me. That doesn't mean they're necessarily the best this album has to offer. I can't think of another album that is as generally great as this one that doesn't offer any true standout tracks. This is a moneyball album. It's chocked full of high VORP low salary players and manages to make it into the playoffs while seemingly coming out of nowhere.

David Bowie - Space Oddity

This is the real birth of David Bowie as I know and love him. This album really shows Bowie growing into his glam persona and the concept of glam really solidifying as a musical genre (and when I say glam, if you think of hair metal I will punch you in the ear. The two are only linked by the fact that Quiet Riot covered a Slade song against their will. Other than that, the two genres are unrelated).

The best song on this album is the title track. Its outer space theme really sets the tone for Bowie's eventual turn as Ziggy Stardust, his androgynous space travelling stage persona. Throughout the rest of the album, there are a number of musical genres working together. Everything from folk to psychedelia is thrown into the mix (does Motley Crue sound like either folk or psychedelia? Nope, didn't think so. Glam and hair metal are as unrelated as speed metal and country). Everything after the title track, which opens the album, blends together into a semi-forgettable glam mash, but it still makes for a decent listen and a landmark turn in Bowie's career. There are certainly more amazing albums in the David Bowie discography, but that's less of a knock on Space Oddity than an indication of the heights Bowie would eventually reach. For the record, I'll take Space Oddity over anything Bowie did in the 80's. 

Boomtown Rats - The Fine Art of Surfacing

So it's been a while since I last updated this blog. That was mainly due to the fact that both of my vintage receivers are crapping out on me. My Marantz 2252B has a bad speaker relay which causes one of the channels to cut out. My Pioneer AX-15 is developing a nasty hum, which drives me crazy. Anyway, I bought my very first T-amp, a Lepai, which is working well so far and may be the temporary solution to all my problems (I really need to get the Marantz fixed. It sounds like freaking butter when it's working properly). So I'm back listening to my vinyl and loving it.

The Fine Art of Surfacing is the first thing I listened to with my new setup. Here's the thing about this album: "I Don't Like Mondays" is so amazing and strange, both in its origins and intent, that it overshadows everything else on this album. Sure, there are a lot of great and/or interesting songs ("Someone's Looking at You" and "Having my Picture Taken" in particular) on this album, but I ultimately don't remember them when the needle hits the return track. "I Don't Like Mondays" and its story of a young psychopath is all you need to know about this album. Now that school shootings are a near weekly occurrence  it seems a shame that we can't at least turn each tragedy into art as well as Bob Geldof did here.