1970 – Mercury
Rock/ Hard-Rock/ Glam-Rock
The third album from giant of the recording industry David Bowie is a distinct shift from the earlier folk tinged works of Space Oddity and the later experiments of Hunky Dory with a solid move towards the hard-rock and heavy-metal genres. Kicking off with the electrifying guitar epic Width Of A Circle one can instantly hear the power end energy with which the king of glam-rock has injected his new music. The bass guitars are fuzzy and sound as heavy as a bag of bricks, the drums crash and boom, the lead guitar slices throught the mix like a razor, and Bowie’s strangled vocals wrench out a form of innate confidence and sexuality that can’t be topped. As an opening track Width Of A Cirlce is really quite hard to beat, and I’ve got to say that the rest of the record lives up to this high standard set so early on.
She Shook Me Cold, Black Country Rock, and The Supermen are all full of such snarl and danger that it really gets the heart racing and the blood pumping with their driving bass lines and roaring guitar riffs, but the real glory of this record doesn’t lie merely in the power of it, but rather the intelligence with which it is approached. I mean, Bowie’s status as one of the more intelligent and artistic rock and roll icons is not really something that needs to be debated, but with The Man Who Sold The World his skill and intricacies come bubbling to the surface like they had never before on previous releases. With the pretenses of his folky poetry dropped Bowie is finally able to really focus on the futurism inherent in his driving sound. There is just something so otherworldly about this record in the way that it layers riff atop riff and Bowie’s vocals (no longer a bad Anthony Newly impersonation) and lyrics wrench the listener away from what they have long belived to be the tradtions of rock music. I mean, the way a track like Black Country Rock plays the blues is like nothing The Stones or Beatles had attempted with its bass throbbing out more of a morse code single than an actual progression and the vocals jumping from laconic drawl to parrot squawk in an imperceptible instant is all at once incredible disconcerting to the trained rock enthusiast, but also just so damned excitingly rock ‘n’ roll.
This being said, at points Bowie’s knowing hints of genius do get carried away. After All, for example, forces the record to lose a lot of momentum for really no purpose. It’s wobbly guitars and floating synth lines are somewhat interesting, but really this track just doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense in the middle of an album that is so relentlessly pounding.
Another issue is that thematically The Man Who Sold The World is a bit of a mess. There are some very strong themes drifting around in the mix, but the problem is that there are just too many of them. One moment it’s pure rock and roll and the next Running Gun Blues is getting politcally motivated and then the space age religiosity of Saviour Machine, really, far to much is asked of the listener in trying to decode this record and when they finally do the pieces of the puzzle just don’t quite fit. I suppose, however, it is to be expected that the work preceding the literary Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust albums doesn’t quite have the same thematic polish on it, but still it does irritate somewhat that it is such a muddle of themes and ideas.
Overall, however, I’ve got to say that The Man Who Sold The World is an outstanding record. It’s just so musically exciting and interesting that you can’t really find too much fault in its small failings, it just makes up for them tenfold with all of the pros that are to be found. Truly I would recommend this one as a welcome addition for the collection of anyone who is serious about records.
- Perfect interpretation of Ziggy Stardust. (sutharaw.wordpress.com)
- Top Ten Thursday: Best Bowie Albums (littlebylisten.com)
- Record Machine: David Bowie – Live at the Tower Philadelphia (persephonemagazine.com)
- David Bowie Is… (stylebubble.co.uk)
- fantastic man (farfetch.com)
- Examine the enigma that is David Bowie at ‘David Bowie Is’ at the AGO (aestheticmagazinetoronto.com)
- David Bowie: the Mercury Prize wouldn’t exist without him (telegraph.co.uk)
- David Bowie Is . . . is a journey through music, fashion and style (blogs.ottawacitizen.com)
- When Bowie met Burroughs (guardian.co.uk)
- ‘The Next Day’: Meet David Bowie’s Final Incarnation, Meta-Bowie (flavorwire.com)