David Bowie – The Man Who Sold the World

TheManWhoSoldtheWorldThe best albums in David Bowie’s catalog are immediate enough to be exciting, but also exhibit enough craft to be timeless. The Man Who Sold the World, not his best, is not timeless. Rather, it sounds specifically of its time, when post-Beatles studio experimentation still sounded like it was reacting directly to Sgt. Pepper. That means sprawling, overlong, pseudo-literary jerkoffs (“Width Of A Circle,” which is actually fun despite its length and pretentiousness) sit with blues tracks that don’t want to sound like straight blues tracks (“Black Country Rock,” “She Shook Me Cold”). The band, with producer Tony Visconti on bass, kick all sorts of ass, but they can’t save mediocre tracks like “Running Gun Blues” (which has nasty lyrics that are delivered in such a non-threatening manner as to make the whole song ludicrous) and “Saviour Machine” (nice cinematic feel, but wholly dumb “social” lyrics). However, on the tracks that do work, where mood overtakes the dated trappings, there’s some great listening here, particularly on the title track. It’s the best song Bowie had released to that point, and it boasts a terrific performance by everyone. DB’s haunted howl and Woody Woodmansey’s textured drumming would conclude the album in a fine and harrowing fashion…if not for the goofy King Kong music that follows, “The Supermen”. If only it all sounded like the title track, the album would have been a moody masterpiece. As it stands, The Man Who Sold the World does not so much point the way to Bowie’s brilliant next outing (the diametrically opposed Hunky Dory) as it puts the cap on his career as 60s semi-talented eccentric.

For kicks, compare this album to Alice Cooper’s Easy Action released almost a year earlier.

Rating: B

About Kent Conrad

To contact Kent Conrad, email kentc@explodedgoat.com