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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stripped to the bare bones classic rock.
I have to admit that, musically this is probably one of my fave albums of all time. The stark, ambiguity of "Width of a circle" sets the tone for the whole album. The set itself has a dark, brooding, menacing feel which challenges the listener to explore new musical directions and rewards in abundance. This is rock as it was intended. No nonsense, no posturing, and pure...
Published on 3 Dec 2002 by oldrocker58

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7 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bowie doesnt do heavy rock....
..but when he does its probably the best heavy rock in the world. I am not a great fan of that musical genre and was surprised to find out Bowie had made a hard rock album , while working my way through his Seventies back catalogue. Over 30 years old , the album still sounds good today and I would recommend it to any serious rock fan. Are there many better hard rock...
Published on 10 Oct 2003 by L. Davidson


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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stripped to the bare bones classic rock., 3 Dec 2002
I have to admit that, musically this is probably one of my fave albums of all time. The stark, ambiguity of "Width of a circle" sets the tone for the whole album. The set itself has a dark, brooding, menacing feel which challenges the listener to explore new musical directions and rewards in abundance. This is rock as it was intended. No nonsense, no posturing, and pure. I defy anyone to listen to "All the madmen" in the dark without the hairs on the back of the neck standing to attention! Indeed there are homages to Hendrix but Mick Ronson manages to pull it off and still sound the way that only Ronno can. Truly an album that still stands the test of time and still sounds more honest than virtually anything else that has come along since. Maybe "Ziggy Stardust" is more important but this is a reminder of how rock should be played. No BS, no frills, just undiluted rock performed by a band that is obviously still trying to find it's way and the nerves and agression shine throughout. I'd have given it 10 stars but I'm limited to just the 5. Buy it!
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sonic Sorcery, 2 Nov 2001
By 
Paul S. Whiston "Diga" (Lunacuem) - See all my reviews
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This has got tinges of the occult all over it... there is a sound in here of pure witchcraft and that is what makes it so great... from the title track with its beautiful haunting sound and themes of searching our identity to the wonderful homo-erotic epic of width of a circle proving that Mick Ronson is a very underated guitar talent up there with the likes of Hendrix! the oooh oh oh melodies on that track set my hairs on end and my teeth on edge with spiritual energy... this is a man playing with magik and Aleister Crowley's brand of sorcery and it is superb... all the madmen in a full on rock n roll classic of coming to terms with insanity or simply alienation- the key theme in Bowie's work... this record is better than Ziggy Stardust and that is GOOD..
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Oh by jingo!, 26 April 2009
An unusual departure for Bowie into heavy rock, but nevertheless a powerful album. Worth buying for the epic Width of a Circle alone, but there's also the sweet and sad After All, the spooky title track, Bowie's killer impression of Marc Bolan on Black Country Rock, and a reworking of his earlier pretty Ching A Ling on the not-so-pretty apocalyptic Saviour Machine, to savour too. Oh, and of course the guitar wizard Mick Ronson works his magic again.It's often shamefully underrated, but much more interesting than later lauded works like Young Americans.Plus, Bowie's lyrics are darkly poetic.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Defining the Future, 22 May 2014
By 
Mr. Peter Steward "petersteward" (Norwich, England) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
I view this as a stepping stone album towards the greatness that was to follow. Bowie was defining his style. He was almost there, almost achieving his aim of taking on the rock world. Some of the songs are mini epics in their own right.

The album gives the feel that Bowie was evolving his songwriting style. It is a stark album that would eventually lead to collaborations with Eno and his German experimentation period. The album starts with another epic in the form of the Width of the Circle which showcases Mick Ronson's extraordinary guitar work and also makes us realise that the 1970s are upon us and threatening to bring something frighteningly good in the world of music. The cosiness is being wrenched out. There is madness within this track and the album as a whole. To see an illustration of this just listen to the wierdness of All the Madmen. It is on this album that we first get an idea of the depth of Bowie's vocals, sometimes sung and sometimes snarled. And of course the cover changed. My early LP version has a young looking Bowie doing a high kick whilst playing his guitar. This was changed to the famous cover of Bowie in a dress. It was almost as if Bowie was battling with his demons, his sexuality and what ultimately would be his musical genius. After the early Anthony Newley style songs this came as a bit of a shock.

There was plenty of rock songs - indeed this was probably Bowie's heavy rock opus. It is a thumpingly good album. When I returned to it after a number of years to write this review I was absolutely gobsmacked by its power and sense of direction and its sheer power. The title track remains one of Bowie's best songs - and was even recorded by Lulu!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars all the madmen at their rockin best!!!, 19 Jan 2008
By 
N. Verma (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Man Who Sold the World (Audio CD)
One of bowie's more overlooked albums - think more deep purple than scott walker. Tony Visconti (who would produce Bowie later in the decade) plays bass, Mick and Woody from the Spiders from Mars here as well. Buy this edition as it has the bonus tracks and the remastering is as good as any of the later versions! Who needs 24-bit remastering?!?
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bowie's finest, 19 Dec 2010
By 
Mr. S. R. Ronson "Steven Ronald Ronson" (Lincolnshire, England) - See all my reviews
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I bought this album upon its re-release, on RCA, in 1972 and was not disappointed.

After seeing DB on 'Lift Off' and 'TOTP', performing 'Starman', like thousands of others I was intrigued by the man. Here was the Messiah we had all been waiting for. Following 'Starman' with 'John, I'm Only Dancing', which I rushed out to buy, as well as his then current Album 'Ziggy Stardust', I saw the RCA advertisements for this album and 'Space Oddity'. 'Make room for two new Bowie albums' said the blurb. So I did.

'The Man Who Sold The World' begins with 'The Width of a Circle' projecting the listener into a world of Devil worship, homo-eroticism and schizophrenia, through heavy rock, permeated by Bowie's ubiquitous 12 string guitar. The 'rhythm section' of Ronson, Visconti and Woodmansey assault your ears with throbbing, heavy, yet melodic rock. Bowie'e voice sounds distant and other-worldly as he meets himself, falls into the 'pit of fear' then concludes with a homo-erotic encounter with God! At eight minutes long, this track, itself, is enough to warrant buying the album. This is, indeed, virgin territory for rock music and shows how David Bowie was well ahead of the rest, even in 1970.

The whole album is consistent in its arrangements that make the most of Ronson's mult-tracked guitars, Visconti's throbbing bass and Woodmansey's manic drums. For me, the really pleasing effect is Bowie's casually-strummed 12 string guitar (his trademark) throughout most of the songs. This folky instument gives the whole album its consistency, a connection with its author and a rather 'English' feel, throughout. The arrangements are brilliantly augmented, on several tracks, with an early Moog synthesizer, played by Ralph Mace. This instrument makes Bowie's music even more stark, 'other-worldly' and futuristic, with 'Saviour Machine' showing us what Bowie would be doing four years later with 'Big Brother'. The lyrics on all the songs reek of alienation, fear,madness, uncertainly and extreme solutions to the problems of the world in 1970.

But, for me, the stand-out track is 'All The Madmen', which is Bowie at his most brilliant, original and innovative best. The use of Mick Ronson's descant recorders, backed by his thundering guitar and Mace's wall of synthetic sound really does make your hair stand on end! The varying dynamics and tempi of this song serves to illustrate the subject matter. Starting with just voice and 12 string guitar and ending with an orchestra of heavy rock and synths, backing the demented, sing-along chant of 'Ouvre le chien' ('open the dog'), this track remains the most frightening and memorable Bowie song, ever. The words speak of 'Mansions, cold and grey','taking people away', 'lobotomies' and, most disturbing 'I'd rather stay here with all the madmen, 'cause I'm quite content they're all as sane as me.' Bowie did actually say, in an interview at the time (1972) that 'If I wasn't doing what I'm doing now, I'd either be in the nuthouse or in prison'. The song alludes to Bowie's half-brother, Terry, who was, at the time, incarcerated in a mental institution in Kent, called Cane Hill and this place can be seen, illustrated on the cover of the American release of this album.

The rest of the album is consistently melodic, detatched and 'full-sounding'. There is a heavy reliance on Mick Ronson, at his very best. Other stand-out tracks are: the title track and 'The Supermen', both songs having remained in the Bowie live repertoire for most of his career. That speaks volumes for Bowie's own perceived quality of these songs. This album is heavy rock at its most original, in both the subject-matter of the lyrics and the wonderful arrangements. Having recently married, Bowie left much of the work to Ronson & Visconti, while he ker-noodled with Angie at Haddon Hall. Having said that, when Visconti did manage to get him in the studio, he delivered. Maybe his apparent half-heartedness unwittingly added to the 'detatched' and 'distant' manner of his vocal delivery and the album's overall alienating tone?

This is an album that showcases an artist on the way up. There is no crass commercialism, even though he couldn't have been 'flush' at the time and every playing of the album sounds fresh, every time. 'The Man Who Sold the World' gives us a glimpse of some things that were to come, although Bowie has always been brave anough and orininal enough to change direction, just when he seems to have found a winning formula. Thank Heaven for that. Mediocrity never found him until the 1980s. His next album, 'Hunky Dory' couldn't be more different, but nor is it much less exciting, if less manic.

Buy this album and hear him at his very best.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Heavy Rock for People who don't like heavy rock!, 5 Mar 2006
When I first heard this album i hated it. I started with Ziggy and Hunky Dory. But like many of Bowie's albums after continued listening and fermenting gracefully over 30years this is quite a remarkable album. It isn't pleasant listening but neither is Low which is often cited as his best album depending what music polls you read. I would agree with one of the reviewers that i wouldn't recommend it as the first Bowie album to start with. However, the music is at times stunning, the powerhouse guitar of Ronson on Width of a Circle, the chilling Supermen and the superb title track. I truly cannot understand anyone who thinks the Nirvana cover is better. I like Nirvana but their cover is way too weak for me. I wouldn't say this is an essential Bowie album but it's a fascinating experience in musical styles and lyrics I am still trying to fathom. Defintley worth one or two listenings.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "This Is Not A Woman's Dress, It's A Man's Dress", 28 Aug 2009
By 
Og Oggilby "Og Oggilby" (North London) - See all my reviews
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Always armed with the realisation that the British public have always had the propensity to be easily shocked, David Bowie chose to don what he called a 'Man's Dress' for the cover of 'The Man Who Sold The World'. Anyway, whether the masses were shocked or not, it didn't stimulate them much into buying this album on its original release. Which was their hard luck, really, 'cause this album is amongst the very best of Bowie's albums. By then, he was considered pretty much a 'One Hit Wonder' following his failure to follow-up 'Space Oddity' in 1969. For The Man Who Sold The World, Bowie made one of what would be many stylistic shifts, by putting out his hardest and heaviest album (until the 'Tin Machine' days, that is). The title track has justly been accorded classic status thanks to Nirvana's latter-day cover, but the whole album is a masterpiece. On 'After All', Bowie experimented with varying the speed of his vocals, something he'd use to even greater effect on 'The Bewlay Brothers' on 'Hunky Dory', and the spooky, ethereal quallity is but one of the many changes of mood and atmosphere on display here. On 'Black Country Rock', he does a witty impression of his old mate Marc Bolan, and also allows guitarist Mick Ronson free rein to play some of his most searing guitar work throughout the album. 'She Shook Me Cold' is dense hard rock, and the driving 'Width Of A Circle' was clearly a favourite, that he kept in his live set all the way through the 'Ziggy' and 'Aladdin Sane' eras. Lyrically, Bowie has abandoned the occasional whimsy of the 'Space Oddity' album, in favour of more darker moods, even negotiating the sci-fi lyrical motifs and musical terrain that's percolated to the surface of much of his work. A truly magnificent work that has not dated at all.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I ran across a monster!, 23 Sep 2007
So goes the lyric in the Width of a Circle, and this is a monster album. Not easy listening, but a deep, dark monster of a recording to really get you into another world. The intro to Width of a Circle is superb, but the highlight of the song is the thudding 'heavy metal' section towards the end where Bowie screams, 'His nebulous body swayed above - his tongue swollen with devil's love.' The best track on the album is 'All the Mad Men', Bowie's reaction to his half brother Terry's mental illness and admittance to Cane Hill mental hospital in Croydon. 'I'd rather stay here with all the madmen - for I'm quite content they're all as sane as me.' What sort of a line is that? I love the play out of 'Zane zane zane - ouvre le chien.' It stays with you and was clearly important to BOwie as he recycled it on The Buddha of Suburbia 23 years later. The rest of this set is great, though the Supermen has always been one of my least favourites. 'After all' is beautiful, and the title track, well, what can you say about it? Lulu and Nirvana knew enough. All this, and a beutiful cover of Bowie in a dress, playing cards strewn on the floor of Haddon Hall. The album artwork is beautiful, too. If you are a BOwie fan, this is absolutely essential, and a classic beyond doubt. Get it.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WONDERFUL album, 23 Dec 2005
By 
Ca Marsh "schragemusik" (Pontypool) - See all my reviews
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Reading the other reviews of this album, I wonder if I heard the same album.
For me, many bands/artists have released ONE great album. Very few have managed more than that. Bowie managed two (and a lot of very good ones). "The Man Who Sold the World" and "Low" (which I think is one of the best albums by anyone - ever) still bring shivvers to my spine.
The only really poor track on this album is "She Shook Me Cold". Uninteresting, unwritten, unrehearsed drivvel!.
But the rest of the album is pure magic. "After All" is haunting, whistful and enormously sad. "The Width of a Circle" rambles a bit and contains a number of inelegant changes but still retains attention. "Running Gun Blues" and "Saviour Machine" are short and punchy and "The Supermen" makes a fine, heroic (though again, sad) ending/climax.
For me, the absolute highlight of the album is "All The Mad Men". There is so much going on in here. Wonderful synth parts, Ronno at his best and Bowie singing about insanity in way that makes you wonder if he really knows......
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