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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 3 December 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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on 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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on 13 March 2016
One of my favourites albums, the heavy "Width of a Circle" being in my all time top ten. The usual bunch of critics from the 70's didn't like that song with its "Passages", but what did they know,they were probably too old then, dead now and didn't play instruments to appreciate what went into it. I think this album easily competes with Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust even though it's not as commercial. Tony Visconti plays an amazing thundering bass on "Width of a Circle, and Mick Ronsons guitar playing is flawless as usual on all tracks pity there is nobody playing his style least that I know of. Other favourites include "She shook me cold", Running gun blues and Black Country Rock. Of all my Bowie albums this is the one I play most in the car, always at high volume. I don't have much of a stomach for later and newer stuff and rarely to never play them, I prefer the rawness of the seventies albums.
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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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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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on 19 January 2008
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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on 5 March 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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on 2 November 2001
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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on 2 August 2007
What always struck me about The Man Who Sold The World was "wha?, where did that come from?". Bowie has stated that he cannot do personal, I think a tad tongue in cheek because this album is about experiential and personal as it can get, as stated in reviews here. Oh by jingo indeed!

I loved this album from the off, having had Hunky Dory first then this one then Ziggy and then Oddity. If you haven't got it yet, get Bowie At The Beeb. You can see this album grow from his late 60's excursions through Space Oddity to this album and onto Hunky Dory.

This is Bowie with major influence from Visconti, Ronno and even Bolan - listen to the vocal inflections on Black Country Rock. Mostly it is Ronno on a long leash who dominates this album. Brian May has always admired Ronno - you can hear Ronno's influences on May on Black Country Rock, for example, and it was heart-felt when May stated Ronno would have not been out of place in Queen.

After All is a link between Space Oddity and this album, albeit with a darkness. I can imagine this existed in some form around Oddity. The melody is sublimely haunting. From this song you can see why/how Bowie was drawn to Brel's My Death.

The title track stands the test of time, whether Lulu (!) or Nirvana or Bowie as recently as the Reality tour. It's just a great, great song and Ronno shows great control/restraint.

Fave track? The Width Of A Circle. This was the track that finally galvanised me in to getting a guitar and I am still playing 35 years later. Cheers Bowie, Visconti, Ronno et al.
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on 23 September 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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