Space Oddity

David Bowie

RCA Records, 1969

REVIEW BY: Roland Fratzl


This is where most people believe David Bowie's career really began. Despite the loads of music he recorded prior to Space Oddity, I can see why they might think that. It was his first widely distributed and marketed release, and around this time he started wearing makeup, weird clothes, and dresses, always keeping a keen eye on Alice Cooper's trendsetting developments, the knave.

Of course, the biggest change came in the music itself, and the title track became his first massive hit and remains one of his signature songs. It certainly is a magnificent song which ushered in his legendary space rock persona, and is the perfect way to open an album. It shows strength and focus as the ultimate prelude to the new adventure immediately ahead - or not.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Turns out it's the only really great song on the album. What a disappointment. I can't think of another album that starts off with a masterpiece only to be followed by an avalanche of mediocrity. It's like acing your opponent and then double faulting four times in a row, if you'll forgive the crude analogy.

After finding the perfect style with the floating, spacey atmosphere of "Space Oddity," Bowie then spends the rest of the album dishing out boring folk-pop with badly underwritten melodies and generic acoustic strumming.

I shouldn't be so mean. It's not THAT bad. Tracks like the redneck stomp "Unwashed And Somewhat Slightly Dazed" (sounds right up Lynyrd Skynyrd's alley, dunnit?) are decent if overlong, and even have some filthy electric guitar licks, which had been absent from his work for several years.

But man oh man, do utterly pointless songs like "Letter To Hermione," "Janine" and "An Occasional Dream" bore me to death. Maybe the most offensive one is "Cygnet Committee," which got me all excited about expecting an epic upon seeing its almost 10 minute running time, but like the other duds, it's mellow throughout and drones on endlessly with hardly any changes. Very lazy stuff. "Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud" continues in the same vein but at least has a more interesting chorus and some neat harp runs here and there.

Too bad that it takes until the end of the album for Bowie to find his songwriting chops again. "God Knows I'm Good" is a superb little campfire ditty, and the proceedings come to an end with the rousing and uplifting "Memory Of A Free Festival." It's pretty hard not to get goosebumps as the line "the sun machine is coming down, and we're gonna have a party" gets repeated endlessly with ever more voices joining in until it sounds like a cast of thousands holding hands in a gigantic swaying sing-a-long that perfectly celebrates the atmosphere of an open air hippiefest.

Too bad it's such an obvious "Hey Jude" ripoff.

Rating: D

User Rating: C+



© 2005 Roland Fratzl and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of RCA Records, and is used for informational purposes only.