Review: David Bowie :: “A Divine Symmetry: The Journey To Hunky Dory”

Bowie transported a number of finished, unreleased songs through the 70s and instrumentalized them according to the needs of his alter egos. In 1971, at just 24 years old, he composed an acoustic ballad with the haunting title “Tired Of My Life”, then came Ziggy, then the plastic soul interpreter, finally the Thin White Duke, finally he brought the song in 1980 as “It’s No Game (No. 2)” and in a New Wave guise. So the more mature Bowie was less pathetic; he remained pessimistic nonetheless. “Tired Of My Life” is one of 48 unearthed outtakes dramatically described as a “12-month target stretch” by his record label. They form the basis for “Hunky Dory”, which, 51 years after its release, is increasingly emerging as Bowie’s magnum opus alongside “Low”.

Once again the question may be asked why Bowie never released a piano album

Some things are half-baked and (un)consciously based on role models, such as “How Lucky You Are”, the title of which evokes “Back In The USSR”, while the melody is reminiscent of “Happiness Is A Warm Gun”. Often performed live, the Velvet Underground track “Waiting For The Man” aggressively pummels Bowie as a hotel room acoustic ballad. The 1:53 minute demo of “Life On Mars?”, on the other hand, presents the brilliance of the majestic song about a world that nobody understands anymore, polished up on “Hunky Dory” with orchestra and Rick Wakeman on the piano. Bowie always hit the keys with great urgency. Once again the question may be asked why he never released a piano album.

The wealth of recordings is impressive, also because the “Five Years (1969-1973)” box set wanted to set standards in 2015, but only contained two unreleased songs from the “Hunky Dory” era. Unfortunately, since Bowie’s death, there have been inflationary remixes of the classics, also here where they are called “2021 Alternative Mixes”. If you have good ears or the best equipment, you may hear the differences.

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