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- An outstanding copy of Bowie’s sophomore release with solid Double Plus (A++) sound or BETTER from start to finish
- The sound here is huge, full-bodied, punchy and relatively smooth throughout, with real space and ambience around the vocals and instruments
- “Abandoning both the mod and Anthony Newley fascinations that marked his earlier recordings, Bowie delves into a lightly psychedelic folk-rock, exemplified by the album’s soaring title track. . .”
One of the reasons the song “Space Oddity” sounds so amazing is that it was produced by none other than Gus Dudgeon, the man behind all the best Elton John records. It has Paul Buckmaster doing the string arrangements as well. His work on Elton’s self-titled album is awe-inspiring; we know of none better.
This vintage RCA Victor pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of Space Oddity Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1969
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
What We’re Listening For on Space Oddity
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt — Ken Scott in this case — would put them.
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed
Letter to Hermione
An Occasional Dream
Wild Eyed Boy From Freecloud
God Knows I’m Good
Memory of a Free Festival
Originally released as Man of Words/Man of Music, Space Oddity was David Bowie”s first successful reinvention of himself. Abandoning both the mod and Anthony Newley fascinations that marked his earlier recordings, Bowie delves into a lightly psychedelic folk-rock, exemplified by the album’s soaring title track…
Still one of David Bowie’s best-known songs, “Space Oddity” was a largely acoustic number augmented by the eerie tones of the composer’s Stylophone, a pocket electronic organ. The title and subject matter were inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and introduced the character of Major Tom. Some commentators have also seen the song as a metaphor for heroin use, citing the opening countdown as analogous to the drug’s passage down the needle prior to the euphoric ‘hit’, and noting Bowie’s admission of a “silly flirtation with smack” in 1968. His 1980 hit “Ashes to Ashes” declared “We know Major Tom’s a junkie”.
“Unwashed and Somewhat Slightly Dazed” reflected a strong Bob Dylan influence, with its harmonica, edgy guitar sound and snarling vocal. “Letter to Hermione” was a farewell ballad to Bowie’s former girlfriend, Hermione Farthingale, who was also the object of “An Occasional Dream”, a gentle folk tune reminiscent of the singer’s 1967 debut album. “God Knows I’m Good”, Bowie’s observational tale of a shoplifter’s plight, also recalled his earlier style.
“Cygnet Committee” has been called Bowie’s “first true masterpiece”. Commonly regarded as the album track most indicative of the composer’s future direction, its lead character is a messianic figure “who breaks down barriers for his younger followers, but finds that he has only provided them with the means to reject and destroy him”. Bowie himself described it at the time as a put down of hippies who seemed ready to follow any charismatic leader. Another track cited as foreshadowing themes to which Bowie would return in 1970s, in this case the fracturing of personality, was “Janine”, which featured the words “But if you took an axe to me, you’d kill another man not me at all”.
The Buddhism-influenced “Wild Eyed Boy from Freecloud” was presented in a heavily expanded form compared to the original guitar-and-cello version on the B-side of the “Space Oddity” single; the album cut featured a 50-piece orchestra and was also notable for Mick Ronson’s debut on a Bowie record, playing uncredited guitar and handclaps midway through the song. “Memory of a Free Festival” was Bowie’s reminiscence of an arts festival he had organised in August 1969. Its drawn-out fade/chorus (“The Sun Machine is coming down / And we’re gonna have a party”) was compared to The Beatles’ “Hey Jude”; the song has also been interpreted as a derisive comment on the counterculture it was ostensibly celebrating. The background vocals for the crowd finale featured Bob Harris, his wife Sue, Tony Woollcott and Marc Bolan among other people. In 1970 Bowie cut the tune in half for the A- and B-sides of a more rock-oriented version featuring the band that would accompany him on The Man Who Sold the World later that year: Mick Ronson, Tony Visconti and Mick Woodmansey – an embryonic form of Ziggy Stardust’s Spiders From Mars.