Hunky Dory is the fourth album by English singer-songwriter David Bowie, released by RCA Records in 1971 (see 1971 in music). It was Bowie’s first release through RCA, which would be his label for the next decade. Hunky Dory has been described by Allmusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine as having “a kaleidoscopic array of pop styles, tied together only by Bowie’s sense of vision: a sweeping, cinematic m?nge of high and low art, ambiguous sexuality, kitsch, and class.
Bowie had been without a recording contract when he started work on the album at Trident Studios in April 1971. RCA Records in New York heard the tapes and signed him to a three-album deal on September 9, 1971 (1971-09-09), releasing Hunky Dory two months later.
Supported by the single “Changes”, the album scored generally favourable reviews and sold reasonably well on its initial release, without being a major success.
Melody Maker called it “the most inventive piece of song-writing to have appeared on record in a considerable time”, while NME described it as Bowie “at his brilliant best”.
Stateside, Rolling Stone opined “Hunky Dory not only represents Bowie’s most engaging album musically, but also finds him once more writing literally enough to let the listener examine his ideas comfortably, without having to withstand a barrage of seemingly impregnable verbiage before getting at an idea”.
However, it was only after the commercial breakthrough of Ziggy Stardust in mid-1972 that Hunky Dory became a hit, climbing to #3 in the UK charts.
In 1973, RCA released “Life on Mars?” as a single, which also made #3 in the UK.
In 1998 Q magazine readers voted Hunky Dory the 43rd greatest album of all time, while in 2000 the same magazine placed it at number 16 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever. In 2003, the album was ranked number 107 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year, the TV network VH1 placed it at number 47 and the Virgin All-Time Top 1000 Albums chart placed it at position 16. In 2006, TIME magazine chose it as one of the 100 best albums of all time