Friday, November 20, 2020

Roxy Music

Roxy Music (AM7)
Artist: Roxy Music
Released: June 16, 1972
Produced by: Pete Sinfield
Tracks: 1) Remake/Remodel (5:10); 2) Ladytron (4:21); 3) If There is Something (6:33): 4)2HB (4:34); 5) The Bob (5:48); 6) Chance Meeting (3:00) 7) Would You Believe? (3:47); 8) Sea Breezes (7:00); 9) Bitters End (2:02)
Band Members: Bryan Ferry: Vocals, piano, mellotron; Brian Eno: Electronics, tape effects, backing vocals; Phil Manzanera: guitars; Andy Mackay: sax, oboe, backing vocals; Paul Thompson: drums; Graham Simpson: Bass (Rik Kenton, bass on "Virginia Plain;" not included on the original album - 45 only)

The first Roxy Music album must have seemed visionary in 1972; even today, it packs a mighty punch. The vibe is willfully eclectic mixing psychedelia, art-rock, rockabilly, 30s croonings and Velvets-inspired proto-punk.  The band posited style as substance and in the process made their arty experimentation cool and glam.  There are triple doses of camp and irony, but look for the serious hidden within. Another aspect of Roxy Music - and every Roxy Music effort until Siren - is that each band member shines, while no one hogs the spotlight. Among the great cache of hummable pop are "Remake/Remodel,"  "Ladytron," and of course, "Virginia Plain" (AM10), arguably the greatest pop song of the decade (while not on the album, the single was released simultaneously). The overall sound and production is quite rough and under-produced (particularly for Pete Sinfield), and by side two the concept drags, but Roxy Music is an essential addition to anyone's collection.

For Your Pleasure (AM8)
Artist: Roxy Music
Released: March 23, 1973
Produced by: Chris Thomas, John Anthony, Roxy Music
Tracks: 1) Do the Strand (4:04); 2) Beauty Queen (4:41); 3) Strictly Confidential (3:48): 4) Editions of You (3:51); 5) In Every Dream Home, A Heartache (5:29); 6) The Bogus Man (9:20) 7) Grey Lagoons (4:13); 8) For Your Pleasure (6:51)
Band Members: Bryan Ferry: Vocals, piano, mellotron; Brian Eno: Electronics, tape effects, backing vocals; Phil Manzanera: guitars; Andy Mackay: sax, oboe, farfisa; Paul Thompson: drums

Roxy Music took a darker turn on their second album. If their debut painted a lounge singer lost in Limbo, For You Pleasure crosses the river Styx to the other side of unfulfilled desires, isolated souls crushed by the weight of emptiness between them, and sinners relegated to an eternity of cruel irony. At least that's the impression songs like "In Every Dream Home A Heartache," "The Bogus Man" and "For Your Pleasure" give. Half of the album is simply the next step of the revolutionary romance of their first LP, but it's not enough to shake the nightmarish pull created by the weightier epics. Serving two masters (love and art) makes for an uneasy musical alliance on For Your Pleasure, but it's a riveting tug of war. 

The album begins with the fan favorite "Do The Strand." Deliciously fun and frollicking, dance rock anthem features rather psychotic vocals from Ferry, as well as excellent keyboard, guitar & sax work, but the highlights are indeed the drumming and the weird lyrics - "Wary of the waltz, mashed potato schmalz, rhododendren!". Slightly ridiculous, but that's what the band's all about.

One of Roxy Music's better "rock" moments, and up there with “Virginia Plain,” "Editions of You" is a great slice of mad Roxy art-pop. It lasts just under 4 minutes, but what an engaging 4 minutes they are: the instrumental solos leap from Andy Mackay's frantic sax, to Eno's positively berserk synth. Add to that some great guitar breaks from Manza, and some silly organ towards the end, and you have a sure fire winner! "Don't play yourself for a fool....too much cheesecake too soon!" Yes indeed.

"In Every Dream home a Heartache” is the premiere example of Art Decadent Sci-fi Rock. In essence, it's a poem where a rich rich rich man chortles on about how fantastic his inflatable doll is (certainly a celebration of the whole "money can't buy you happiness" maxim), set to some fluid synth-treated guitar; all very low-key until about 3 minutes in, when the guitar and synth are unleashed and play merry hell with one another, with Ferry chanting "Dream home heartache" as if someone's torturing him with a screwdriver. One of rock's stellar false endings, the song makes a fantastic return, again with the guitar and synth fighting for prominence. One of Roxy's greatest pieces of art rock - even if one only has a passing interest in the genre, treat yourself at least once!