Review : Roxy Music - Roxy Music The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982
GuardianIn a world of lavish, expensive box sets, you might expect Roxy Music's 40th anniversary package to be the most lavish of the lot. But there's no luxurious booklet full of pictures; no illuminating accompanying essay by their most ardent chronicler, Michael Bracewell; no sumptuous cover photo of an Anthony Price-styled model: just 10 CDs in a box – the last two padding out Roxy's three essential non-album singles with profoundly inessential B-sides, remixes and so on – its cover artwork thriftily recycled from a 1981 collection, The First Seven Albums.
Perhaps thriftiness is the point. The Complete Studio Recordings retails for £50: a fiver per CD. Maybe this befits austerity Britain, but then, responding empathetically to a recession just doesn't seem very Roxy Music. Look at the cover of For Your Pleasure, released in March 1973, a time of stock market crashes and oil crises: Bryan Ferry leaning on a Cadillac, grinning at model Amanda Lear, who's wearing a couture evening dress and stilettos and walking a panther on a lead. It's possible he and Lear plan to spend the evening debating the impact of the Heath government's ongoing rent freeze on the UK property market, but it doesn't really look like it. Its followup, Stranded, was riding high in the charts during the three-day week. Anyone playing it between power cuts would have heard the sound of Bryan Ferry, on Mother of Pearl, crooning: "Well, I've been up all night again – party time-wasting is just too much fun."
You can see why suburban teenagers embraced it as glorious escapism, but equally, you can see why the press eventually took to mocking Ferry as Byron Ferrari. Listening to Roxy Music's albums in chronological order, it's hard not to feel that Ferry, like a lot of early-70s rock stars, started out playing a role, but that it ended up consuming him far more thoroughly than, say, Ziggy Stardust did David Bowie. He began by suggesting there was a hollow darkness at the centre of the glamorous lives drawn in his songs – the wealthy protagonist of the peerlessly creepy In Every Dream Home a Heartache is so loveless he's reduced to having sex with an inflatable doll – but by the time of 1974's Country Life, seemed as attracted as he was repelled by that world. For every outsiderish sneer like Casanova, there's a song like The Thrill of It All or If It Takes All Night to make life among the jaded jet-set sound quite fantastically appealing....full text
PitchforkIn their 1970s heyday, Roxy Music enjoyed enormous critical and commercial success, but even so, they and their art-school rock were admired more than trusted. American critics snipped at leader Bryan Ferry's arch romanticism, while the Brit press considered the models Ferry squired and the suits he doffed and dubbed him "Byron Ferrari". Almost everyone affirmed that the band were great, while disagreeing as to when, exactly. For some, the great achievement was 1982's farewell, Avalon-- impeccably designed pop for weary grown-ups. Others went a decade further back, to the early, playfully experimental albums Roxy released when Brian Eno was in the band, playing androgyne peacock to Ferry's tailored lothario. Whether you see their development between those points as progress or cautionary tale, it's easy to let this contrast define the band.
This box set of remasters to celebrate the band's 40th anniversary-- not lavish, but thorough and reasonably priced-- is an opportunity to break free of narrative and see what sets every phase of Roxy Music apart. The answer is Bryan Ferry, one of rock's great, sustained acts of self-definition. In classic 70s style, like Bowie or Bolan, Ferry invented a pop star. A sybarite with a plummy, awkward croon, gliding through his own songs like they were parties he'd forgotten arriving at. A flying Dutchman of the jet set, doomed to find love but never satisfaction. Having worked his way into character over an album or two, he simply never left it, becoming more Bryan Ferry with every record and every year, whether performing or not....full text
BbcRoxy Music brought such panache to 70s pop that you would expect nothing less than this 10-CD collection to be housed in replica sleeves and an elegantly minimalist slipcase. The contents, however, provoke the feeling that meticulous packaging was often as far as it went.
Roxy’s eponymous 1972 entrée and For Your Pleasure (1973) are full of mannered vocals and an alternation between tunefulness and deliberate atonality. Stranded (also from 1973), their first album following the departure of their resident musical eccentric Brian Eno, sees a move toward pop and soul, evident from Street Life, on which Bryan Ferry growls with an emotion rare for the old smoothie.
On Country Life (1974), caterwauling electric guitar and louche stances occupy the same album in a way that could only be Roxy. There was a new sheen and sharp definition to the band’s sound from 1975’s Siren, which kicks off with the smart, pulsating pop of Love Is the Drug, although the ‘singles bar’ territory the latter traverses demonstrates the band’s persistent emotional shallowness.
Having sat out the punk revolution and its aftermath, Roxy began their comeback album Manifesto (1979) with defiant artiness in the shape of two-and-a-half slow and instrumental minutes. Even so, the pointer to the future is Dance Away, a glittering but conventional ballad.
By the time of the hit-packed Flesh + Blood (1980), Roxy are, apart from the general sophistication, unrecognisable as the band whose adult fare was once completely at odds with their platform-booted, teen idol image. The album’s sighing tone and pretty synths are typified by Over You....full text
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