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Roxy Music - Heart Still Beating  CD (album) cover

HEART STILL BEATING

Roxy Music

 

Crossover Prog

2.89 | 19 ratings

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Neu!mann
Prog Reviewer
2 stars The title of this posthumous live album, belatedly released eight long years after the band's 1982 studio swan song "Avalon", is almost too appropriate: what you're hearing is the comatose fossil of an all but exhausted creative spirit, its vital functions maintained only by the artificial life support of constant touring.

They may not have officially broken up yet, but the group on stage in southern France in 1982 was only a thin facsimile of the Roxy Music that had blazed such a glamorous path across the previous decade. The backbone beat of drummer Paul Thompson was gone; the signature sound and presence of Eddie Jobson's Plexiglas violin was gone; and of course the one and only Eno had retired his feather boas and VCS3 doodles years earlier.

What remained was strictly a vehicle for the debonair crooning of Bryan Ferry, with old-timers Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera, who as much as anyone had defined the classic Roxy Music sound, reduced to the level of near-anonymous hired hands. For proof, you only have to compare the negligible differences separating the last few Roxy albums from the subsequent arc of Ferry's solo career in the mid- to late-1980s.

The silver lining is that these guys could still play, even when simply going through the motions. Lend an ear to the energetic reading of "Can't Let Go", from Bryan Ferry's underappreciated 1978 album "The Bride Stripped Bare", and to the stately "Song For Europe", featuring a rare moment of ecstatic soloing by sax man Andy Mackay, showing more passion than he was normally allowed in the otherwise strictly regimented Roxy hierarchy.

Master guitarist Phil Manzanera also shines (albeit briefly) during the band's cover of Neil Young's "Like a Hurricane". And he takes the spotlight even more forcefully in "Both Ends Burning", the only song in the entire set diverging to any noticeable degree from its original studio version, in this edition stripped down and buffed up to a smooth, high-gloss sheen.

Elsewhere the album is nothing less than impeccably produced, thoroughly professional, and totally lifeless. It probably didn't help that the band was by then performing in large, impersonal arenas, in this case to a crowd that (even on tape) sounds more like a mechanical abstraction than a genuine flesh and blood audience. Add to that the obligation to play the same old songs night after night, and it's no wonder they lost their motivation.

I suppose as an ersatz greatest hits collection (with clapping) it almost makes sense. But as a musical valediction, forget it. Fans would have to wait another decade for true closure, in the 2003 twin-disc "Roxy Music Live" reunion package.

Neu!mann | 2/5 |

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