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Roxy Music - Roxy Music CD (album) cover

ROXY MUSIC

Roxy Music

 

Crossover Prog

4.02 | 196 ratings

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Peter
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars English art rock outfit Roxy Music's self-titled 1972 debut album likely won't match with many people's concept of "progressive rock," but it is a very strong slice of imaginative, eclectic 70s rock in any case. Though I would never compare Roxy to prog "standard bearers" such as Crimson, Genesis, Yes or ELP, there are many "progressive" elements in their material -- particularly on their first five albums.

On this, their first foray into the studio, many of the progressive flavours and shades are down to the presence of the great Brian Eno on synthesizers, tapes and effects. (Following Roxy's sophomore outing FOR YOUR PLEASURE, Eno would go on to a diverse solo career, and a series of ambient collaborations with Robert Fripp, before becoming one of the most influential, sought-after producers in rock.) Eno's visionary, irreverent handling of the synths, and Bryan Ferry's tremolo-laden warblings and croonings -- and artful pose of the jaded lounge singer from a near, dystopian future of empty liaisons and chance encounters -- impart an almost disturbing edge to ROXY MUSIC that would begin to fade by their third album, in favour of more straight-forward (but still quite original and good) rock.

As the younger set say, "it's all good," but some tracks are special standouts: Album opener "Re-Make/Re-Model" gets things off to a rocking start, and Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay really serve up some frantic, kick-ass licks on guitar and sax. Eno makes his presence felt in a big way with some bizarre synth breaks, and Ferry shows that he learned to rock before he could croon.

Next up, "Ladytron" starts out spacey/medieval, thanks to synth and oboe, before Ferry brings the full band into one of their finest signature songs. There are definite "prog-friendly" moments in the heroic keyboard motif, and Manzanera's axe work.

"If There is Something" starts out as a quasi-country psychabilly number, only to gracefully morph into perhaps the best, most memorable track on the disc. Great lyrics, great singing, and some wonderful keyboard/piano themes. (Ferry supplies the piano.) The pounding, precise drums, courtesy of the great Paul Thompson, are notably good on this number. Sing along now: "Lift up your feet and put them on the ground -- the hills were higher, when you were young." Terrific, classic stuff.

The later-added single "Virginia Plain" is good rocking fun, while the eerie "Chance Meeting" is very spacey, and very "prog." More wonderful weirdness follows, before the doo-wop-flavoured "Bitters End" brings this astonishing debut to a tragi-comic, haunting end. "Should make the cognoscenti think" indeed! Smooth on the finish, with a lingering, hard-to-classify, but bold aftertaste.

Yes, ROXY MUSIC is the one that I would recommend curious prog fans to start with. It's a very good album, and provides an essential portrait of how the group that would later produce the slick, mega-selling AVALON started out. I find it difficult to compare the band (especially at this early stage of their career) to any other, so I won't attempt any "sounds like" comparisons. (This heady, hybrid sonic brew must be experienced to be understood!) Suffice to say that Roxy Music masterfully established their own sound, and staked out a unique place in the British rock scene of the time. If you've never heard early Roxy Music, or are fleshing out your collection of Seventies psycho-art rock, I whole-heartedly urge you to check out ROXY MUSIC. A must!

Pass me another martini, would you? What did you say your name was again? Virginia? How very droll. Shall we leave this gaudy gathering, my dear?

Peter | 4/5 |

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