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Roxy Music

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5 stars Country Life is Roxy Music in their finest hour. The album evokes various styles of music ranging from the dark Berlin cabaret genius that is "Bittersweet", the over the top pop with "All I Want is You" and a bizarre country tinged rocker "Prairie Rose" But Country Life rocks out as well and probably is their hardest hitting release. The bizarre "Triptych" is unlike anything I am familiar with in modern rock and the band rocks with good times rock and roll with "If it Takes All Night". It stands to mention that this is guitarist Phil Manzanera's finest album with great soloing throughout especially on the aforementioned "Prarie Rose" where he follows up a nice sax solo by Andy MacKay Never an official member but a very important part of the sound, bass player John Gustafson is magnificent on this album as well. Why he was never an official member is really a crime. He plays some great bass throughout especially on the haunting "Out of the Blue" which also includes a great violin solo from Ed Jobson. Of course legend has it that Country Life made many a teenage boy go blind mind you and that is why the album cover was changed shortly after it't release. Other highlights include "The Thrill of it All", "Really Good Time" and "Casanova" of my all time favorite versus sung by Ferry on "Casanova" is where Ferry questions his colleague "You're flirting with heroin, or is it cocaine?" This album has it all and is also for anyone interested in what glam was all about.
Report this review (#34036)
Posted Friday, February 4, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Opening with a very Bowie-like number, and moving into many diverse types of songs. One could not easily get bored with this album, not to mention the depth lyrically, as well as musically. A surprisingly dark undertone rides throughout this album, occasionally coming to the surface boldly on songs such as "Bitter Sweet", a moody track, which opens mellow, and rises into melancholy vocal work, which then exlodes in a Krimson, and shocking voice, sung in German, and reinforced with great instrumental work, easily the best tune ion the album.

I would reccomend this album to any Bowie fan into Prog. Certainly a gem for your collection, that you'll keep coming back to. I give this album 5 stars, because I see absolutely no marring flaw to it, and it should be bought by every prog fan, who has the chance. I can honestly say that I've never heard anything like this before.

Report this review (#34038)
Posted Sunday, March 6, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars Is this Prog? I don't know, but it's some great music. 1974 new wave music? B. Ferry has kind of a baratone, quirky, sound with a little verbrado and a clipped style. To go with funky love story type lyrics. I'm usually not a fan of "relationship lyrics" unless they are very clever or off the wall. These would qualify as both. The music itself is layered and mostly hard driving with great bass-lines and piano. Keys, violin, sax, and oboe... they all work in and out with great guitar work of course. The songs are perky, fun, and will keep your interest. This was my first Roxy album and I could get enough after I heard this one. "Praire Rose" may be the coolest song here, with a "country rock style". But there's jazzy sounds, blues, funk, metal riffs, a litle bit of everything. Not a bad track here. "All I Want Is You", is a great rocker, with a nice backbeat. "Out of The Blue" zips with rolling piano and violin, with awesome bass and synth. Maybe Eno left Roxy, but his influence is obvious until the album "Avalon". Lots of cool synth, and weird Eno-sounds to spice up the music. I guess this is quintessential "Glam, Rock", and even though I don't get the makeup and the drag look, I love the music. Bowie's "Glam" era also produced some great, very cool music too. If you like Country Life, you are bound to like "For Your Pleasure", "Siren", and "Stranded" for sure. Is Country Life a masterpiece? I don't know, but it's one of the coolest albums I've heard.
Report this review (#34039)
Posted Monday, March 7, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars A great return to form after a somewhat tepid album ('Stranded'). 'Country Life' harkens back to some of Roxy's earlier work, but at the same time expands their sound towards a more rock orientation. What makes the album work is that it still retains the artiness of Roxy's earlier albums, whilst being quite appealing and accessible.

The album begins with a Roxy classic, 'The Thrill of it All', in which Manza's rocking guitar is at the forefront. To be honest, it snarls. Quite a rocking tune then, which is hardly surprising since Roxy's rhythm section propels the song very nicely thank you. Personally though, I believe the high point of the song to be the string arrangements in the background - they really do add something. In the work of other artists, backing strings can be cheesy, annoying and downright pointless, but in this song they manage to be in front without being 'in-your-face' as it were, and compliment the song extremely well. I hardly need to mention Bryan Ferry's vocals here: they're excellent throughout the whole album of course! He sings with energy, conviction, but he doesn't take himself too seriously which is fantastic.

The next song we have is 'Three And Nine' which is, in my opinion, a fairly low point in the album. It's a bit of a nostalgic (it's about Bryan going to the movies as a boy) generic ballad marked by some harmonica and oboe. Alright, so it's not THAT generic then, but by Roxy's standards, it's slightly uninspired as it sticks to a formula and doesn't seem that interested in expanding boundaries or being overly exciting. So all in all, it's just too normal! That IS only my opinion however.

'All I Want Is You' is what 'Three And Nine' should have been! Poppy, but with energy and verve. Speaking of which, it has some fierce rocking guitar in the backgrounds, which is lovely. I must say, Manza's solo in the middle is fantastic. It even has some cute backing vocals towards the end "all I want/all I want"...however, the song is slightly overshadowed by the song it segues into, which is:

'Out of the Blue', definitely a Roxy high point and one of the album's best songs. Rollicking guitar, great vocals, some fairly frantic even has some nice synthesizer effects which will please those who REALLY miss Eno's stuff on the first two albums. Yes, very typically Roxy, but what makes this song is Eddie Jobson. Eddie contributes a fantastic violin solo towards the end, which bursts with so much energy it could be a nuclear accident. Eddie's seering violin pretty much sums up Roxy's high points as a whole - yes, pop with a difference. Excellent. You must hear it to believe it.

'If It Takes All Night' is the other low point of the album - personally, I find it a bit too singalongish, with piano that sounds like it was ripped out of the Wild West complimented by some country guitar. Indeed though, if this is your bag you'll love it. Not utter rubbish by any means, but from Roxy we've heard better.

'Bitter Sweet' is another great moment on the album. A song which I brushed over at first, but grew to absolutely love and would always make my top 10 Roxy songs. It's one of Roxy's few attempts at a Cabaret song - one that owes as much to the Weimar Republic as it does to 'Casablanca'. Slow, deliberate and sooo sincere, Bryan's vocals and piano really make this a killer track. Some atmospheric synth in the background, great drumming and a couple of nice little oboe solo make the song even better. It also has a verse sung in German! Classic Art Rock.

'Triptych'...umm...yes. Personally, I love it. It's so strange, so unconventional and so intense. Once again, it's made by Bryan's vocals and keyboards (which now take on the guise of harpsicord I think). So much energy comes out of the chorus that it's almost unbelievable that the song wasn't performed live very often. Then again, in 1974 there weren't THAT many songs about Crucifixion where there? 'Triptych' is certainly one of Roxy's weirder moments, and is required listening for Art Rockers.

'Casanova' is a pretty nice rocker. It is, however, all over the place. What makes it is the band's energy. If this song were an animal, one wouldn't be able to tie it down and stop it from eating the Dahlias. What makes the song especially enjoyable for me is the keyboarding that goes on after the initial vocals. Nice and cruisy, which acts as an interesting contrast with the frenetic guitar and rhythm section.

The next song, 'A Really Good Time' is, like 'The Thrill of it All', a song that makes great use of strings. The song, on first glance is almost a generic ballad, but Bryan's vocals and the strings really make it so much more. He sings with so much conviction, but then again, doesn't he most of the time? In comparison with the rest of the album however, even the tasteful strings can't make this as trailblazing or exciting as tracks such as 'Triptych' or 'Out of the Blue' for example.

The album ends with a rocker, and a definite high note: 'Prairie Rose' has an almost country flavour to it, but Manza's guitar is so well done, and there is so much energy from everyone, that it works extremely well. It even has some slide guitar! Structure-wise, the song isn't all that amazing, but its infectious beat and rocking guitar make it a winner, and a fine end to a great album.

To conclude, "Country Life' is a great album which harkens back to Roxy's earlier two artier albums. It manages to combine some experimental aspects of these two albums whilst also retaining a feel of its own. Highly recommended.

Report this review (#45010)
Posted Wednesday, August 31, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
3 stars This album delivers two exciting elements: 1) one of the most sensual covers in the progrock history and 2) Eddie Jobson on keyboards and violin. The music on this album is a pleasant blend progressive of pop and rock, my personal highlights are "The thrill of it all" (great guitarplay by Phil Manzanera and strong vocals from Bryan Ferry) and "Out of the blue" (mindblowing violin solo by Eddie Jobson). By the way, once Bryan Ferry decided that beautiful and sexy women on covers are good for the sales, here is one of the most stunning results!

Report this review (#47110)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars By the time of their fourth album, 1974's COUNTRY LIFE, English art rock originals Roxy Music were a fully-seasoned band in their strongest incarnation. The addition of string and synth man extraordinaire Edwin (Eddie) Jobson to the lineup was nothing short of inspired, and a virtual godsend for the group's burgeoning fan base. Jobson's violin, by turns soaring and driving, added an extra artful and sophisticated element, and lifted the Roxy sound to intoxicating, rarefied new heights. Meanwhile, laying down a muscular foundation on the four-string was John Gustafson, who was as close as the group ever came to having a fulltime bassist. (Gustafson would remain with the band for their highly successful fifth album, SIREN.)

The remainder of the band is in top form here, led by charismatic front man and songwriter Bryan Ferry, who serves up some of the best vocals and material of his impressive career. Co-founders Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, on guitar, and sax and oboe, respectively, are vital as ever on the album's harder tracks, but also stretch themselves artistically on moodier selections such as "Bitter-Sweet" and "Triptych" -- the latter of which is a poetic and sonically ambitious depiction of the crucifixion. Behind the skins, drummer Paul Thompson is nothing short of fabulous. He provides the thumping heartbeat that propels the album's infectious and danceable rockers along, but displays subtle finesse when the occasion suits, as on "A Really Good Time" -- a hard-hitting portrait of an archetypical Ferry character: a jaded beauty and "good time" girl for whom former pleasures have lost their appeal: "All the things you used to do - a trip to the movies, a drink or two - they don't satisfy you; they don't tell you anything new."

Track for track, this is perhaps my favourite Roxy Music recording (though it faces some strong competition in the debut album, and the also superlative SIREN). The proceedings get off to a stirring start with "The Thrill of It All," a rocker that convincingly showcases Jobson's powerful presence on the violin, with the added bonus of some of Manzanera's strongest axe work yet.

Next up, "Three and Nine" is an unobtrusive little number with some nice sax work from former music teacher Mackay, and even a smattering of harmonica. (I believe the versatile Ferry handles the "harp," though the instrument is not credited).

"All I Want Is You" features an infectious, chugging beat, and more terrific lead - if this one doesn't at least get your toes tapping, you're likely already dead.

What is arguably the most memorable track on this excellent album follows next: "Out of the Blue" soon became a concert favourite, and the interplay between the rollicking piano, and phase-shifted strings and guitar here is awesome. If this one doesn't stir you, then you just don't like Roxy! (But I know you'll love it!)

"If It Takes All Night" is another fun-time number that flies past with pseudo "barrelhouse" piano reminiscent of that of the band's contemporaries Mott the Hoople.

"Bitter Sweet," as its title hints, is part sensitive confession, and part nightmarish chorus line motif. Replete with a verse in German, this one is evocative of the gritty "Three Penny Opera" of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weil, and the cabarets of Weimar Republic Berlin.

"Casanova" is another outstanding, up-tempo song, and one of my favourites of the set. The acerbic lyrics find Ferry confronting a Lothario-like acquaintance: "You - the hero. So many times you've loved, and didn't linger. Casanova - Is that your name, or do you live there?" Great stuff - turn it up!

The session comes to a thundering climax with a truly monumental serving of rock and roll ecstasy: "Prairie Rose" was written for Ferry's then "significant other," leggy Texan model Jerry Hall. (Later featured on the cover of SIREN, Hall would all too soon leave Ferry for a bigger star - a certain Mr. Mick Jagger). From the opening, irresistible strumming of Manzanera's guitar, to Mackay's sweaty, sexy sax, to the throbbing, pounding bass and drums, this orgasmic ode just begs to be enjoyed often, unabashedly and loudly. "Texas" (or is it love?): "Oh what a state to be in!"

In closing, COUNTRY LIFE is absolutely essential listening for the true (or would-be) Roxy fan. Their last release before the disco element started to slink in, this one really kicks! That's right, you lethargic, pasty-skinned, city-dwelling progholes: give COUNTRY LIFE a go - I'm sure it will get your rock and roll "juices" flowing again!

Oh... regarding that oft-censored cover (my original LP jacket only gave me the greenery - no buxom "come hither" models to trouble my teenaged daydreams!): How very uplifting to see you again, ladies! I'll start with the one on the right....

Rock on, Roxy fans!

Report this review (#63458)
Posted Friday, January 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I got acquainted to Roxy in 1974 or so (thanks to some radio aired tunes). I decide to buy their whole production somewhere in the early eighties (1981 with their box "The First Seven Albums"). This album is as famous for its catchy sleeve as for the music. The sleeve showing two semi-naked fwomen was rather controversial for its time (1974). The album had to be relooked in the US and some countries had alternative versions of the cover photo showing only the a close up of the girls faces ! After the musically weaker "Stranded" (IMO) Roxy had to perform better.

When you listen to "The Thrill of It All", you definitely know that something real better is going to come. It is a thrilling song. Almost frenetic. A great opener as usual. Ferry is great, emotional (but this will be a constant landmark for this album). Most of side one is superb (except perhaps "Three & Nine" and "If It Takes All Night" are just good songs. The latter belongs more to the Ferry's solo repertoire.

The second highlight "Out of the Blue" with its gorgeous bass and violin is fabulous and belongs to the very best of Roxy. Just a bit too short... "Bitter Sweet" is a wonderful (almost) ballad song. A bit in the style of "Song For Europe" but instead of French lyrics we got some German ones here. The band backing Ferry is in a perfect shape. A "band" called The Venus In Furs made up from Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke, Suede guitarist Bernard Butler, Jon Greenwood, Clune, Paul Kimble & Andy Mackay recorded this song for the soundtrack to the good film "Velvet Goldmine" which was a pastiche of the glam rock scene, caricaturing specially Bowie/Ziggy (huum. I've heard of that one already...). "Trytych" is probably below par here but we won't blame them too much for that because the next "Casanova" is again a great Roxy song. Flamboyant Ferry and a fantastic support band in their very personal style. One of the best song on "Country Life". "A Real Good Time" is another rock ballad, but less inspired.

"Praire Rose" is a memorable track. Another Roxy anthem in the vein of "Virginia Plain" etc. Manzarena and MacKay are fabulous in this quite remarkable song. It is a good rocking song with great bass and sax. Very powerful and inspired. Bizarrely, this song will open their 1974 tour, but will never been played live after that.

Very few songs belongs to the classic Roxy repertoire, but this album is, IMO, one of their best. It will hit number three in the UK charts. At this moment of their career, there were already some rumours about their separation... In terms of prog, you should look next door because you won't find any here.

Four solid stars for this very good album.

Report this review (#111640)
Posted Sunday, February 11, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Country Life is the fourth full-length studio album by UK pop/ rock act Roxy Music. And if you should forget about that it´s also printed on the inner sleeve on my CD version that it´s the fourth Roxy Music album. John Gustafson, who played some of the bass on the predecessor to Country Life called Stranded (1973), is now a full-time member of the band and the lineup would actually remain steady for the next album Siren (1975) as well.

The more mainstram pop/ rock approach which was initiated on Stranded is continued on Country Life but with greater success IMO. Stranded was a pretty good album but this one is a bit more memorable. There´s the trademark Roxy Music rock´n´roll style in a song like The Thrill of It All but songs like Bitter Sweet, Out of the Blue and Triptych all show that Roxy Music has something else up the sleeve as well. Intelligent and sophisticated pop/ rock.

The musicianship is great. Eddie Jobson´s contributions on synths/ keybaords and violin really suit the music well. Bryan Ferry is an aquired taste but his weird vibratto outbursts are more rare than they used to be. Great sax playing from Andy Mackay while guitarist Phil Manzanera becomes more and more prominent with each album. The rythm section needs a special mention as well. Powerful and tight interplay.

The production is really enjoyable. Warm and pleasant but with an edge when that is needed.

Roxy Music have just taken a step up in my book. Country Life is definitely one of the better albums from the band that I have heard. A big 3 star rating is deserved.

Report this review (#204272)
Posted Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars I can't disagree with Erik's assessment that his album has the most sensual cover in Progrock history. I do like the fact that Eddie Jobson is in the band although I think Eno had a much greater influence on their sound. I wish Eddie's violin playing was given more prominance.This album is even more mainstream sounding than "For Your Pleasure" and for me it's a very hit and miss affair. Of course with the amount of variety on this album there's always that danger of not making everyone happy.

"The Thrill Of It All" is my second favourite track. I like the energy that kicks in after the piano intro. Some vocal melodies before Bryan starts to sing. Just a great tune all around. "Three And Nine" has an island flavour to it, I feel like i'm on holiday's or something when listening to this mid-paced tune. Some sax and harmonica on this one as well. "All I Want Is You" is a fun song with some excellent guitar.

"Out Of The Blue" is my favourite. I just love how it sounds. Vocals before a minute. The guitar cries out after 2 minutes but the highlight is the violin before 4 minutes to the end. Just a fantastic job by Eddie. "If It Takes All Night" is bluesy and I just can't get into it. "Bitter Sweet" is another track i'm not a fan of. Some German lyrics in this one. "Tripych" is a song I like lyrically but i'm not fond of the music. Harpsichord and sort of a medieval flavour to this one. "Casanova" is kind of funky and I like the guitar before 2 minutes. "A Really Good Time" is led by piano and vocals early but the focus is on the vocals throughout. "Praire Rose" is a good song with great vocals, sax and guitar.

I still think their debut stands alone as the best thing they ever did. They've become more mainstream with each album in my opinion. 3.5 stars.

Report this review (#224244)
Posted Thursday, July 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Swingin' country style

Roxy's fourth was recorded in the summer of 1974 and is regarded by some as their finest work, and their most "normal" piece of work. My biggest problem with Country Life is my ongoing disappointment with their studio albums: after hearing the live Roxy, the studio albums are just flat in comparison. Roxy is an amazing live band, full of life, the passion of Ferry's presence always pushed by the gorgeous instrumental improvisations. How does one go back to hearing them in this setting, with a constrained production and tamed band?

Musically Country Life finds the band in a festive mood. As Lise said in the Bio, if Oscar Wilde were alive today Roxy would be his favorite. Decadence, glammed-up party rock, passionate neo-Sinatra crooning all served up with a healthy dose of sexuality. As mentioned the tracks are mostly "normal" rock tracks with verses and choruses, rock beats, and reasonable lengths. There is the pounding opener "Thrill of it All" which goes on far too long but sets the mood of the album, followed by the whimsical, delicious pop of "Three and Nine." The heavy hitters consist of "Out of the Blue" which would become phenomenal in the live setting. "Bitter-sweet" is a classic with Ferry looking at the wreckage of lost love, sounding like an old and cheated man, to this very moody music. He breaks into German at certain points as the music gets angrier.

"These vintage years! Lovers you consume, my friend. As others their wine."

And my personal favorite is the song Ferry was born to deliver, "Casanova." Another look at jilted love that sounds quite angry if you just read the lyrics on paper, but when you listen it is delivered with a flamboyant romp that makes plain Ferry enjoys every second of the game. He scolds on paper but gives you the eye wink acceptance when he actually sings it. It's an absolutely masterful vocal that must be heard to understand. "Country Life" is certainly a good collection of art-pop/rock songs and many see it as a great collection. The lyrics and songwriting are very good. I personally just can't get past my disappointments of squaring the live versions of their material with these studio ones and with this album that trend continues. I will always have to recommend people turn to their live DVDs for optimal Roxy fun. 3 stars.

Report this review (#257070)
Posted Sunday, December 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
3 stars After mentioning the first two Roxy Music albums I might as well make an honorable mention of this release. Country Life might not be the masterpiece that most mainstream critics seem to give it credit for but it has some adventurous moments mixed in with glam pop/rock sections. Plus it's always nice to have Eddie Jobson on board!

The Thrill Of It All is a well recognized Roxy Music anthem that may not hold up to the previous great opening tracks but, in a way, it gives a hint of the things to come. Halfway thought the album starts to sink into a somewhat bluesy/country vibe with If It Takes All Night which I don't like that much but things get a whole lot better once the intro to Bitter Sweet fades in. This track is the only true moment of greatness that this album has to offer and it definitely made enough impression on me, which is probably the main reason why I mention this album in the first place!

The final part of the album is crafted with a couple of enjoyable tunes and one boring final track which drags on for too long for my tastes. I remember that, while listening to this release for the first time, I just had to go back and replay Bitter Sweet because I just couldn't believe that such a composition actually made it on this album since it sounds nothing like the rest of the material.

***** star songs: Bitter Sweet (4:50)

**** star songs: The Thrill Of It All (6:24) Three And Nine (4:04) All I Want Is You (2:53) Triptych (3:09) Casanova (3:27) A Really Good Time (3:45)

*** star songs: Out Of The Blue (4:46) If It Takes All Night (3:12) Prairie Rose (5:12)

Report this review (#261491)
Posted Monday, January 18, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars By 1974 glam rock was pretty much past behind its prime. But Roxy Music would go on to prove they were much more than just a visually strinking band with some talented musicians. Unfortunatly, their fourth album was not one of their best. There was clearly a change of direction here and the band (or more likely Bryan Ferry) didn´t seem to know exactly where to go. Country Life reeks a little like Ferry´s solo output and the singer sounds a bit trying to emulate his beloved american songwriters of pre-rock ´n´roll period. Doing that they lost two of their most appealing qualities: originality and lack of rock cliches. But the album had its merits anyway. It was also the first to feature the same bassist (John Gustafson) that had played on the prevous one (even if it seems he was never a ´real´ full time member, since for the tour they hired ex King Crimson John Wetton)

The cover was one of them, quite sensual. Sexist ok, but yet very well done. In many countries it was replaced by either a close-up photo of the models or (as in Brazil at the time) the girls were erased altogether and only the background foliage remained. And the tracklist has some fine moments like the opener The Thrill Of It All. Out Of the Blue is another great track and a classic Roxy Music tune that was a staple of live perfomances ever since(great violin solo in the end!). Ferry was also writing some of his best and most mature lyrics so far. Casanova is a very good one and the music is good enough to match it.

Still, most of the material is not that strong and with so many bluesrock and R&B bands around why one should bother to hear Roxy´s entry in this field? They sound basic and amateurish in comparison (just listen to If It Takes All Night and you´ll know what I mean). The german cabaret style of stuff like Bitter Sweet and Triptych is ok, I guess, but it is not my cup of tea. The final track Praire Rose is the typical rock track with country flavor of the period: nice, but ultimatly too commonplace and forgetable. Less than one year before Roxy seemed to be on the vanguard of the music scene. With Country Life they looked eager to please the mainstream rock audience (America maybe?). Small wonder the album was not well riceived by critics and it sold less than Stranded.

Conclusion: Not a bad album, of course, but definitly not as good as the previous three. My rating keeps shifting from 3 to 3,5 stars.

Report this review (#272961)
Posted Friday, March 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Crossover & JR/F/Canterbury Teams
3 stars By this, their fourth album, Roxy Music were well on their way away from the quirky, odd art rock of the first two albums, and toward the smooth lounge style music they mastered on the last few. One big step in the process is Bryan Ferry getting much better at singing notes, as opposed to singing around them.

The first half of the album is much more traditional rock/pop than the second, but it also contains the two best songs on the album. The Thrill Of It All and Out Of The Blue are some of the best songs of this stage of Roxy's music. Casanova, from the second side of the album, is not far behind, however, later live performances of this song far outshine this version.

Bitter-Sweet is the most artsy sounding song on the album. It almost sounds like an imitation of the Brecht/Weill songs that The Doors once played. Triptych also sounds a bit like the early Roxy Music sound, but doesn't stay interesting.

So this is a mixed bag. It has some interesting songs, but is no way a necessity.

then again, it does have that soft core porn cover.

Report this review (#397124)
Posted Wednesday, February 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Country Life ? 1974 (3/5) 11 ? Best Song: Three and Nine

And this, this might be their most exciting show of all, when it comes to certain levels. The ELO style washes and kicking feedback-laden crash of the echoing introductory 'The Thrill of it All' might effectively function as the group's quintessential piece. The drift in mood from softer brass flowing to overdriven electric and violin mayhem every half minute or so is a truly spoken thrill if there ever was one. But this is the stage of the band that will show me a truly grand idea, then be happy enough running it to the ground.

It's Country Life, which is considered to be the final album in the band's four 'essential' peak releases. This one kicks up the diversity a few notches. 'Three and Nine' is some tastefully glammy pop, and Ferry's at his (have to use this word at least once in all these reviews) decadent best. The sleazy saxophone solo is tops, as well. 'All I Want Is You' is more of a lost 1960's gem, which is partly why it disappoints me. Couldn't they have given that riff a more engaging hook to it? And the singing is lazy. What point am I trying to make here? Well, this is a disjointed, convoluted album of highs and lows. It has that trademark personality, but it's lacking in the songwriting department. We're pleasantly 'going through the motions' he says without words.

Give me clarity or give me death! The piano accompaniment isn't even necessary anymore. Hell, on 'Out of the Blue', the bass guitar plays a more prominent role. I don't know about you, but I like my piano glam more piano-y, ya dig? I understand their desires to dabble in funky-chunky. I like that brand of ice cream. What the layman will notice when transferring from Stranded to Country Life is the lack of originality setting in(oh, and how the mood is butchered). They done changed the underground world with their shenanigans, now it's time to pittle out into obscurity. It's the absolute peak of pittled obscurity, by the way.

Report this review (#443578)
Posted Friday, May 6, 2011 | Review Permalink

The lower rating than usual doesn't just come from the album cover, though. Yes, the band was still basically in its prime, and the songs are still basically idiosyncratic and moody and rocking and whatever. Despite all this, however, I get a "going through the motions" vibe from this album that I don't get from the first three or from its successor. Out of the ten songs on here, there are two ("The Thrill of it All," "Prairie Rose") that I consider a lock for inclusion in my imaginary 'best-of' for the band, with one other going into the "probably included" pile ("Out of the Blue"). Otherwise, there's not a song on here that I consider essential, even if it's also true that I don't consider any of the songs out-and-out bad. They're just ... ok.

The six-minute "The Thrill of it All," though, is way way beyond ok, as it's easily one of my five favorite tracks from the band. It rocks in a much more stripped-down way than anything from the first three albums (a pattern that gets carried on the whole album), with just Eddie Jobson's violin (this is his first album with the band) contributing to a standard guitar-bass-drums-piano setup (with some very low-mixed sax in the slower part), but whatever I may miss in the sound is more than made up for by Ferry. No, really: it may seem redundant at this point to single out a great Ferry vocal performance, but this is Ferry's performance of performances (though I have to admit that I didn't really understand why so many people regarded this as much after I'd just listened to it once). The dirgey "ooooooooooooh"'s in the introduction and the longer instrumental breaks, the pleading in the slower parts (with those falsetto backing "calling you calling you calling calling you..."' parts), the phrasings in the verses ... At first, I wasn't particularly impressed, as I my thoughts were basically, "Oooh, he's emotional and heartbroken here, big deal, he's that way all the time." It took being away from the song for a while, having it suddenly pop into my head as I was grocery shopping at Jewel Osco (the Illinois area version of Albertsons, for you non- midwesterners), for it to hit me just how unbelievably gut-wrenching Ferry manages to come across in this song. This is something everybody should hear at some point, Roxy fan or not.

The closing "Prairie Rose" is also really great. I used to just consider it a decent rocker, but now I think the song is awesome in every way, from the main riff, to the vocal melody, to the great upward slide guitars in the chorus, to the great instrumental breaks, to the anthemic coda driven forward by the great piano riff that was there all along. Glorious.

Beyond this, though, it's eight tracks of a relative letdown. I'm fond of "Out of the Blue" because of the really neat backwards violin solo and the cool sounds in the introduction of the violin playing off the bass, but even the rest of this song seems standard, "unenlightening" if you will. "All I Want is You" is a decent rocker, as is "Casanova" (which at least has a clavinet, giving that nice 70's sleaze sound); there's some sorta countryish pop-rock ("Three and Nine," "If it Takes All Night," where Ferry shows that country just isn't one of his strengths); there's a track where Ferry reminds me way too much of Jim Morrison ("Bitter Sweet"); there's an ok harpsichord-laced "medieval" ballad ("Triptych"), and .. Uh, there's one more track and I can't remember what it is right now, so I won't bother to try. I mean, none of these songs suck, and they're all decent enough while on, but even after a lot of listens, I can't say any of these strike me as a "lost classic" or anything like that.

So basically, this is a collection of "kinda, sorta good" songs that just happens to also have two of Roxy's best songs ever and one of their trippiest. If you're a big fan of the band, you might love this, but if you're not I'd say you'd be just as well off finding the best songs on a compilation and leaving the rest alone.

Report this review (#539580)
Posted Saturday, October 1, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars My favorite all-Roxy album. If you take each track separetely you could build a whole new band with each. All are daring in their specific directions and yet form a whole. Excellent track followed by different-styled good track. followed by different styled excellent track, etc,etc .A masterpiece; that in pure terms of composition opens up more their already wide scopes of abilities in every given situation; in every track. All conmformed obviously by their route towards sophistacation in languages since their first effort. ALL the band proves it all the way; but composition wise, this happens especially to Bryan Ferry; Headmaster in this area. Sophistication key word here. Not all bands move successfully through this process (from RAW to REFINEMENT). Some lose essence; others identity; others simply disappear in thin air. But not this band; that was the whole purpose, since ROXY 1,- It was clear that the problem was not the original musical language (again Mr. Ferry). It had to do more with exploding and exploring the whole RM "mine". So one step before the complete Roxy transformation into sophistication and refinement (Siren & Avalon); they covered every corner of unused styles by them, the remaining ones; they already had uncovered the unimaginable in ROXY 1 and Roxy 2 (Roxy Music-wise of course). So, as every Roxy album suggests there is a "concept", in this one it is the "wild life" Roxy style, daring to "play" without stopping to think about such a "downer" like consequences for your acts, I mean how can you aquire "experience" if you never go beyond your back-yard. Roxy Music does this in this album, they go wild into the unknown "country " life, proposing excellently manufactured and composed Prog/Rock music with other new found languages, transformed into Roxy ones, without yet; becoming the refined gentlemen they eventually will turn out to be. Opening roads for every new coming band. *****5 "Ahead of its time, my personal favorite" PA Stars!
Report this review (#895492)
Posted Saturday, January 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I knew the band from the famous Bryan Ferry not from their music but from his consistent appearance in local music magazine, Aktuil, which was popular in the 70s in the small town where I lived, Madiun, East Java at that time. I did not have any cassette collection on this band because some friends told me that this band was weird and the music was not good. I could understand that especially by that time only Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Uriah Heep and the like who were quite popular. And then I started to know Yes, Genesis and the like. I once listened to the cassette of Roxy Music and I was not impressed at all as the music was quite having a sort of rock'n'roll type to my ears.

This Country Life I only listened to it not a long time ago and I can understand now why I did not like Roxy Music kind of music as the style is quite different from the rest. But having been explored to many kinds of genres I can now understand how the music of RM is performed like this. This Country Life album resembles the combined music of pop, rock'n'roll with some progressive elements in it with the opening track The Thrill of It All (6:24). I can enjoy this type of music actually. One chief reason I could not like it at that time was the kind of vocal style that did not seem like a rockin' one compared to Ian Gillan and Robert Plat or David Byron. Nope, I did not expect something like them fact Paul Rodgers never or seldom sung in high register notes but he was rockin' with his Bad Company. But Roxy Music is different, really.

The composition of this album is good as it demonstrates the different style of playing music compared to other heavy metal bands. Right here the musicians worked their talents on the basis of rock'n'roll music combined with the heavier part of rock - or in a way the music is somewhat similar with the kind of David Bowie even though not really alike. Keep on proggin' ..!

Peace on earth and mercy mild - GW

Report this review (#914213)
Posted Friday, February 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I was a teenager, Roxy Music was all the rage. Most of my "art rock" friends were into them and they were on E.G. Records out of England...the same label as King they had to be great, right? Unfortunately for me, I started with their later stuff first . "Avalon" (1982) had a great reputation and it was apparent from the cover that "Flesh + Blood"(1980) should have boasted some interesting cover songs in the form of the Byrd's "Eight Miles High" and Wilson Pickett's "In the Midnight Hour".

What this listener found while exploring these albums, along with "Manifesto" (1979), was pleasant soft rock with a flamboyant, dramatic lead singer and a disco beat. Ughhh! Not to be dissuaded, this listener eventually dug further back into RM's catalogue and hit the jackpot with "Country Life". The album was filled with quirky, eclectic art-pop that could actually be called progressive.

Sure, songs like "Out of the Blue" began to point the way toward their smoother, more romantic and somewhat disco later stuff (I won't even mention "Love is the Drug"...oops, just did!) but the song manages to remain progressive and interesting, unlike that other song that I won't...and didn't mention. Perhaps Eddie Jobson on violin was a difference maker.

Highlights on "Country Life" for this listener also include: "The Thrill of it All", "Bitter Sweet", "Triptych" and "Prairie Rose" which are all progressive yet very different than what other prog bands were doing. Interestingly, while most of the songs here are quite good, only one exceeds more than six minutes.

As a postscript, my disdain for late-era Roxy Music has subsided quite a bit through the years. "Avalon" and "Manifesto" occasionally get play on my iPad, though I still can't get through "Flesh + Blood" in one sitting. Maybe someday, you never know.

Bottom line: "Country Life" deserves a grade of A- or 4.5 stars.

Report this review (#954072)
Posted Saturday, May 4, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars If Roxy Music had proved that they could produce an interesting progressive-glam amalgam without Brian Eno on Stranded, they perfected it on Country Life. Bryan Ferry goes full crooner more often than on any previous Roxy Music album, but thanks to Eddie Jobson's more prominent contributions the band's art rock credentials never take a dent. And with the combination of tight compositions and genuine emotional resonance taking the place of the cool detachment of preceding albums, the band were clearly going places. Plus despite all, the band can still get weird; check out Prairie Rose, the album closer, for a perfect mix of new Roxy cool and old Roxy neurosis.
Report this review (#963082)
Posted Monday, May 20, 2013 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars Released in 1974, "Country Life" was the album that was showing Roxy Music fitting into their glam rock style quite nicely. The addition of Eddie Jobson (Frank Zappa, UK) brought a smooth sound to the somewhat harsher and colder sounds of their previous albums (provided by Eno), and even though those albums were great of their own accord, this sound was bringing a new layer to the band. Bryan Ferry was becoming the crooner he would be known for, and his vocals were starting to feel like butter dripping off of a stack of syrup covered hot tamales. The music still had it's complexity, and some of the rough edges were still there, but the music was also acquiring some pop sensibilities.

On this album, Phil Manzanera's guitar work was spot on, still heavy when it needed to be, but also taking on that unique smoothness that he would become famous for. Andy Mackay's sax work also remained important to the overall sound, again taking on a certain smoothness, but also becoming unhinged from time to time, just like Manzanera's guitar. But everyone knew it was Ferry's vocals and keyboards that held it all together.

There was still room for Jobson's violin among all of this, and he got to shine especially on the track "Out of the Blue" especially in the crazily swirling climax of that song. It was a good foreshadowing of his work that would be coming up in the band UK. The happy, almost honky-tonk piano on "If It Takes All Night" also proved that Ferry was taking this band into different territory with this danceable rock and roll track. There were no tricky rhythms here, but there was still that almost over-the-top flamboyancy in the attitude of the song, all of the instruments and vocals sounding like they were barely balancing on the line of sanity. The more progressive song "Bitter Sweet" proved that there was still a huge creative edge still with the band. The track travels from a beautiful and emotional beginning on the verses which each time grows to a wild unhinged drumming sounding like polka on steroids and ending up with more unhinged guitar work, only to calm back down again. It's like a romantic evening with a madman.

Even though we started seeing hints to the future direction of the band here, it is still obvious that their feet were still firmly planted in the progressive sound. Just like the music of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground, there was a certain appealing oddball-ness to the music. This is apparent in the version of "Casanova" on this album which is a sort of critique on the hollowness of the jet set. The music knows that it is criticizing the very sound that it is emulating, but again, there is a huge sense of unease about it all. Jobson's strings return on the pleading strains of "A Really Good Time", it is just what that track needed to pull it into the popular-yet-complex sound that band was shooting for.

The overall album is great, but not quite their best. However, it is an album I enjoy to an extent, still excellent enough and just challenging enough to be memorable. The new sounds are great, even if they are not quite as complex as before, there is still plenty of unhinged craziness to the more anchored tracks to help you know you are still listening to the same band. I love that living on the edge of insanity feeling that the music gives the listener, and that is why I still consider it an excellent album.

Report this review (#2241649)
Posted Friday, August 2, 2019 | Review Permalink

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