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Roxy Music - Siren CD (album) cover


Roxy Music


Crossover Prog

3.67 | 205 ratings

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4 stars In 1975, Roxy Music released their fifth album, SIREN, and it was both a triumph and a departure for the English glam/art rockers. On the prior STRANDED and COUNTRY LIFE, Roxy had attained the perfect blend of their artier explorations and glam rock leanings. SIREN, however finds a band now content to be less daring, yet more unified and polished in its sound. With suave front man Bryan Ferry now firmly ensconced in his white dinner jacket, bowtie and "seen it all" playboy image, the group was arguably more quintessentially "Roxy" than ever before.

BY '75, as those of my generation will recall (some with fond nostalgia, others, with a shudder), disco had become a major force in the music industry, and on the airways. The "sexy" slinky sound with the generic unvarying beat was, for many seasoned rock fans like myself, boring, tepid listening, but -- if you were so inclined (I wasn't) -- it was very easy to dance to.

Songwriter Ferry, like many of his contemporaries, hearkened to disco's "siren" song, and incorporated its beat and hip-swaying bass line for SIREN's opener. The infectious "Love Is the Drug" is disco-flavoured, true, and doubtless caused many long term followers to fear the worst as it first boomed out of their stereos, but Ferry is no Donna Summer. This number manages to be both eminently danceable, and a wry commentary upon disco's frequently shallow, hedonistic scene of "nose candy" and casual encounters. "Love Is the Drug" gave Roxy frequent airplay, exposure to an ever-expanding audience and their biggest hit to that time. It was also a harbinger of things to come, as the next two albums, the disappointing "one-hit wonder" MANIFESTO, and the slick FLESH AND BLOOD would be even more unabashedly dance floor and airwaves-oriented -- and thus much less imaginative and interesting. After SIREN, Roxy, regrettably, would never again release an album as well suited to long term fans' more eclectic tastes. Henceforth, the rocking edge, experimentation, and often darkly clever lyrics would be absent, in favour of ever greater monetary - if not artistic - "success."

Still, "Love Is the Drug" is a good song, and the only one on SIREN that gets the disco treatment. Other fine tracks include the easy-going "End of the Line," which features some nice Eddie Jobsen violin, along with effectively evocative harmonica and piano, and "Sentimental Fool," which opens with some eerie Manzanera guitar and atmospheric keyboards, before morphing, about half-way through its six-plus minutes, into a more straight-forward paean to the bitter-sweet pain of romantic love, and the heart-quickening, life-affirming allure of the fairer sex. Paul Thompsen's drums, Manzanera's axe, and Jobsen and Ferry's keys work particularly well together here.

"Whirlwind" is a terrific rocker, with some punchy, crunchy bass from Jon Gustafson, Thomsen's trademark pounding drums, and some excellent Manzanera lead. "She Sells" keeps the session moving apace, and has an interesting time change, terrific piano and drums, and Jobsen's violin rounding out the sound. Crank it up and smile - this one really kicks!

"Both Ends Burning" is also a favourite of mine, and was destined to become a staple of the band's live act. Very danceable (sans the disco beat) -- very Roxy. "Keep on burning 'til the end - the very end!"

"Nightingale," co-written with Manzanera, is another winner, and a great showcase for the band as a well-oiled machine. Excellent guitar, bass, drums and violin make this "bird" fly past.

Closing out the session is "Just Another High," a longer, moodier Ferry composition in the tradition of COUNTRY LIFE's "A Really Good Time." The song provides a powerful end to the album, with Ferry lamenting a lost love for whom: "playing at love was another high - just another high." (By the way, that's Ferry's beautiful then-love Jerry Hall on the cover, reclining moistly and seductively on the kelp-strewn English coast. In Greek myth, the siren's supernatural song would lure smitten, spellbound sailors to wreck and ruin on the rocks. In this world, Hall would leave Ferry for Mick Jagger - hmmm. life imitating art?)

Overall then, SIREN was another solid four-star offering from Roxy Music. One of their defining, truly essential albums, it yet marked the end of an exciting era for the band. The ancient example of Odysseus and crew notwithstanding, you can safely listen to this SIREN song in complete confidence of "a really good time." Whole-heartedly recommended!

Peter | 4/5 |


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