Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972): Review

roxy

Produced by Pete Sinfield
Label – Polydor/Island/Reprise/Atco

Formed in 1971, Roxy Music carefully fused glam with art rock for a style of music that was extraordinarily ambitious, the manicured concept of minds drilled in presenting themselves with a cinematic glamour that was considered by many to be a redefinition of traditional rock music. Their future was based around the kitsch Hollywood style of vibrato voiced Bryan Ferry, a Humphrey Bogart obsessive. His backing was literally channeled through the synth and keyboard textures of a seemingly androgynous elf (Brian Eno), classically trained sax and oboe player Andy Mackay, former roadie Phil Manzanera on guitar, with bass player Graham Simpson and drummer Paul Thompson providing exploratory rhythms. The cacophonous opener (“Remake/Re-model”) sets a juddering pace, with the stop/start outro licensing short instrumental breaks that contain echoes of Duane Eddy, The Beatles, Cecil Taylor, King Curtis and Robert Moog. The band respond to Ferry’s lovelorn bursts, all joining to sing the car registration number of a woman the front man was attracted to (“CPL 593H”). Manzanera’s descending guitar solo to the pioneering glint of a new romantic future on “Ladytron” is genuinely ahead of its time. Ferry’s homage to Bogart on “2 H.B” is enriched by Mackay’s echoed alto and an interesting looped electric piano refrain. The country rock feel of “If There Is Something” shows the bands courageous eccentricity, and affirms the listener that there is no one who is peddling this kind of mysterious twist and turn.

roxy1

But for all the originality, “Roxy Music” is an uneven ride, and side two shows the shortcomings of defining a subversive compositional approach, with a lack of substantial source material. “The Bob (medley)” sees Ferry combining yell and croon to interludes of Eno’s moog, mimicking the sounds of aircraft bombing raids. The drifting wave noises created for the somnolent “Sea Breezes” make the seven minute length a less than enticing drift through Ferry’s wistful intention. The briefer closer (Bitter’s End”), sees the singer’s dalliance with cocktail lounge music, both sappy and anti climactic. Listening to the snappier original session tracks recorded for John Peel’s Top Gear show in early 1972 really highlights Pete Sinfield’s inexperienced production effort, as often the record sounds stodgy, over-embellished and too reliant on Eno’s VCS3 noise.

Almost a great debut, “Roxy Music” fuses intuitive pop genius with willfully dense synth, guitar and woodwind orchestration. The arrangements are daring, largely original, but fall just short of being consistent classics.

7/10

Track Rating
1 – Re-make/Re-model (8)
2 – Ladytron (8)
3 – If There Is Something (7)
4 – 2HB (7)
5 – The Bob (Medley) (6)
6 – Chance Meeting (7)
7 – Would You Believe? (7)
8 – Sea Breezes (6)
9 – Bitters End (5)

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10 responses to “Roxy Music – Roxy Music (1972): Review

  1. I reckon you’re spot on with the assertion that it’s almost great – the first half being particularly strong, but it just runs out of steam in the second half. The great stuff, and the striking cover, lift it from being consistently mnah. As it is, it’s a good glimpse at what was to come.

  2. Roxy were as influential, brilliant and diverse as any artist from the 1970’s, and if they did veer off to become Ferry’s backing band, they still maintained incredible quality control until the final notes of Avalon. A great start. And yes I agree, NoEno makes for a better Roxy, more song oriented, if he’d stayed, roxy would have achieved fringe recognition at best, and where would punk and the new romantic movement have gestated from? And would Japan’s singers, David and Sylvia, have sounded the same?

    • Great point about Eno. I think that his leaving Roxy actually benefited them. Indeed, I saw an interview with Eno a while back, and he said that “Stranded” the first record without him, was the best he’d heard.

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