ROXY MUSIC album by album, track by track
I assign a star rating to each track of each album. Unlike a journalist I judge each song on its emotional content and its beauty and not on its historical impact or innovative value.
My rating goes like this: * no interest ** good song ***very good song ****superb *****fabulous forever
Watching Velvet Goldmine by Todd Haynes (superb Jonathan Rhys Meyer) I found that beyond the characters inspired by Bowie, Iggy and Lou Reed finally the most present music in the film was that of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry and Eno. It is comforting to see that what I loved so much is recognized and positioned in its proper place. I always liked Bowie and considered him the first to have developed sophistication and aesthetic in rock. He did not just make music, he added the look, the personality, he seriously enriched the concept of pop star. But I always preferred Bryan Ferry. I have listened a hundred times to Bowie’s songs like Five Years ****, The Bewlay Brothers ****, Ashes To Ashes ****, It’s No Game ***, Kooks ***, Starman *** … but I never felt familiar with Bowie as I was with Bryan Ferry. Ferry was my model. I danced alone on his songs in my room, weekend after weekend. Did I say I cried so often, overwhelmed by the beauty of the songs? I dreamt that someday a girl would understand the beauty that made my heart explode.
Bryan Ferry had it all. I wanted to do my hair like his and get dressed like him. I aspired from all my being to his elegance and hoped that someday I would live a similar sophisticated life.
The melodic elegance of Bryan Ferry’s compositions hit me as soon as Roxy appeared in ’72. The brillance of his music and soul changed my life. You only have to look at the cover of the first Roxy Music album to realize the impact on an isolated teenager. Beautiful, daring, extreme, creative.
The song Re-make / Re-model *** was so surprising, it gave the impression to move backwards, to start as a final, the instruments of rock were present, the drums, the synth, the guitars but the Cocktail sounds – the champagne glasses ticking, the silk and muslin dresses touching each other – which can be found on These Foolish Things and on the cover of Another Time, Another Place already announced something very different from rock as we knew it. It was infinitely more sophisticated than Creedence Clearwater Revival, a hell of a rock band that can still be heard today, like Led Zeppelin, the Who. It was innovative, transgression, modern. Rock social aspiration to glamour and chic.
I wanted to revisit all Roxy studio albums to evaluate, title by title where they are today.
ROXY MUSIC “Roxy Music” 1972
Re-make / Re-model *** would deserve 4 stars, even 5, if I judged it for its modernism, its innovative construction, its difference from everything at that time, its intro but I judge only the emotion it generates, the happiness to listen and for that it deserves only 3 stars. Ladytron **** is a beautiful title, imploring melody, seductive, sincere, touching, beautiful synth part played by Eno and beautiful orchestrations. If There Is Something **** starts as a traditional pop song and climbs in intensity, beautiful melody full of nostalgia with a superb ending, “when we were young”. 2 H.B. **** is a melancholic title, a superb melody that allows Ferry to take the throaty voice that will return regularly when expressing nostalgia. A classic. Elegance, sophistication. Superb. The Bob (Medley) * is the least interesting song on the record, an exercise in cold virtuosity. A title with passages of great heaviness that we will unfortunately find throughout their career. What I am calling the “BF elephant syndrom”. Chance Meeting *** pushes the melancholy very far, a moving song that evokes a paradise far, past, now inaccessible but it displays less density than Ladytron or 2 HB. .. Would You Believe? *** starts as if it will be the absolute best of the disc, perhaps more intense, richer still than the two previously mentioned titles and yet it does not hold the distance because it quickly turns to virtuoso demonstration. Sea Breezes **** continues in the same sophisticated vein, far from rock, medieval at times. It’s beautiful, moving, pure emotion, Bryan implores and he sounds right, never forced. Bitters End *** with its retro side and castanets finds its place and seduces because nostalgia once again is there, very palpable and seductive.
Roxy Music is a very surprising album, in 1972, with its unique sophistication, an attractive overall aesthetic, fabulous cover on the outside as well as on the inside, out of sync with the time even if we already spoke of glam-rock (but glam was just a commercial thing for radio, Roxy is a million miles over that). The melodic innovations, the intensity of Ferry’s voice touch me deeply. The following album will go even further in the emotion. Yet something studied, something a bit superficial embarrasses me in Roxy Music. But what a slap at the time! The first time I heard Re-make / Re-model on the radio I wondered where this UFO came from… So different, so powerful. Unforgettable. And then this cover which illustrates on the one hand the fascination of Bryan Ferry for a certain American world of the 1940/50 and his taste for pretty women. A constant on all Roxy albums.
Album average: 2,9*
ROXY MUSIC For Your Pleasure 1973
For Your Pleasure comes out in the spring of ’73. Do The Strand **** is a roxy-esque hymn, energetic, powerful, modern, very strong. The most beautiful piece of the album is Beauty Queen ***** which follows, 2nd on the side A. Masterpiece “one thing we share, it’s an ideal love beauty … your swimming pool eyes, you worship the sun … ” The lyrics are beautiful, the girl so beautiful. The intensity of the voice, the tribute to the sheer beauty of the young woman are so right, so real. The omnipotence of beauty in front of which the most sophisticated man feels helpless, unable to seduce her. What might seem artificial in the first album becomes real, sincere, authentic. Strictly Confidential ** follows the Ladytron / Chance Meeting vein, pretty but uneven. Editions Of You *** is a dense rock, happy, mature, more conventional than Do The Strand but even more nervous and fast. Ferry gets loose, he seduced with the first album, he frees himself with the second. It’s less manicured, more raw, simpler and it works. In Every Dream Home A Heartache *** was considered at the time as a masterpiece unassailable. The intensity, the meaning, the quality of writing are there but it’s too linear, not melodic enough for my taste. Annoying, despite the treatments of Eno. Bogus Man * is a piece that I never understood, heavy, elephantine, devoid of melody, endless. Grey Lagoons * does not seduce me despite a beautiful intro, too demonstrative, sterile. For Your Pleasure *** starts well, pure Roxy, but the final drags on a bit despite the work of Eno.
A second seductive album that confirms the talent of Bryan Ferry and the band but uneven, on one side Beauty Queen, a dream pop masterpiece, Do The Strand, For Your Pleasure, Editions Of You and the other the rest. I read that for many it was the best of Roxy, the most beautiful album. No, no and no. Too unequal. Even though Beauty Queen remains one of the most beautiful and aching song of all times. The most beautiful album of Roxy is the 3rd.
Note: Amanda Lear is the girl on the cover.
Album average: 2,75*
ROXY MUSIC Stranded 1973
Stranded, released in November of the same year, starts with Street Life *** energetic and distinguished rock, smart and fast. Just Like You ** is a sweet ballad, not prominent. Amazona *** sounds very rocky but proves deeper than the first listen lets one think. The first side ends with Psalm ****, a music summit, Bryan Ferry at its best, intense, dark atmosphere with just a halo of light very far away. Bryan seductive but elegant, sober, sincere. Magnificent. Serenade ** opens the second side. Not bad, melodic, intense, lively. A Song For Europe **** the second of the four beautiful songs that make Stranded a legendary album. Superb melody, intense emotion, a masterpiece. A rare delicacy to express the feeling of time spent “those moments that will never come back, never”, a poetry as we see little in the pop of those years. In the final Bryan speaks in all European languages, this is the point that made the song famous but today is the music that remains. Mother Of Pearl ***** is the 3rd summit. Even more beautiful, more intense than Psalm and Song For Europe, more joyful too. A small, sharp and distant guitar marks the end of each sentence. Dazzling with delicacy and elegance. The final Sunset **** again illustrates Bryan’s exquisite mastery in emotion and beauty. Quiet, peaceful, elegant. Mother Of Pearl – Song For Europe – Psalm – Sunset. A very high level album of a rare intensity.
Album average: 3,37* (highest)
ROXY MUSIC Country Life 1974
Country Life, released in November 74, starts with The Thrill Of It All *****, a fast and superbly constructed rock, an obvious and powerful melody, urgency and delicacy perfectly combined. A song that I have always loved. Top Track. Oh Bryan! What a startup! Three And Nine *** is a fast ride of sweetness and delicacy. All I want Is You *** is a rock in the vein Editions Of You / Do The Strand but who knows how to alternate the passages energetic and calm in a subtle way, a pretty song effective and well built. Out Of The Blue **** sets the bar high, a guitar in front treated in a psychedelic tone and a Bryan who sings on a melody of beauty, beautiful song. If It Takes All Night ** is a nice walk but it falls a notch compared to the first 4 pieces of this side A. Face B Bitter-Sweet *** joins the spirit of Stranded, intense and atmospheric less rock. Nice piece but for me disabled by the heavy passages that punctuate each chorus, it is not elegant but the passages sweet are beautiful. Triptych ** is a delicate walk but does not touch me deeply. Casanova *** goes right back up, the intensity is back, it’s strong, just powerful but inferior to Thrill Of It All and Out Of The Blue. A Really Good Time ** does not enchant me, not unpleasant but indifferent. Prairie Rose **** completes the album in style with another rock with a superb guitar sound, similar to Out Of The Blue, beautifully constructed, sexy and intense. Wonderful solo by Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera always excellent. I have long hesitated to proclaim that Country Life was my favorite of Roxy, it is dense and great but I consider that Stranded is superior. Stranded contains 4 top tracks of great formal beauty, slow atmospheres and sumptuous, Country Life is a very different album because it includes 4 intense rocks. And if I love energetic rock (the Ramones über alles) I still prefer sheer emotion and dream pop. Read on Wikipedia: “Jim Miller in his review for Rolling Stone wrote” Stranded and Country Life together mark the zenith of contemporary British art rock. “100% agree.
Album average: 3,1*
ROXY MUSIC Siren 1975
Siren, released in October 75 starts with the tube Love Is The Drug ***, effective, clever, beautiful sound but not as deep as the rocks of Country Life. More commercial, a success at the time. End Of The Line ** is an interesting song, relief, an intention, a beginning of emotion but it does not go very far and it includes quite flat passages. Sentimental Fool * starts slowly in a progressive atmosphere very pleasant 70ies but falls quickly in the banality with a heavy chorus devoid of charm. Yet the final on the last minute 30 is successful. It’s a song reminiscent of the ethereal atmosphere of the tracks on the first album. Whirlwind * which closes the A side recalls the best titles of Country Life but without equaling them, it remains flat. She Sells * is another song that falls flat, hollow, devoid of inventiveness. Could It Happen To Me? * Belongs to the register of fast walks but both hollow and artificial. Both Ends Burning **** raises the level. Finally a successful title, energetic, powerful with a real melody reminiscent of the best of Country Life. Nightingale *** is Siren‘s only sweet and intense, successful ride, even if it is not free of (short) hollow passages. Just Another High * closes the disc: a track with too many heavy passages, without much interest. In summary Siren is not a good record, the charm of Bryan Ferry still operates here and there but outside Both Ends Burning, the hooky Love Is The Drug (not a great song but a good success) and a few moments during Nightingale is a hollow record. After Stranded and Country Life we fall very low. The tone is there, the voice is there, the intention is there too but the inspiration is lacking, it is a hollow copy. It’s the same thing in the superficial but the substance is not there, soaring.
Jerry Hall is featured on the cover: she was Bryan’s girlfriend before leaving him to marry Mick Jagger.
Album average: 1,88* (lowest)
ROXY MUSIC Manifesto 1979
Manifesto is released in March 79. After 4 years, during which only a live and a best of were released, one expects something big (I hoped, I remember) especially as Siren had much disappointed. Manifesto * sounds like Bogus Man, heavy rhythm, elephant gait. It starts very poorly. Trash ** accelerates but it remains light and superficial. Angel Eyes *** raises the level, influenced by the disco spirit while remaining rock, this is some good Ferry songwriting, pleasant, effective. Still Falls The Rain ** unfortunately reminds you more of Siren than Stranded. Not devoid of charm and sincerity but flat. Stronger Through The Years * sounds richer on the surface but is hollow and long. Face B starts with Ain’t That So **, it offers a pleasant atmosphere, a little more depth but it is not a great song. The intro of My Little Girl ** brings back the enthusiasm, it is nicely constructed but it does not reach highs, after the intro it quickly falls flat. Dance Away * had some success at the time, is not devoid of nice moments, pretty little sound finds, but the chorus is distressing platitude. Nothing happens. Cry, Cry, Cry * continues in heaviness and superficiality. Spin Me Round ***** ends B side. This is one of the most beautiful songs ever written by Bryan Ferry. A very beautiful song – even if a passage in the middle, towards 1 ’50, fortunately short enough, lacks lightness. It is loaded with emotion and nostalgia, haunting, sublime in its best moments, very airy. Bryan Ferry at his best. Despite Spin Me Round Manifesto is not a good record, it offers the best and the worst. We are tempted to think that Bryan Ferry was reserving the best of his inspiration for his solo albums.
Album average: 2*
ROXY MUSIC Flesh & Blood 1980
The following year, in May ’80, Flesh + Blood was released. This is the first of Roxys albums to include covers of classic songs. One of those being In The Midnight Hour ** which opens the A side. It’s a good song. Oh Yeah! ***** is a wonderful song, well built, emotionally charged, touching, I liked it so much at the time, it still pleases me, it evokes the summer, America, a pretty girl in the convertible. Same Old Scene **** is another very good song, reminiscent of the best moments of Country Life: melody, intensity, rhythm, orchestrations, a great success. My Only Love *** sounds good, a well built ballad, showing nice intensity. Flesh And Blood * is not a good title, it displays this familiar heaviness of the bad titles of Roxy. It’s clumsy, where does it come from? Over You ** is pleasant to listen to, nice passages of guitar but not striking. Eight Miles High ** is a good cover, well arranged but not a great song, unnecessarily long. Rain, Rain, Rain ** is not without interest but it lacks finesse, especially the chorus. No Strange Delight *** brings back the charm, it is pretty and intense and Running Wild **** beautifully closes this album much richer than Siren and Manifesto.
Album average: 2,8*
ROXY MUSIC Avalon 1982
Avalon was released in May 1982. Popular album, the only number 1 for Roxy Music in England. The one who brought Roxy Music to a wider audience. More Than This*** is THE hit, a nice and clever song. The Space Between* is a flat title, no personality, no interest, it is light, so common. Avalon *** is a pretty ballad, sophisticated, super clean but it does not reach Mother Of Pearl, Song For Europe or Beauty Queen in terms of depth or intensity. It was often heard in hi fi stores. It’s clean, for sure, well done but the emotion is not there. India * short interlude without flavor. While My Heart Is Still Beating * despite the pretty title does not make a great impression, it’s well done but it does not take off. The Main Thing * is even worse. It’s one of those heavy, clumsy songs that Ferry put in each album, I just do not understand why. It’s very paradoxical to be able to simultaneously produce aerial, sensitive and rare emotional sophistication and heavy slow elephants like The Main Thing, where does this inspiration come from? Take A Chance With Me *** Recalls Oh Yeah! It is not as strong but the nice melody does not fall flat. Probably my favorite song on Avalon. To Turn You On * is of no interest. I was tempted to put two stars to True To Life * which contained a little more feeling but is too languid, too flat. Tara * closes the album on a note that pretends to be exotic but brings nothing good. No powerful rock (where are you The Thrill Of It All?), No emotion really powerful, it’s an album that does not make you regret the end of the band. It sounds artificial, hollow, it is well produced, the sound is super clean but the melodies are flat, no depth, no intensity. Where is the soul ???
They produced masterpieces. More than many other groups. Let’s be grateful for the fantastic songs, the elegance and the unmatched sophistication.
Album average: 1,9*
I have not rated the live albums of Roxy Music because none has ever really seduced me, the sound is often confusing. I did not find the atmosphere, the fever, the emotion that one would have the right to expect from such a group. But perhaps it is also my laziness and lack of desire to spend time with them.
I’ll soon publish my analysis of Bryan Ferry solo albums. If there is some interest???? Please tell me.