Sunday, 28 September 2014

Roxy Music

This is an appreciation rather than a review, as the music I feature here as per the title of my page has worked it's way under my skin and I am not really judging it, how can I when there is love between us? I hope you have heard these albums already, just from the point of view of the history of rock / pop music these albums are significant.

I came to Roxy Music in the 80s I think around the time they released their final album Avalon. So whereas I listened to Close to the Edge within a couple of years of it's release I listened to Roxy music within the context of a music scene upon which they had been highly influential. I can't imagine that Ultravox, Echo and the Bunnymen or any number of New Romantics would have created the music they did but for Roxy Music.

I'll focus on 3 albums that seem particularly significant to me their debut album: Roxy Music,  Stranded and their final studio album Avalon.

Their debut album was released in 1972 10 days after David Bowie's Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, T Rex had released Electric Warrior the year before and would release the Slider the following month, Yes had released The Yes Album and Fragile and Close to the Edge was 3 months away, King Crimson had produced 4 albums and Bryan Ferry Roxy's singer and songwriter had auditioned to replace Greg Lake and was turned down (thankfully) but certain connections were made with Crimson's lyricist Pete Sinfield produced Roxy's first album. Fripp of course would have quite a long standing musical relationship with Roxy member Brian Eno.

Roxy Music has a lot of the musical and imaginative intensity of Progressive rock bands, having excellent characteristic players of Andy MacKay on Sax and Oboe, Phil Manzanera on guitar, Paul Thompson on drums, Brian Eno on Synthesisers and treatments on the first two albums and Eddie Jobson on Keyboards and violin on albums 3 to 5 as well as some very good bass playing from a succession of different players. Crimson and Yes and shares a romanticism and joy in synthesising diverse musical styles, but Roxy Music their content and vision centred around glamour and romantic love, religious imagery could be used to adorn that vision whereas for Yes the Spiritual vision was at the centre of their art. Also unlike the Progressive Rock bands Roxy Music are sexy.

The debut album opens with the sounds of a cocktail party before it fires into a futuristic rock n roll stomper Re Make / Re Model fusing 50's rock n roll and sci fi panache into something very cutting edge 70's.

I tried but I could not find a way
Looking back all I did was look away
Next time is the best we all know
But if there is no next time where to go?
She's the sweetest queen I've ever seen
See here she comes, see what I mean?
I could talk talk talk, talk myself to death
But I believe I would only waste my breath
Ooh show me

There is chaos, intensity and romanticism all merged into a heady new brew. More sincere than what we know Bowie but at least equally mannered, not perhaps as approachable as Marc Bolan. The seduction has begun.

Song titles like Ladytron, Chance Meeting, Sea Breezes & Bitters End give a good indication of the flavour of the album.

I've been thinking now for a long time
How to go my own separate way
It's a shame to think about yesterday
It's a shame, a shame, a shame, a shame

We've been running round in our present state
Hoping help will come from above
But even angels there make the same mistakes
In love, in love, in love, in love

Now that we are lonely
Life seems to get hard
Alone, what a world lonely
Alone, it makes me cry

Thought-train set in motion
Wheels in and around
Express our emotion
Tracks up then it cracks down, down, down, down

There are styles and influences flowing through this album that I don't recognise, how did they come to make such an accomplished album with a fully realised vision first off? There is always a freshness to a first work that introduces something new, perhaps this is why this album captivates me more than For Your Pleasure. Roxy creates a rich imaginative space, where the heart the imagination and the mind are all engaged. I'm no great lover, but I've wished I was, so it is a true delight to be able through the imaginative medium of music to enter a space in my heart where a flame is burning.

After the first two Roxy albums Brian Eno left and went on to be a highly influential pop musician, producer, conceptualist and intellectual. I would like to feature a blog post for his album Taking Tiger Mountain by Strategy sometime in the future as it is a fantastic album and worthy to stand both in connection to and in contrast to the work of Roxy Music.

Eno was replaced by Eddie Jobson, a better musician than Eno if a lesser conceptual stylistic presence.

I used to have a large collection of vinyl, I've only got a little of it now and I'm buying some of it again on CD. I just recently got Stranded again, how could I have left it so long? Playing it again I was so captivated, music can be like a drug it enhances our perceptions and opens up our inner vision, or at least those albums that are precious to us do so. Stranded is an album that has more space than any other Roxy album with the possible exception of Avalon. Each side (of the original album) opens with a rocker Street Life and Serenade before entering gorgeously spacious yearningly romantic mood music to die for: Just like You & Song for Europe, The two final tracks Psalm and Sunset to me are heartfelt hymns to the very spirit of Romanticism even if wonderfully wordy.

Finally, I'll just mention their last album Avalon. Roxy Music seems to follow a trajectory from their first album very artful, daring, futuristic rock roll to their last album's pure romantic crooning. This album to me seems to be the place where Bryan Ferry wanted to live and where he took up residence.

Always at the end of these write ups I feel the centre I am trying to express has been missed, but I feel that if we try to be too complete it gives the false impression that we have achieved what we set out to do, so it's time to sign off. Thanks for reading to the end.

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