Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 6/7/09.
When the 1970s arrived into the world of pop music, a slew of new bands were starting to push the boundaries of rock n' roll. Taking on new themes with looks that were very different from the 1960s. These bands were shaping rock into something new whether it was the progressive rock acts like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, Yes, Genesis, and King Crimson. Yet, in another world of experimental music, there was art rock from people like David Bowie and Pink Floyd that added something different from the complex sounds of progressive rock. Another band that fell into the world of art rock was a band that wouldn't just change the face of popular music for an entire decade. They would help spawn countless bands ranging from punk, new wave, and experimental music. They were simply called Roxy Music.
Formed in 1970, the band was led by a vocalist named Bryan Ferry who sent an advert to form a band. Answering to the ad were a bass player named Graham Simpson and on saxophone and oboe, Andy Mackay. Mackay brought in a friend of his who was interested in avant-garde music while owning some tape machines and knew how to operate a VCS3 synthesizer that Mackay owned. His name is Brian Eno, who was supposedly one of the first people to buy the very first album by the Velvet Underground when it first came out. By 1971, the band found a permanent drummer in Paul Thompson and later in the year, they met a gifted guitarist in Phil Manzanera who officially joined the band in 1972 after being a roadie for a few months. Around the time of Manzanera's official placement in the band, Roxy Music signed a deal with EG management to record the band's seminal 1972 self-titled debut.
Produced by King Crimson lyricist Pete Sinfield and songs written by Bryan Ferry. Roxy Music's self-titled debut release is an album filled with an array of sounds that would define the band for the next few years. Filled with elements of glam rock along with experimental approach of the band's keyboardist Brian Eno along with wailing sounds of Andy Mackay on oboe and saxophone. It's a record that is daring yet all over the place with lyrics filled with post-modern references to pop culture and other themes. The result would be one of the most seminal debut records ever made.
The album opener Re-Make/Re-Model, a song filled with various riffs and melodies from other song done in an arty, deconstructed presentation. With a bouncy rhythm from drummer Paul Thompson and bassist Graham Simpson along with Bryan Ferry's accompanying piano as he sings lyrics about reinvention and women with Phil Manzanera's wailing guitar and Andy Mackay's spurting saxophones. With Brian Eno's fuzzy treatments on the electronics including Manzanera's guitar, the song features riffs and lines from various pop songs in Manzanera's guitar, Simpson's bass line, and Eno's wailing, fuzzy synthesizers. Ladytron opens with Eno's swirling synthesizer screeches as it builds up along with Mackay's swooning oboe accompaniment. With Ferry's crooning vocals leading the way with a bouncy, mid-tempo rhythm. With its groove-laden bass lines and somber piano flourishes, it features an instrumental suite of pounding drums and wailing oboes. With its lyrics about a woman, it's a song that is all over the place making it one of the band's most famous songs.
If There Is Something is a bouncy, upbeat song with country-laden guitar riffs from Phil Manzanera along with honky-tonk pianos from Ferry. With Ferry's crooning vocals and its smooth, bouncy rhythm, it's a playful song that features Manzanera's versatility on guitar as he's followed by Mackay's swooning, melodic-flourishing saxophone that sounds like a guitar. Lyrically, the song delves into sexuality and desperation as it features warbling electronic treatments from Eno in its extended instrumental suites. The non-LP single Virginia Plain, which was included into later editions of the album, is one of the band's most quintessential statements. Opening with a fuzzy mix of flourishing pianos and guitars, it goes into a full-sound with its upbeat rhythm, Ferry's playful vocals filled with whimsical lyrics, and Mackay's wailing oboes. With Rik Kenton on bass, the song features a wailing guitar solo from Manzanera that is followed by Mackay's screeching saxophone along with Eno's warbling synthesizer right near the end of the song.
2 H.B. is a piano ballad with Eno's smooth, swirling synthesizer melodies and a smooth, bouncy rhythm from Paul Thompson's drums and Graham Simpson's bass. With Mackay's swooning saxophone, it's a song that has Ferry in his crooning vocal style with a reference to the film Casablanca with its famous line "Here's looking at you, kid" in the chorus. With its soothing presentation led by MacKay's saxophone and Manzanera's melodic guitar arpeggios, it's one of the band's standout cuts from their debut. The Bob (Medley) opens with a momentum-building synthesizer track that becomes this mid-tempo song with Ferry's wailing vocals, growling guitars, and hard-hitting, charging beats. With Ferry's whimsical lyrics filled with pop art references, the song then turns into a weird suite of noisy, distorted electronics and Mackay's swooning saxophone. With Ferry's striking piano, the song goes into another rhythm as it's a song that plays with structure and tempos with each member given a chance to show their talents.
Chance Meeting is a piano ballad with a slow, melodic flourish on the piano with Ferry's crooning vocals singing along to lyrics of a night meeting between lovers. With Mackay's warbling saxophone that features some reverb treatment from Brian Eno and Manzanera's shimmering guitar. The song is a mixture of a traditional ballad with a dose of experimental minimalism that would later define the solo work of Brian Eno in the years to come. Would You Believe? is a mid-tempo track with a smooth rhythm and Ferry's crooning vocals accompanied by his own piano. With Mackay's wailing saxophone, the song's tempo starts to change by Thompson's charging drums, Mackay's blistering saxophone, and Manzanera's guitar. With Ferry's dramatic lyrics, the song becomes a full-on jam as it changes tempo from rocking to trance-like.
Sea Breezes is a song that starts off as a ballad led by Ferry's somber vocals filled with melodramatic lyrics that features some of his amazing vocal work. With Ferry accompanying himself on a quiet keyboard track along with Mackay's eerie oboe track and Manzanera on guitar. Then comes Paul Thompson's snare-filling drums and Simpson's wobbly bass as it becomes a bouncy, mid-tempo track with Manzanera's screeching guitar as it returns to its opening ballad presentation. The album closer Bitters End is a playful track with Thompson's array of percussions with castanets and bells accompanying Ferry's crooning vocals filled with romantic lyrics as he's later accompanied by Mackay's soothing saxophone. With Eno accompanying Ferry on vocals, the song then features an array of sounds from Eno as Ferry sings to close the song.
Released in June of 1972 at the time glam rock was becoming very popular thanks to the likes of David Bowie, Marc Bolan & T-Rex, and Gary Glitter. Though the band's bassist Graham Simpson left before recording was finished, the band would bring in Rik Kenton to fill in though they would never have a permanent bass player throughout their career. By the time the band released the single for Virginia Plain, the band was on the famed Top of the Pops with a lavish, glam rock look that made them standout garnering the band their first major hit. With Ferry sporting a Teddy-boy hairdo, Phil Manzanera wearing huge sunglasses, and Brian Eno looking like the most androgynous member of the band. They were definitely becoming one of the most exciting new acts in Britain.
Roxy Music's debut album is clearly one of rock's most exciting and original debut albums ever made. Fans of glam rock will no doubt consider this as one of the defining records of the genre while for those new to Roxy Music will see this as a worthy introduction. Especially to the groundbreaking work in electronics from keyboardist Brian Eno. The album itself is truly original while wildly adventurous with unconventional song structures, themes, and experimentations that will definitely drive the most conventional listener made. In the end, Roxy Music's self-titled debut is truly one of the 1970s most daring and strangest records of its time.
Roxy Music Reviews: For Your Pleasure - Stranded - Country Life - Siren - Manifesto - Flesh + Blood - Avalon
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