Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com 6/25/09.
1979's Manifesto brought Roxy Music back to the music scene after a four-year hiatus between albums where the band took a break to venture on solo and side projects. After a successful tour, the band lost one of its key members in drummer Paul Thompson as he got himself injured in a motorcycle accident. Thompson decided to leave the band for a while but eventually, he never returned until 2001. Now a trio, vocalist Bryan Ferry, guitarist Phil Manzanera, and saxophonist Andy Mackay decided to continue with session musicians including keyboardist Paul Carrack and drummer Andy Newmark to help them work on their seventh album. Also helping them would be engineer Rhett Davies, who had worked with the band since 1976's live album Viva! as he decided to produce their new album entitled Flesh + Blood.
Produced by Rhett Davies, Flesh + Blood is an album that moves Roxy Music away from the dance aesthetics of their previous Manifesto for a fuller yet slicker sound that would come to fruition in an atmospheric quality for their next record Avalon. With a majority of songs written by Bryan Ferry plus three co-written with Phil Manzanera. The album features two covers by Wilson Pickett and the Byrds. While the record features material that reaches the level of the slickness that hindered Manifesto, Flesh + Blood does prove that Roxy Music still has a few ideas left.
The album opens with a cover of the famed Wilson Pickett classic In The Midnight Hour with a funky, arpeggio-laden guitar, a smooth bouncy rhythm, and Bryan Ferry's cool, crooning vocals. With Andy Mackay's blaring saxophone, it's a song that slows the tempo of the original just a bit as it's an excellent cover with a production that works. Yet, it's not entirely great since it doesn't live up to the exuberance of the Pickett classic. The single Oh Yeah is a wonderful ballad featuring a smooth, flourishing piano with Phil Manzanera's chiming guitar wails as Ferry sings softly in a cool vocal as he is accompanied by a melodic synthesizer riff. For its chorus, Ferry sings about the joy of a radio that exudes nostalgia. The electronic-driven Same Old Scene with its sputtering yet rhythmic drum machine, blaring synthesizer melodies, and washy guitars by Manzanera. It's a song that is a return of sorts for the band into the world of art rock. With Ferry's mesmerizing yet melancholic vocal with somber lyrics, it's one of the band's best cuts along with some great synthesizer accompaniment by Ferry along with a blaring saxophone from Mackay.
Flesh And Blood is a track that is led by Manzanera's driving guitar riff with a bouncy rhythm and loopy bass line. With Ferry singing in a snarling vocal and dark lyrics, the song is accompanied by a swooning synthesizer as it's an excellent though drags a bit in its presentation. My Only Love is a haunting yet rich ballad that features amazing production in capturing the elegance of the pianos and synthesizers along with smooth, pounding rhythms. With Ferry's seductive yet wailing vocal, it's a song that is filled with melancholia in its lyrics as it's chorus features a nice, bouncy drum fill by Andy Newmark. With Manzanera's wailing guitar solo and scratches, it's one of the band's most underrated cuts as it's a seductive yet haunting cut which includes a sensual saxophone solo from Andy Mackay. Over You is an amazing cut featuring an upbeat, bouncy rhythm led by a driving bass line and a melodic synthesizer flourish. With Ferry's cool vocals with its somber, enchanting lyrics. With Manzanera's arpeggio-laden guitar flourishes and blaring saxophones, it's one of the album's standout cuts.
Next is a cover of the Byrds' classic, Eight Miles High. While it's a more upbeat version with dance rhythms and disco bass lines, a disco version of a psychedelic song doesn't seem to work despite Manzanera's shimmering guitar solo with Ferry singing in a cool style with psychedelic-induced lyrics. While it's a risky attempt, it doesn't entirely work since the Byrds' version was this chaotic, trance-like sound as Roxy Music kind of made it a bit bland. Rain, Rain, Rain is another synthesizer-driven track with hollow beats and warbling bass lines. With a slow, turgid rhythm, it has Ferry singing in a snarling vocal with eerie, sexual-laden lyrics. With Manzanera's swanky guitar, it's a song that is OK but its rhythm tends to drag the song in a bad way.
No Strange Delight is a bouncy, mid-tempo track with striking synthesizer spurts, loopy bass lines, and Ferry's cool, crooning vocal. It's a song that harkens to some of the band's earlier, experimental work though it maintains a smooth sound that is a bit bland in some spots. Still, it does manage to have some inspiring arrangements with its synthesizers and an oboe from Andy Mackay. The album closer Running Wild opens with a melodic-arpeggio guitar track from Phil Manzanera as it is followed by a slow, steady drum fill and soothing bass line. With Ferry singing in his crooning style, it's filled with lyrics of innocence and teenage nostalgia as it's got great production though it's a bit dull despite a great saxophone solo from Andy Mackay as well as Manzanera's wailing guitar to close the album.
Released in May of 1980, the album peaked at #1 in the U.K. album charts that spawned two top 5 U.K. hits with Over You and Oh Yeah plus a top-20 U.K. hit with Same Old Scene. While the album also did moderately well in the U.S., the album was not well-received with critics and some fans who felt that the band was getting more commercial. Despite the criticism, the band continued to forge ahead where in early 1981, the band scored a UK #1 hit with a cover of John Lennon's Jealous Guy in tribute to the fallen music legend.
While it's a bit of improvement over their previous album Manifesto, Flesh + Blood is a very good record from Roxy Music. While there's moments of blandness and song that don't work entirely, it's record that does have its moments in its production plus a few singles and a great album cut. While it's really a transitional record of what is to come from the next album. It's an album that really showed the band moving away from the adventurous side of their earlier work for something more commercial though it works but not entirely. In the end, Flesh + Blood is mesmerizing though flawed album from Roxy Music.
Roxy Music Albums: Roxy Music - For Your Pleasure - Stranded - Country Life - Siren - Manifesto - Avalon
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