Sunday, May 1, 2011

Roxy Music-Stranded

Originally Written and Posted at on 6/15/09.

After the release of the band's second album For Your Pleasure in March of 1973, Roxy Music was continuing its wave of success. Unfortunately, the band lost one of its key members when original keyboardist Brian Eno decided to leave the band due to creative and control issues with vocalist/keyboardist Bryan Ferry. Eno's departure put the band on hold as members of the band worked on Eno's solo album while Ferry did a solo album of his own of standards. The band eventually found a replacement in 19-year old multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson who had previously been a member of the progressive rock group Curved Air, that would later feature future-Police drummer Stewart Copeland. Along with guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay, and drummer Paul Thompson, the band regrouped to make their third album that would mark a departure from the band's earlier work with Eno entitled Stranded.

Produced by Chris Thomas with several songs written by Bryan Ferry featuring two songs co-written each with Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay. Stranded is an album that shows Roxy Music in transition. Moving away from the early experimentations of the first two albums they did with Brian Eno. Taking on a more sophisticated sound that would define their later work, it's an album that shows the band in transition as Eddie Jobson adds more broader sounds with Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay each taking part in shaping the sound for the band. The result is an excellent record from the band.

The album opener is its leading single Street Life, a song that opens with warbling, hollow sounds of synthesizers and guitars that later becomes this charging, upbeat track led by Paul Thompson's hard-hitting drums. With Bryan Ferry's snarling, crooning vocals filled with angry lyrics, it's a song that is filled with humor along with Phil Manzanera's wailing guitar screeches. Along with Eddie Jobson's melodic-wail riffs on the keyboards, it's a song that reminds audiences of the band's earlier sound but with a fuller sound from producer Chris Thomas. Just Like You features Ferry singing in a falsetto-like croon for the song's mid-tempo ballad as he is accompanied by smooth rhythms and Jobson's melodic-flourish piano. With its somber lyrics, it's a wonderful ballad that includes a wailing guitar solo from Manzanera.

Amazona opens with funky guitar riffs from Manzanera followed by a wobbly bass and a smooth, vibrant drum fill from Thompson. With Ferry's smooth, raspy croon vocals that is supported by Manzanera's funky, rumbling arrangements. With its imagery-laden lyrics to a woman, the song shifts into an arrangement that slows the song down a bit due to Manzanera's shimmering guitar mixed in with Thompson's rumbling drums, Andy Mackay's soft, wailing saxophone, and Jobson's warbling keyboards. Even as the song delves into different sections which allows Manzanera's talents to shine along with Jobson providing some wonderful keyboard work. The eight-minute Psalm is a piano ballad of sorts led by Ferry's straightforward vocal delivery with his haunting yet spiritual-laden lyrics. With Thompson's slow but hollow drum fills and Jobson's somber piano flourishes, funky bass and guitar riffs arrive along with Mackay's saxophone. The song starts to gain momentum though its slow tempo is still intact. Even with Mackay's blaring saxophone, Manzanera's country-flavored guitar riffs, and a huge choir performance from the London Welsh Male Choir appears for the song's coda.

Serenade is an upbeat, rich song with sprawling sounds in the production from the hollow drum deliveries, wailing guitars and saxophones, and Jobson's striking piano. With Ferry's crooning vocals filled with seductive lyrics, it's one of the album's standout cuts that shows the band delving into tighter arrangements in terms of song craft and such while being adventurous with Manzanera's guitar and its arrangements. A Song For Europe is a ballad of sorts led by Jobson's piano and Manzanera's melodic guitar riff. With slow, powerful beats by Thompson, it's Ferry's dark crooning vocals with its decadent lyrics that take charge along with the song's co-writer Andy Mackay's eerie saxophone. Even as the song delves into a section led by Jobson's wavy synthesizer that is followed by a sensual saxophone solo from Mackay that later becomes wild with Ferry singing quietly in French.

Mother Of Pearl starts off as an upbeat song with bouncy rhythms and funky guitar riffs with Ferry singing in varied vocal styles with snarls along with nonsensical lyrics. After less then a minute and a half, the song slows down into a mid-tempo track with funky guitar riffs and a bopping bass line along with striking pianos. With Ferry singing in a normal, crooning vocal with humorous, quirky lyrics. It's a song that revels in the band's experimentation while taking on weird arrangements as the musicianship between the band is very strong along with Chris Thomas' sparse production. The album closer Sunset is a ballad led by Jobson's somber, melodic-driven piano as it accompanies Ferry's smooth, crooning vocals. With its imagery-laden lyrics, the song features a rich production that includes Jobson's melodic-flourishing piano and harpsichord-like keyboards as it's a fitting closer to the album.

Released in November of 1973, the album drew excellent reviews and sales thanks in part to the single Street Life which was a UK top-ten hit. The album also received praise from its former keyboardist Brian Eno who was already working on a solo career. The band toured to promote the record as they were moving away from the glam rock image they had attained in the first two records for something more sophisticated. At the same time, it was clear that they were now in transition as the band were already big in Britain but in the U.S., they weren't very well known as it would all change with their next album Country Life.

While it may not reach the consistency or wild experimentation of the band's first two albums with Brian Eno. Stranded is still a well-made album from Roxy Music thanks to Eddie Jobson's contributions in giving the band a new dimension into their sound along with Chris Thomas' sparse yet sophisticated production. While the album is really a transitional record that strays from the earlier experimental work with Eno that would give into a tighter, well-crafted sound that would be prominent in the next two albums the band would have with Eddie Jobson. Stranded is still a fun, adventurous, and sophisticated album by Roxy Music.

(C) thevoid99 2011

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