Friday, April 29, 2011

Roxy Music-For Your Pleasure

Originally Written and Posted at on 6/10/09.

The release of Roxy Music's 1972 self-titled debut album that featured the single Virginia Plain was a huge surprise hit for the band at a time when glam rock was ruling the charts. Yet, the band's unique look into the glam rock scene made them part of the movement as it was led by its songwriter/vocalist Bryan Ferry. Along with guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay, drummer Paul Thompson, and keyboardist Brian Eno. The band's debut album was clearly raised their profile as they were getting attention for their unconventional art-rock/glam rock sound as well as their lavish look. After a tour supporting the record in their native Britain, the band returned to the studio in early 1973 to make their second album with a new producer in Chris Thomas, a man who would be one of their key collaborators in the years to come.

Produced by Chris Thomas, John Anthony, and Roxy Music with songs written by Bryan Ferry. For Your Pleasure is an album that takes the band's sound from their debut album to broader territory in terms of its production and experimentation. With songs dealing with sex, romance, and other themes. Featuring John Porter playing bass on the album, the album would be the last record that would feature original keyboardist Brian Eno whose experimental work with tapes, synthesizers, and other electronic devices would help add a dose of adventure into the record. The result would be one of rock's most daring records of its time.

The album opener Do The Strand, a song that is about a new dance craze led by a striking, upbeat piano performance by Bryan Ferry as he sings in his crooning vocal. With Paul Thompson's upbeat, charging drums with Phil Manzanera's guitar and Andy Mackay's wailing saxophone. The song features some quirky lyrics and an intensity that drives the song with Ferry's playful vocals as it also features a brief, instrumental break by its guitars and saxophones along with Eno's shimmering noise treatments. Beauty Queen opens with Eno's warbling synthesizer track that becomes a smooth, mid-tempo track with Thompson's and John Porter's swooning rhythm and Eno's keyboards. With Ferry's crooning vocals taking charge, the song is an ode to the beauty queens of the world in all of its playfulness. The song's tempo picks up a bit with its wailing sounds of noisy guitars and synthesizers as it squeals through the song for its instrumental section.

Strictly Confidential opens with sounds of a low, baritone saxophone sound and an oboe as it accompanies Ferry's cabaret-style vocals. Thompson's drums starts to appear for this smooth, low-tempo ballad of sorts with swooning keyboard melodies playing to Ferry's vocals filled with dramatic lyrics. With Manzanera's wailing guitar plays along to the song's moody presentation, it's a song that delves into atmosphere as it shows the band's ability to be adventurous. Editions Of You starts off with a playful keyboard solo that leads the charging, upbeat track with driving guitars, hard-hitting drums, and striking keyboards. With Ferry's playful crooning vocals filled with salacious lyrics about women and their identities. The song is a full-on jam of experiments from Mackay's wailing saxophones to Eno's squealing synthesizers.

In Every Dream Home A Heartache is a dark, eerie track featuring haunting keyboards, melodic guitar swirls, and Ferry's soothing yet seductive vocals with lyrics about a blow-up doll in all of its description. At five-and-a-half minutes, it's a song that's about atmosphere as each word plays up to its creepy tone. After three minutes of its trance-like presentation, drums appear for this dramatic yet intense jam of guitars, drums, and synthesizers as it would fade-out only to reappear due to Eno's treatments on tape machines. The nine-minute, twenty-one second The Bogus Man is an experimental suite with John Porter's bouncy bass line and Paul Thompson's steady drum beat. With Eno's wailing noises of synthesizer squeals and Mackay's soothing saxophone wails, it's a song that is truly experimental as it features Ferry singing in some falsetto vocal styles. With its creepy, idiosyncratic lyrics, it's a song that shows the band being adventurous as it features Manzanera playing some swanky guitars as it maintains a steady presentation.

Grey Lagoons is a playful, mid-tempo song with Ferry's flourishing piano accompanying his crooning vocals. With a bouncy rhythm led by Thompson's drums and Porter's bass, it's a song that starts out smoothly as it includes Manzanera's drums and Ferry's vocals filled with playful, quirky lyrics as the tempo changes to something upbeat with swanky guitars and Mackay's wailing saxophone as it returns to its bouncy arrangement from Ferry's harmonica. The album closer is its title track, a near-seven minute track with Thompson's smooth, rumbling bass and tom-tom drums and Ferry's soothing, seductive vocals filled with sexually playful lyrics. With Manzanera playing a melodic-twanging guitar solo, it's Ferry on piano that continues to drive the song as it maintains a sense of playfulness but also something daring. With Manzanera's wailing guitar along Thompson's drumming for an extended instrumental suite, it's Eno's swirling electronic treatments that take charge for the suite as it closes the album.

Released in late March of 1973, the album drew rave reviews from critics as it was accompanied by the non-LP single Pyjamarama. After its release, tension between Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno reached its breaking point over control and creative issues. While band members did agree with Eno on Ferry's dominance in the band, they chose to stay in the band with Eno deciding to quit for good for a very successful career as a multi-media artist, record producer for acts like U2, Talking Heads, David Bowie, and many others along with his own work as a solo artist in which he would create ambient music. While the album became a hit, Eno's departure definitely left a huge void left in the band as they continued to move forward for the next several months as they found a new keyboardist in multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson of Curved Air for their third album Stranded released in November of 1973.

For Your Pleasure is a brilliant album from Roxy Music thanks in part to Chris Thomas' superb, structured production as well as the band's balance from strong musicianship and experimentation. While it may not have the free-wielding approach of its debut, it's a record that is definitely daring thanks in some respects to the talents of original keyboardist Brian Eno. In the end, For Your Pleasure is a wild, mesmerizing, and fun album from Roxy Music.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Roxy Music-S/T

Originally Written and Posted at 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.

(C) thevoid99 2011

Monday, April 4, 2011

Various Artists-I'm Not There OST

Originally Written and Posted at on 12/11/07.

For more than 40 years in music, there has been no artist that has been as influential or regarded than Bob Dylan. With many artists covering his songs, with some becoming more well-known than Dylan's originals, he is still an icon since his emergence into the folk music scene in the early 1960s. While Dylan continues to tour and play to sell-out crowds, a film bio-pic was made in 2007 to cover Dylan's world from the late 50s to the late 70s that was named after one of Dylan's most unreleased and widely bootlegged songs that he recorded with the Band. The film was called I'm Not There that was directed by Todd Haynes and included not just Dylan's music from the man himself but also a soundtrack featuring covers and interpretations of Dylan's classic songs and rarities for this unique, 2-disc soundtrack album.

The soundtrack to I'm Not There is an album of more than two-and-a-half hours of music featuring 34 tracks (plus three exclusive tracks from iTunes) of many of Dylan's great songs performed by other artists including the bootlegged title track performed by Dylan himself with the Band. Supervised by Randall Poster and Jim Dunbar, the soundtrack covers Dylan's music from his early years a folk singer to his period when he became a Christian music singer in the late 1970s.

Taking the same, diverse approach of the film that covers seven different periods of Dylan's life, much of the film's soundtrack features artists backed by the band Calexico but also a supergroup called the Million Dollar Bashers that features Lee Ranaldo and Steve Shelley of Sonic Youth, Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, Tom Verlaine of Television, Dylan bassist Tony Garnier, Smokey Hormel, and John Medeski of Medeski, Martin, and Wood. The soundtrack to I'm Not There is a blistering, hypnotic, and often chaotic film soundtrack that just doesn't pay tribute to Bob Dylan and the film itself, but also travels into Dylan's own unique world.

The first cut on the first disc is All Along The Watchtowers performed by Eddie Vedder and the Million Dollar Bashers is more in line with Dylan's original version instead of the more famous cover of Jimi Hendrix as Vedder sings the famous song with the band bringing a bouncy, rocking version of the song that is richer in some respects to the Dylan version with John Medeski's organ instead of the more rocking Hendrix version. Sonic Youth arrives with their cover of I'm Not There with their feedback-laden sound while remaining true to the song's haunting tone as Thurston Moore's vocals provide that eerie tone to Dylan's legendary song as they keep the feedback to a minimum. Jim Jones and the band Calexico do their version of Goin' To Acapulco from The Basement Tapes which is largely a mix of acoustic country and Mexican, mariachi music with Calexico providing the brass section for this wonderfully soulful, hypnotic ballad. Richie Havens' cover of Tombstone Blues is fast and acoustic to the style that works to Havens' gravel voice as the singer makes a cameo in the film.

Next is Ballad Of A Thin Man performed by Stephen Malkmus of Pavement backed by the Million Dollar Bashers as he makes the vocals for Cate Blanchett in her role as Jude in the film's Don't Look Back segment. Malkmus's performance of the song is wonderfully eerie as in its sequence that involved Bruce Greenwood as a journalist being targeted as he is called Mr. Jones in song. This track isn't just one of the standout cuts on the album but is even more memorable in the film. Stuck Inside Of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again, which is one of Dylan's longest songs, is given a Memphis soul interpretation by Cat Power whose laid-back vocals works with the film's bouncy, soulful rhythm as it's another great track. John Doe of the L.A. punk band X does an arresting yet inspiring cover of Pressing On from Dylan's late 70s Christian music period. Doe, who provides the vocals for Christian Bale as Pastor John in that particular scene, does a great job with the song as his vocals are a huge standout, aside from Bale's Jew-fro. Fourth Time Around by Yo La Tengo is a smooth, melodic ballad that plays well in Heath Ledger's Robbie Clark personal life with its laid-back tone.

Iron & Wine with Calexico do Dark Eyes as they bring a hypnotic, vibrant track with xylophones and eerie vocals to the song that is followed by siren-like guitars in the background as it's one of the albums' more haunting cuts. Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs does a cover of Highway 61 Revisited with the Million Dollar Bashers as O's screeching vocals with the song's bouncy, whistling sound works for a mix of Dylan's rocking sound with O's post-punk aesthetics. Roger McGuinn of the Byrds backed by Calexico does a haunting cover of One More Cup of Coffee from Desire as the song's haunting tone is mixed with the band's mariachi brass sound that gives the track an eerie feel that works to the original tune. Mason Jennings' interpretation of The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll, who does Bale's voice as Jack Rollins in the early folk music segments, is in the same traditional of the song's folk roots by playing it straight as it works to convey the protest songs that Dylan was singing in his early years.

Billy 1 from the soundtrack to Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid is covered by Los Lobos who brings a raucous, Mexican style with accordions and guitars to the song's bouncy tune that works to convey Richard Gere's Billy and his own strange fantasy as a recluse trying to live his life as a cowboy. Jeff Tweedy of Wilco does a simple, acoustic cover of Simple Twist Of Fate from Blood on the Tracks is one of the soundtrack's most arresting cuts since Tweedy plays it straight to convey the pain Dylan was going through during that album while it was used greatly in Robbie Clark's segment as his own marriage disintegrates. Mark Lanegan's Man In The Long Black Coat is also an acoustic-driven track accompanied by organs and piano as his graveling voice works for the song's eerie ballad that revels in the song's eerie world as Dylan faces his own fame. The final track on the first disc is Senor (Tales of Yankee Power) by Willie Nelson and Calexico is a mix of Nelson's acoustic-country sound and Calexico's Mexican-brass sound as Nelson does a solo with a verse sung in Spanish as it's a fitting closer to the first disc.

The second disc begins with Mira Billotte's As I Went Out One Morning that is a bouncy, bass-driven song that plays to Robbie's relationship with Claire at the time when things were good and blissful. Can't Leave Her Behind by Stephen Malkmus and Lee Ranaldo is a dreamy, country-inspired track with lovely slides and Malkmus delving into Dylan's love of country as Malkmus' vocals work to convey the world of Dylan and his love of country music. Ring Them Bells by Sufjan Stevens is a kaleidoscopic track that mixes country, pop, and indie rock with brass section bridges, layers of percussions, and such as his interpretation of Dylan's song is genius to convey Stevens' sense of versatility. Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Claire in the film, does a wonderful cover of Just Like A Woman backed by Calexico. Gainsbourg's soft vocals works as Calexico plays to the song's acoustic tone as Gainsbourg's interpretation is wonderful to convey her character's persona as she inspires Robbie. Jack Johnson's cover of Mama, You've Been On My Mind/A Fraction Of Last Thoughts On Woody Guthrie is a wonderful acoustic track to convey the character of Woody, played by Marcus Carl Franklin, and his connection to Woody Guthrie that starts off slow in the first song and then goes for something more up-tempo with the second half of the song.

Yo La Tengo's I Wanna Be Your Lover is a raucous track featuring swinging organs, rollicking guitars, and percussions to convey Dylan in his electric period as he was starting as it is a great track that shows Dylan's love for rock n' roll. You Ain't Going Nowhere by Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova of the film Once is a straightforward, yet upbeat acoustic song as the duo do an amazing job with this cover as if it's being sung on a street corner or such to convey the song's folk presentation. Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window? by the Hold Steady that begins with an organ accompaniment as it becomes a raucous rock track with piano accompaniments for this smooth yet amazing track that is a pure rocker. Ramblin' Jack Elliot's Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues is a traditional blues song with acoustic instruments and slides that is part of young Woody's world as the boy tries to find his identity.

The Black Keys' rocking cover of The Wicked Messenger is a droning, dirty rocker that is mean and snarling to convey the song's dark, lyrics and Dylan's own attitude with the world. Tom Verlaine & the Million Dollar Bashers' cover of Cold Iron Bounds that features an opening that is heard throughout the film to convey Dylan's transitions and his feelings of the world is truly one of the albums' most haunting cuts ever performed. With its eerie guitar tracks from Tom Verlaine whose dark, growling vocals convey the song’s Dylan's evocative narrative in his lyrics. Mason Jennings' The Times They Are A Changin' for Jack Rollins' scenes of his rise is wonderfully performed and it stays true to its folk presentation while the lyrics still have a relevance in today's harsh times. Maggie's Farm by Stephen Malkmus & the Million Dollar Bashers which is a chaotic, wall-of-noise rocker that is a pure assault as the song is performed in a scene of Jude going electric and all hell breaks loose.

Marcus Carl Franklin, who plays Woody in many of the film's early scenes, does a wonderful folk cover of When The Ship Comes In as Franklin's young voice is a joy to hear as he sings the early protest songs of Dylan as he channels the youth and innocence of those songs. Bob Forrest's Moonshiner is a wonderful acoustic cover with Forrest singing almost like Dylan himself as he sings this wonderful ballad about whiskey and such. John Doe's I Dreamed Of St. Augustine is another inspirational song that is channeled by Doe's wonderful vocals and a wonderful backing band as it's a wonderfully dreamy, enchanting song helmed by John Doe. Antony & the Johnsons' Knockin' On Heaven's Door from Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid which is a wonderful cover helmed by Antony's haunting voice and a piano accompaniment throughout this classic as it channels the song's melancholic tone. While it may not be superior to the cover made by Guns N' Roses some 20 years ago, Antony's version is still worth listening to.

The final cut on the entire soundtrack comes from Bob Dylan himself which is the widely-beloved and bootlegged song I'm Not There that he recorded with the Band. Spurred by the soft organs of Richard Manuel and Garth Hudson while Dylan sings and brings his acoustic accompaniment. With Rick Danko's bass in the background, Dylan sings his poignant lyrics of his own personality that not just fits in with the film but of who he is as it's really the highlight of the entire soundtrack with Dylan's grizzled voice as it's really an amazing song that any Dylan-fan must have.

The soundtrack to I'm Not There is a sprawling, eclectic, and amazing collection of songs from the legendary Bob Dylan performed by an array of artists including Dylan himself. Fans of Dylan will enjoy the interpretations and faithfulness to the songs while (if they don't have it) getting one of Dylan's own beloved songs. The soundtrack works as a whole with several stand out tracks and performance that work for the film and covers that is true to the film's imagery. In the end, the soundtrack to I'm Not There is an enjoyable soundtrack to have while might even make those, new to Dylan, to pick up some of his great albums. 

Related Review:  I'm Not There

(C) thevoid99 2011