Monday, May 9, 2011

Roxy Music-Manifesto

Originally Written and Posted at on 6/24/09.

The success of 1975's Siren helped Roxy Music reach a peak both creatively, critically, and commercially. Thanks in part to Bryan Ferry's cool persona as well as the musical talents of guitarist Phil Manzanera, saxophonist Andy Mackay, keyboardist/multi-instrumentalist Eddie Jobson, and drummer Paul Thompson. Roxy Music for that period seemed like the coolest band out there. Then in 1976 when the band was on tour, Bryan Ferry also achieved his first solo hit with Let's Stick Together as the band chose to go on a brief hiatus. With various members focusing on different projects, Ferry chose to keep his solo career going but he faced personal troubles in 1977 when longtime girlfriend Jerry Hall fell for legendary Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger.

Heartbroken by Hall's departure, Ferry responded with The Bride Stripped Bare, an album that contained original material for the first time on album along with some covers. The record received a lukewarm reception critically and commercially in 1978 as Ferry decided to reform Roxy Music. Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, and Paul Thompson decided to join the reformation but keyboardist Eddie Jobson wasn't asked to return as he chose to work on other projects. During this reformation, the band found themselves out of place in the advent of the punk, post-punk music scene in the U.K. while in America, disco was ruling the charts. Seeing that artists like the Rolling Stones and Rod Stewart achieving success with disco songs, Roxy Music decided to jump ahead with the trend for their sixth studio release entitled Manifesto.

Produced and performed by Roxy Music, Manifesto is an album that features the band moving in transition as the adventurous art rock sound of their past recordings. With half of the songs written by Bryan Ferry, four of which were co-written with Phil Manzanera, and one with Andy Mackay. Featuring backing from several session musicians including future Squeeze/Mike & the Mechanics vocalist Paul Carrack on keyboards. The album showcases the band moving towards dance music as they go for more rhythmic textures and production scales that are more polished than previous albums. The result would be a decent though underdeveloped record from the legendary band.

The album's title track serves as the opening cut with its ominous bass line, slow yet steady drum fill from Paul Thompson, and an eerie synthesizer. With Manzanera's guitar arriving after a couple of minutes, Bryan Ferry starts to sing in his snarling croon with decadent lyrics as it maintains a bouncy presentation. Though the song does drag a bit as it makes a somewhat successful attempt for the band to delve into their art-rock sound. The single Trash arrives with Manzanera's washy, charging guitars with bouncy rhythms from Thompson's drums and melodic-blaring synthesizers. With lyrics about the new trends that are coming around in Britain, Ferry sings in a humorous vocal style with squealing saxophones from Andy Mackay along with scratchy guitars from Manzanera. It's a good song though its production is a bit flat in some parts. Next is the rhythmic single Angel Eyes in a remixed form than its more hollowed version in the original album version. With throbbing disco rhythms from its drums and bass, Mackay's swooning saxophone, and Manzanera's guitar. It's supported by flourishing synthesizers as Ferry sings in a crooning vocal style with lyrics about a woman's eyes as it's one of the album's best cuts.

Still Falls The Rain arrives with a swooning guitar solo from Manzanera and a slow, throbbing rhythm from Thompson's drums and bass. With Ferry singing in a crooning style, it starts out smooth until its chorus for a more bouncy rhythm with a horn section and backing vocal. With its arrangements to go for something more pop and quirky lyrics, it's a song that tries to be both arty and pop but doesn't mesh well along with its production where it sounds a bit rough. Stronger Through The Years opens with a slow keyboard riff from Paul Carrack as it features a smooth, bouncy rhythm with Manzanera's snarling guitar wail. With Ferry singing in a hollow vocal croon, its mix isn't very good as he tries to sing through some kind of distortion with nonsensical lyrics. It's a song that has a good presentation but doesn't work in mixing various styles as well as it's attempt to be arty.

Ain't That So features a swanky guitar riff along with Thompson's bouncy drum fills that picks its tempo a bit with Mackay's saxophone, a throbbing bass line, and then slows down when Ferry sings. With its cool, sensual-laden lyrics, it's a song that is filled with unique arrangements but there's part that lags in its performance while the production tries to be very slick which doesn't work. My Little Girl opens with an excellent, bouncy drum fill from Paul Thompson and Phil Manzanera's driving, washy guitar. Then the song goes into a more throbbing style that is almost in a disco style but with a slick production and keyboards that kind of makes the song bland. Even as Ferry sings in a crooning vocal with cool lyrics as it's a song that doesn't really work despite a great start. The single Dance Away, which appears in a remixed version than in the original album version, is a song that has Roxy Music delving a bit into disco. With its smooth, throbbing rhythm as it starts out smooth with Ferry's cool vocal with mesmerizing lyrics. Then the tempo picks up for its chorus with swooning piano and Manzanera's wailing guitars.

Cry, Cry, Cry is an upbeat song with a wailing horn section, bouncy rhythms that is nearly reminiscent of disco, wailing saxophones, and Ferry's soulful vocals that includes a group of backing vocalists singing in the chorus. While it has Ferry delving into some soulful territory, it's a song that kind of feels out of place with the record while it also tries to delve into many styles. The album closer Spin Me Round is a ballad that features Paul Carrack's somber keyboards and Ferry's soft vocals. With a smooth drum and guitar performance arrive, it's a song that has dreamy lyrics along with nice arrangements though it's production falters a bit along with an extended instrumental coda that doesn't really go anywhere.

Released in March of 1979, the album was a hit in the charts and with a mainstream audience in Britain while in the U.S., it peaked at #23 in the album charts. Despite its success due to its remixed singles for Dance Away and Angel Eyes, the album was not well-received with some critics and fans who felt that the adventurous side of the band's earlier work was traded for a bland sound to keep up with the times. Despite the criticism the band received, the band went on a successful tour for the record. After that tour, the band hit a road bump when drummer Paul Thompson injured himself in a motorcycle accident as he decided to leave the band for a while. Yet, the members of Roxy Music decided to forge on as a trio with various musicians backing them up as they're about to enter the 1980s.

While it's the weakest album in the band's rich discography of albums, Manifesto is still a decent record thanks to two fantastic singles (in remixed forms) and some inspiring performances. While its production either lags from being under-produced in spots to sometimes, very slick and bland. It's a record that shows a band having a bit of success in keeping up with the times though they lose some of their edge with this record. In the end, Manifesto is a record that has its moments but doesn't live up to the albums that preceded the great work from Roxy Music.

(C) thevoid99 2011

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