Roxy Music

Roxy Music

Virgin, 1972

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


I’ve always had a hard time with music from the early 1970’s, especially in this country, where it seemed to be dominated by folksy artists like Carole King and James Taylor. Bland and boring, if you ask me. My tastes have always leaned more toward the progressive, experimental, and avant garde, so discovering a British act like Roxy Music has been a complete revelation to me. Finally! A group from the ‘70s that doesn’t sound like the ‘70s. Not since Giorgio Moroder producing Donna Summer have I been so excited by a series of records.

And it all started with the eponymous Roxy Music release in 1972. One listen to the way ahead of its time opener “Re-Make/Re-Model” and you will be as hooked as I was. The beat is propulsive from start to finish, with electronic elements supplied by techno-wunderkind Brian Eno to give it a futuristic sheen. The next track, “Ladytron,” is equally as cutting-edge and exciting. The laidback “If There Is Something” has a country flavor that is well-suited to the period and could have been a hit had it been released as a single back then. That designation would fall to “Virginia Plain,” though radio programmers hardly knew what to do with it. With its jagged arrangement, it just didn’t sound remotely like anything else, which helps to explain why it didn’t exactly set the charts on fire.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Admittedly, lead singer Bryan Ferry is something of an acquired taste, especially with that distinctive vibrato voice of his. On the slower, less effective tunes like “Chance Meeting” and “Sea Breezes,” he tends to sing in the same key, so it leads you to believe his range is probably quite limited. But, boy, does he make up for his vocal limitations with stage presence. In the early days, Roxy Music was all about the visual statement, so that helps to explain the feathers, platform shoes and wild hairdos. This is the kind of music that begs to be seen as it is heard, so by all means you should seek out the DVD visual history of the band, The Thrill Of It All.

The stunning debut album shows off all sides of a band that was still in its formative stages. From the arty cover, to the colorful photos of the members in the liner notes, to the creativity of the material you hear, this is one dynamic package that makes a statement and raises the bar for other timid artists to marvel at and envy. As well they should, because when you play it safe, you limit your potential for growth and longevity. Pigeonholing Roxy Music as art rock really doesn’t do them justice, because there isn’t anything so obscure – though “The Bob (Medley)” is a tad excessive – that it would alienate potential listeners. If you are hungering for a thrilling musical adventure that stretches over the course of eight conceptual albums, Roxy Music is your band. They not only demonstrated chutzpah in thinking out of the box, they obliterated the box entirely.

Rating: A-

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© 2009 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Virgin, and is used for informational purposes only.