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Roxy Music Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Roxy Music Siren

English art-rock band Roxy Music were formed by vocalist Bryan Ferry and bassist Graham Simpson in 1970. They recruited saxophone and oboe player Andy Mackay and synth player Brian Eno (who “treated” the other players instruments through his synth). Drummer Paul Thompson joined in 1971, and his muscular playing helped keep the band’s experimental rock accessible. Guitarist Phil Manzanera was the last recruit, joining shortly before the group’s first album was recorded in 1972.

Each member bought their individual background to the band; Manzanera grew up in Latin America, Mackay was classically trained, while Mackay, Ferry and Eno all came from art school backgrounds. One common thread for all the members was an appreciation of the avant-garde experimentation of the Velvet Underground, while Eno’s experiments with synths and tape effects were unusual for a song-based rock record. Roxy Music sought to blur the lines between high art and pop art, making postmodern pop music.

Roxy Music went through a succession of bass players, while Brian Eno was replaced by Eddie Jobson after 1973’s For Your Pleasure. After touring behind Siren, the group disbanded in 1976. They reunited in 1978 to record Manifesto, but the core band was reduced to a three-piece of Ferry, Mackay, and Manzanera, after Paul Thompson quit in 1980. The band’s reunion albums were smoother and less experimental than their earlier work.

Roxy Music were phenomenally successful for a band with experimental tendencies – all eight of their studio albums made the UK top ten. Their sole number one single, a lovely take on John Lennon’s ‘Jealous Guy’ released on 1981, isn’t featured on any of their albums. Here are their eight studio albums, order from my favourite to least favourite.

Roxy Music Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

Flesh + Blood

Roxy Music Flesh + Blood

1980
The singles from Flesh + Blood are misleadingly strong – the torch song ‘Oh Yeah’ and the funky falsetto of ‘Same Old Scene’ are great songs that promise a great album. Elsewhere, Flesh + Blood is disappointingly bland – although that doesn’t apply to the album’s nadir, a bizarre remake of The Byrds’ ‘Eight Miles High’.


Manifesto

Roxy Music Manifesto

1979
When Roxy Music reunited for their first studio album in four years, they’d updated their sound for the disco era. They were still weird, but the 1970s art-rock facade was replaced with a dance-pop sound. It mostly works – the singles ‘Angel Eyes’ and ‘Dance Away’ were both successful, while ‘Manifesto’ and ‘Trash’ retained hints of the art-rock of Roxy Music’s earlier phase.


Avalon

Roxy Music Avalon

1982
Roxy Music’s final album is gorgeously smooth, a refined version of the dance-pop they pursued in mark II. It’s less invigorating than the experimentation of their earlier releases, but it’s often beautiful. The melodic pop of ‘More Than This’ is a lovely opener, while guest vocalist Yanick Étienne adds colour to the languid title track. The closing pair of ‘True To Life’, and the synth and oboe duet on ‘Tara’, is gorgeous.


Roxy Music

Roxy Music 1972 Debut Album

1972
Roxy Music’s debut album is full of ideas – Andy Mackay later said “we certainly didn’t invent eclecticism but we did say and prove that rock ‘n’ roll could accommodate – well, anything really.” The first side, especially on editions that include the early single ‘Virginia Plain’, is amazing. Roxy Music deliver twisted country on ‘If There Is Something’ and deconstruct pop music on ‘Remake/Remodel’, quoting Wagner and The Beatles. The production, by King Crimson lyricist Peter Sinfield, is a weakness, and the second side can be a rough listen, but most of the group’s ideas originate here.


Siren

Roxy Music Siren

1975
Siren, the last album from Roxy Music’s original tenure, is a divisive record because it blends the band’s art-rock with dance and pop textures. But Roxy Music’s daring creativity is still intact, especially on rockers like ‘Whirlwind’ and ‘Both Ends Burning’, and the lengthy epic ‘Sentimental Fool’. The single ‘Love Is The Drug’ was Roxy Music’s biggest hit to date, and John Gustafson’s bass-line influenced Chic’s ‘Good Times’.


Stranded

Roxy Music Stranded

1973
Roxy Music’s first album without Brian Eno sacrifices some of their experimental edge, instead focusing on lush textures. Stranded also features some of Ferry’s most dramatic vocals – his foray into French on ‘A Song for Europe’ is surprisingly effective. The multi-part ‘Mother of Pearl’ is one of Roxy Music’s best-loved songs, with Ferry’s campy vocals delivering lines like “Thus: even Zarathustra/Another-time-loser/Could believe in you”.


Country Life

Roxy Music Country Life

1974
Famous for its titillating cover (I’m a prude, so I’ve shown the censored version here), Country Life continued Roxy Music’s classy, textured art-rock. Opener ‘The Thrill Of It All’ is one of the best arranged and produced songs in classic rock – there’s so much going on in the mix, with Eddie Jobson’s violin and Manzanera’s guitar competing for attention. Jobson’s violin is also prominent in the psychedelic ‘Out of the Blue’, while Ferry reportedly played the organ solo on the seething ‘Casanova’.


For Your Pleasure

Roxy Music For Your Pleasure

1973
Roxy Music peaked with their second album, For Your Pleasure. With more time in the studio, their experimental tendencies are channelled into stronger material. The long tracks are the most memorable – the lengthy groove of ‘The Bogus Man’, while the inflatable doll tale of ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ culminates in a dramatic Manzanera solo. For Your Pleasure is more energetic than most Roxy Music albums – the opener ‘Do The Strand’, the frenetic ‘Editions of You’ (with a great Eno VCS3 synth solo), and ‘Grey Lagoons’ are all punchy, while the shimmering ‘Beauty Queen’ is marvellous. When asked by the British music press, Morrissey could ‘only think of one truly great British album: For Your Pleasure.”

Did I underrate your favourite Roxy Music album? Any favourite songs?

Read More:
Roxy Music album reviews
Worst to best lists

27 thoughts on “Roxy Music Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best Leave a comment

    • Roxy Music is my least favourite of the first five, yet it’s also the most innovative. It’s a shame Stranded isn’t on the list – that one was a UK number one, so I thought it would be in with a shot. There are a bunch of 1970s artists where you could really just chuck large chunks of their discography on the list.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I never knew much about them. I’ve learned more about this last year than I ever knew before. One album that I did listen to some is “Those Foolish Things” by Bryan Ferry. I liked that one…he did a good job on those covers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s my second favourite, so we’re not too far out of alignment. Lots of great stuff – Thrill of it All is a great opener, but I also really like the sequence of the last three songs – ‘Tripytch’ is super weird and medieval, ‘Really Good Time’ is a nice and straightforward piano ballad, and ‘Prairie Rose’ is a good rocker.

      For Your Pleasure and Siren are my favourite covers. Apparently the two women on Country Life are the sister and girlfriend of Michael Karoli (Can guitarist).

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  2. While I know a bunch of Roxy Music songs, including many you highlighted, and generally like them, I never went deeper and explored their entire albums.

    I agree their take of “Eight Miles High” is strange. Now that I think about it, they did various covers. I guess the best known is “Jealous Guy.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like Siren a lot – definitely a different persona from Ferry though. I like Thompson’s thunderous drumming on otherwise mellow tracks. Sentimental Fool and Whirlwind are too of my favourite tracks.

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  3. I’ve been on a Roxy Music kick of late and have listened to pretty much everything. I’m likely to vote for Country Life as my favourite, with Stranded a close second. Followed by For Your Pleasure, self titled, Avalon, then Siren. I think. The other two are much of a muchness.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cool! Sounds like there’s a consensus that For Your Pleasure, Stranded, and Country Life are the best three, just not on the order.

      Or even that there’s three tiers, with those three at the top and Manifesto and Flesh + Blood on the bottom.

      Liked by 1 person

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