Roxy Music Siren

Roxy Music Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

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 band. 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, ordered from my favourite to least favourite.

Roxy Music Albums: Ranked from Worst to Best

#8 – 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’.


#7 – 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.


#6 – 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.


#5 – 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.


#4 – 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’.


#3 – 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”.


#2 – 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’.


#1 – 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?

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39 Comments

    • 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.

  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.

    • I think they’re like Bowie in that they do arty stuff while maintaining a reasonable amount of mainstream appeal. They dabble in stuff like krautrock and progressive rock, and are quite textural, but their songs are still relatively normal.

          • Yes my son just got a vinyl album by Eno… Apollo. I’m going to listen to it soon… I’ve never heard it.
            He is a great producer. Just the Bowie stuff is great.

          • I’ve never heard Apollo, but I think it’s more of an ambient record. He also made a bunch of song-based records in the 1970s, and you may enjoy those more. All four are good, but especially Here Come The Warm Jets (kind of glam), Another Green World (ambient but with songs), and Before and After Science (kind of Germanic).

          • I like glam…always have even if it’s just elements of it ..I’ll give Here Come The Warm Jets a try.

          • That is catchy…I do like that guitar…it’s like he is playing in bursts. I like that…that tone is wonderful also.

    • 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).

  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.”

    • If your radio etc is anything like mine, it’s quite possible you know a bunch of stuff from the 1979-1982 era, and not much from 1972-1975. ‘Love is the Drug’ is the only one of their earlier songs I’ve ever heard in the wild, while arty/glammy stuff like ‘Editions of You’ and ‘Virginia Plain’ seems like it’s a bit too weird for radio.

  3. I’d swop Stranded for Country Life. I was very disappointed with Siren when I bought it this year too, apart from ‘Drug’, of course. What a band!

    • 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.

  4. Fan of their music and the individual solo efforts/collaborations. Listened to them a lot back when. When I revisit, it sometimes even sounds better. I have some time bracketed here. Might be time for some RM.

      • Not really. I listened to the whole Studio library and Viva after I read your post. Like I said I was all over the solo records also. I went went Eno right away. I’m a big fan of Andy’s playing so my ears prick up when he adds his riffs.
        I’ll probably stay with them for the weekend. Good reminder on your part.

  5. 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.

    • 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.

  6. Hi
    I would, to a certain extent, go along with this, although putting “Siren” over the debut album is perplexing, as is censoring Country Life’s glorious cover :).
    Incidentally, apparently, the always perverse Morrissey later disowned his comment on “For Your Pleasure” after finding out that Ferry enjoyed fox hunting. Fair enough, I suppose, but a good album is a good album.
    If you are into Roxy/Ferry, this guy’s (from Canada) phenomally-detailed site is well worth checking out –
    https://roxymusicsongs.com
    My own blog is nowhere near as good, but it may be of interest –
    https://psb.psbmusicreviewsblogspot.com/2019/12/roxy-music-phase-one.html
    https://psb.psbmusicreviewsblogspot.com/search/label/Bryan%20Ferry
    Keep up the good work!
    Paul

    • With the debut, it’s a weird record to rate as it’s easily their most innovative, but side two is weak IMO. First side is a contender for the best first side ever by anyone. I really like Siren though – it feels like all the creativity and risk-taking is still there, where it wasn’t as much in Roxy Phase II.

  7. I used to have similar feelings about the old “side two” of the debut album (by the way, the album should NEVER include Virginia Plain in it, great as Virginia is), but over the years I have found myself appreciating Chance Meeting and Sea Breezes more and more. Even The Bob (Medley) and Bitters End have appealed to me more.
    Siren is a bridging point between Phases 1 and 2, but, as you say, the old creativity is still very much alive on Siren. A drawn-out but glorious song like Just Another High would never have been used in Phase 2, ditto Sentimental Fool.

  8. Yes, that’s the problem with the CD having VP on it, many people think it is part of it. Those of us who are old enough to remember the original are always surprised when it starts to play, sort of like sticking Strawberry Fields in the middle of Sgt Pepper.

    • I don’t usually mind, as long as it’s a good track – I actually like how my Rumours CD has Silver Springs in the middle. The XTC CD issues with bonus tracks in the middle are a little weird though.

    • I think it depends if you grew up with the old version or not. I had an old LP of Rumours with no Silver Springs, while it was basically impossible to find the UK version of The Clash on CD when I was buying Clash albums.

  9. I think Country Life is their peak. It’s such a perfect album: well recorded/produced, great variety of moods/sounds, high level of energy.
    They maintained some of that energy and creativity on the next couple of releases but I think the steam ran out completely by Avalon. I’d rank that last and put Manifesto and Flesh and Blood higher. Avalon is not a bad album, just that it’s a bit bland and it would have been better if balanced out by a few faster, more rocking tracks (like The Thrill of it All).

    • I have Country Life second, so we’re largely in agreement.
      I think Avalon works the best of the reunion albums – I like the cohesion, whereas Flesh and Blood is all over the place. It is all very mellow, but ‘More Than This’ and ‘True to Life’ are my favourite reunion-era songs.

  10. You can’t argue with the top 3 (though I’d switch 1 and 2 because ‘For your Pleasure’ has the abominable and very long Bogus Man)
    The ordering of the rest is quite bizarre, ‘Siren’ is the musical equivalent of jumping the shark and should be near the bottom. The album that is put last is superb – one of the very few albums that doesn’t contain a weak track.

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