Roxy Music Album Reviews

Roxy Music were formed in 1971 by vocalist and keyboardist Bryan Ferry who, along with several of his band-mates, came from the same English art school background as The Who and The Rolling Stones. Accordingly, Roxy Music always felt conceptual – they were purposefully experimental, decadent, and futuristic, and there was always a deliberate visual element to their image. The band’s successful integration of synthesisers and electronic treatments into their sound, and Ferry’s detached vocals, made them ahead of their time and extremely influential. The group started their career in the era of glam rock, but like the genre’s other most enduring figure, David Bowie, they covered a lot of other territory during their career.

Along with Ferry’s unsettling lounge-lizard croon, the other constant members of Roxy Music were Andy Mackay on oboe and saxophone and Phil Manzanera on guitar; both collaborated with Ferry on writing material. Powerful drummer Paul Thompson was also a constant during the band’s 1970’s tenure, while the group went through a succession of bass players. Most idiosyncratic of all was Brian Eno, who played synthesizer and “treated” the other member’s instruments through his equipment. Eno only lasted two albums before he struck out for a distinguished career as a producer and solo artist. He was replaced by Eddie Jobson, who did a good job of filling Roxy Music’s sound out on their lush mid-seventies albums with his violin and keyboard parts.

The band’s two albums with Eno – 1972’s self-titled debut and 1973’s For Your Pleasure – are their most experimental, although, apart from the difficult second side of the debut, they’re still largely song-based and hardly inaccessible. The experimental edge mostly came from Eno’s textures and Ferry’s weird croon, although the racy cover photos and boundary-pushing lyrics like 1973’s inflatable doll epic ‘In Every Dream Home A Heartache’ also contributed. Brian Eno singles out 1973’s Stranded, recorded after he left the group, as their high point, and their immediate post-Eno albums are still adventurous, but also lush and gorgeous. The group went on a three year hiatus after 1975’s Siren, but regrouped for 1979’s Manifesto. The group’s first two reunion albums are often disappointingly unimaginative, but 1982’s Avalon is a sleek and dignified swansong.

Roxy Music should be remembered as one of the key bands of the 1970s, balancing accessibility and experimentation, and releasing a string of excellent albums during their initial tenure. Their propensity for slow tempos can irritate some listeners, but I enjoy their rich textures and experimental spirit.

Ten Favourite Roxy Music Songs

Mother of Pearl
The Thrill Of It All
In Every Dream Home a Heartache
More Than This
Sentimental Fool
Virginia Plain
If There Is Something
Street Life