Much like the wet and starving model on the cover, Roxy Music were abandoned on a deserted island for the latter half of 1973. When creative lynchpin Brian Eno announced his departure, Roxy Music vowed to carry on. They channeled their disappointment and uncertainty in their music, resulting in their third album, appropriately titled Stranded. Perhaps with some regret, Brian Eno has since generously stated in the press that it is his favorite RM album. In an ironic twist of fate, conflict was the shot in the arm the band needed, as Stranded is one of the tautest and dramatic records ever recorded.
From the emphatic opening cut “Street Life” to the slow-building song of inspiration “Psalm,” the first half of this third Roxy release is bristling with some tense moments. Lead singer Bryan Ferry shows his cheeky side on “Amazona,” an indication that he was unfazed by Eno’s absence.
The complex arrangements on Stranded show how surprisingly determined the boys were not to play it safe. With its slow piano passages and bombastic free-flowing jazz sections, “A Song For Europe” has every trick Roxy Music ever learned on full display. The roughshod feel of “Just Like You” and “Serenade” are the most dated-sounding of the crop, but they speed by so fast you barely notice. Another extended multi-parter, “Mother Of Pearl,” is another clear stand out, before the sweetly gentle “Sunset” helps to put the tumultuous year of 1973 quietly to bed. Newcomer Eddie Jobson handles the piano duties on both tracks brilliantly, almost as if to say “Brian who?”
Historically, this disc has always been one of those sadly forgotten Roxy Music releases. Other albums have stolen the limelight and critical accolades, leaving this one to languish and live up to its title. Lacking the polish of later releases, Stranded is on par with Depeche Mode’s A Broken Frame – a fair comparison, considering it shares a similar history of a critical founding band member (Vince Clarke) suddenly jumping ship. Both bands prevailed in the end, though, ultimately becoming successful on both sides of the Atlantic.
The theme of Stranded is an important one: no matter how bleak and desperate your situation gets, you should never give up. The religiosity of “Psalm” brings God into the picture in a very holistic, uplifting way. Whether consciously or not, Roxy Music was tapping into a very spiritual place on this record to see them through some lean and mean times. As a band unit, they were destined to go on to great things; they just needed to be steadfast in their resolve and strong in their purpose. Faith plays a big part in our journey, whether we believe in a higher power or ourselves. The Roxy Music sound is a miracle in itself, and with Stranded, their development as a group was finally complete. Amen!
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