Roxy Music

Roxy Music

Virgin, 1972

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/16/2017

Quick: take the musical quirkiness of early King Crimson, and the Ziggy Stardust-era glam rock stylings of David Bowie. Add just a touch of psychedelia from Hawkwind, and put it all in a blender on the “smoothie” setting.

This is a simplistic description of what Roxy Music seems to be, especially on their self-titled debut album. And while they definitely plowed some new musical ground while paying tribute to their roots at times, it sometimes sounds like they don't quite know what they want to accomplish musically.

Make no doubt, the band – led by Bryan Ferry, and his guise of being the suave bandleader (almost a la Buster Poindexter, though Ferry beat him to that by over a decade) – has musical talent. Guitarist Phil Manzanera adds the right amount of electric spark to the overall sound throughout the disc. And the opening track “Re-Make/Re-Model,” even though it sometimes sounds a bit sloppy, is a decent birth cry for the band. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

It is in the following track, “Ladytron,” that Roxy Music seems to find its pinnacle. Lovingly crafted, thanks to Brian Eno's touch on this particular track, it sets a mood that fits the band's personality and style perfectly. If only there had been more moments like this on the disc.

Consider the genre leaps on “If There Is Something” - a track which starts with a country bend, but soon dissolves into a light pop offering complete with Ferry's warbling vocals (which, in this case, are distracting from the song). It simply does not know what it wants to be musically; that, along with Ferry's vocal delivery, sink this particular song. (If there had been more musical development like what you can hear in the last 90 seconds or so of the song, this actually could have been an amazing track.)

Likewise, there are a few moments on Roxy Music which almost seem to be indebted to Bowie, with possibly a little Pink Floyd thrown in. Tracks like “Virginia Plain” (which was not on the initial release of the album) and “Bitters End” both have that feel that they could have been Ziggy Stardust leftovers that Ferry and crew picked up, dusted off and made their own. I can't say I like the sudden ending of both songs – especially the latter track, as it seems like a funny way to end the album.

There are those who will argue, “Oh, you just don't understand what Roxy Music was all about!” And, to them… I may agree a little. I've listened to this album for the better part of a day and a half, and I freely admit there are still some aspects to it that I'm just not grasping. But overall, I am comfortable stating that the band was still discovering who they were – and with numerous lineup shifts over the course of their career, they would kind of always be in that mode of discovery.

Is Roxy Music a bad album? Not at all. It is confusing, though, and a rather tentative first step in their career.

Rating: C

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