Friday, 1 June 2018

Roxy Music - Roxy Music (1972)


Released June 1972

Recorded at Command Studios, London


1. Re-Make Re-Model
2. Ladytron
3. If There Is Something
4. 2HB
5. The BOB (Medley)
6. Chance Meeting
7. Would You Believe?
8. Sea Breezes
9. Bitter's End

In 1972, Roxy Music came from, well, nowhere, seemingly. Who were Roxy Music? No-one really knew. They looked like Teddy Boys, 50s revivalist members of Sha Na Na, and dressed in bacofoil suits like Dr. Who extras. They were both retrospective and futuristic both visually and musically. Rock and roll saxophone mixed with tape loops and weird synthesiser noises. Powerhouse drumming behind Bryan Ferry's bizarre voice, the like of which had not been heard before. Take their non-album first single, “Virginia Plain” and its strange lyrics too -

"Far beyond the pale horizon
Some place near the desert strand
Where my Studebaker takes me
That's where I'll make my stand, but wait
Can't you see that Holzer mane?
What's her name?
Virginia Plain...."

Exactly. What was that all about. I bought that single in 1972 and was hooked. I remain so. Back to the album. The opening track, “Re-Make Re-Model” was a fantastic start, with all the individual Roxy members taking solos in Bryan Ferry’s ode to a car number plate (CPL 1539). This track just sort of summed up what early Roxy were all about - exciting, individualistic, innovative, futuristic, revivalist. All those things rolled into one intoxicating whole.

“Ladytron” features the “sound like the moon” that Ferry had asked Eno to create, with its insistent, exciting synthesiser climax. “If There Is Something” is a mini Roxy classic. Again, all the instrumentalists feature heavily over Ferry’s “acquired taste” unique voice, and romantic lyrics. “2 H.B.” is a tribute to screen legend Humphrey Bogart, and “The Bob (Medley)” is, apparently, about the Battle Of Britain. Only the machine gun and siren sound affect noises hold a clue to that one. To be honest, the track is a little bit messy.

“Chance Meeting” and “Sea Breezes” are very evocative, atmospheric numbers, particularly the latter, with its extended, slow, drum and vocal last part. 

“Would You Believe?” is an upbeat, rock n roll song that features Andy Mackay’s superb saxophone and “Bitters End” an odd, slightly unfinished lounge bar-ish two minute track to finish what was, all things considered, a quite remarkable debut album. This was their first outing, remember, David Bowie and Marc Bolan, 1972’s two other great innovators, had been putting out albums for several years by then.


Regarding the BBC cuts on Disc Two of the “deluxe edition”. Fantastic. You get the entire album (apart from the relatively inconsequential "Bitters End") played live in the BBC studio, not sequentially though. They are excellent in sound quality and interesting versions, proof that Roxy could really play. "If There Is Something" is outstanding. "Re-Make Re-Model" and "Would You Believe?" are both just a sheer pleasure to experience. Just listen to Andy Mackay's saxophone on the latter. Roxy Heaven. The fade out to "Ladytron" is nailed on as well. I was thinking they might have made a bit of a mess of "The Bob (Medley)" but they pull it off, somehow creating a few synthesised background noises to accompany what always was a most quirky, somewhat bizarre song. They do it again on the Paris Theatre live performance too, with some additional wailing noises too and parping sax. "Chance Meeting" has a great extended ending on the live takes.

The sound quality on the live cuts is not quite as good as on the BBC sessions but it isn't bad, some nice stereo separation. Considering it was from a smallish venue in 1972 it is probably as good as could be expected.

This CD is worth it for the wonderful BBC Sessions alone, add to that the Paris Theatre tracks and I am more than happy to shell out for what is the only official live representation of this truly ground-breaking band from 1972 when they were really cooking.


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