What’s So Great About ‘Roxy Music’?

The first of Roxy Music’s opening trilogy of masterpieces sounds as original and fresh today as it did on its release back in 1972. Comprising Bryan Ferry on vocals and piano, Graham Simpson on bass, Andrew Mackay on oboe and sax, Paul Thompson on drums, Phil Manzanera on guitar and Brian Eno on tapes and synths, the sound on the album is simultaneously futuristic, conceptual and mannered.

The album opens with Re-make/Re-model which is probably their archetype sound comprising hypnotic sax riffs, frantic, cacophonous dissonance and  abstract effects. Ladytron is an electronic psychedelic overture sang by a baritone Ferry complete with sax riffs, distorted guitars and rhythmic synths. 2 H.B is a kind of decadent serenade and one of the trademarks of Ferry’s vocal deliveries.

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If There Is Something  is a combination of a jazz-rock jam and chamber music, whilst the catchy hit single Virginia Plain (not originally included in the album) is one of the greatest masterpieces of all rock. Here, Eno’s pulsating but methodical synths that embellish the fractured sound of clarinet, guitars and honky tonk piano, steal the show.

The Bob (Medley) is more avante-garde and abstract, whilst Chance Meeting is basically a free-jazz psychodrama-based chamber music. No less chameleon, is the rock and roll of Would You Believe that encompasses pounding piano boogie, wild sax and guitar solos.

Sea Breezes is a bleak and melancholic merging of neoclassical elements and distorted keyboards, sax and guitar. In the finale, Bitters End, Ferry sings in the languid crooning style that was later to become his trademark against a backdrop of flamenco rhythms and doo-wop.

Merging King Crimson-style pathos, jazz-rock and electronic elements, Roxy Music revolutionized prog rock by linking it to both the punk rock and new wave movements of the late 1970s and the post-punk and synthpop of the 1980s. Roxy Music are one of Britain’s greatest and most influential bands, and their self-titled debut is, in my view, their best album.

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