Rather than focus upon one album, for a change, I thought that I’d take a discography and run with that. Partly it’s because I got my hands (although too temporarily, I must add) on the compete vinyl and CD sets. If you take a peek within the box sets, you will see that it contains all eight Roxy Music studio albums: Roxy Music, For Your Pleasure, Stranded, Country Life, Siren, Manifesto, Flesh And Blood and Avalon plus, in the CD version of the same, two extra discs which feature non-album singles B-sides and remixes, many of which appear in CD for the first time. That includes the USA 7” mix of Love Is the Drug, a live cut of For Your Pleasure, a Canadian Extended mix of Dance Away and the 1981 B-side, To Turn You On.
Speaking at the time of the release of Roxy Music’s final album, Avalon, lead singer, Bryan Ferry reflected on the album and the band itself, “I hate to plan things. Everything that has happened, so far, in my career is fairly intuitive. One thing has lead to the next thing. I never know what the next record is going to sound like until I’m in the studio and it just starts to happen. You do sketches for songs and build some idea of what you are going to do.”
One of the most noticeable aspects of Roxy Music’s career was the image. The style of dress, for example, made a visual statement that, during the band’s early 70s glam period, struck a chord with many. Their influence from the late 60s art rock movement gave Roxy Music a unique take of the ‘look’ of pop music. That image extended to the band’s sleeve art, which often featured scantily clad ladies plus other, strong illustrative, imagery such as the Arthurian Avalon. Ferry was responsible for the band’s sleeve art but exclaimed that he didn’t paint or draw on a regular basis, “That would dilute the artistic urge, if you like. Whenever we make an album, I play at being art director for a week but I’ve always been interested in how things look.”
One example of this awareness was the, at the time, contentious sleeve art for the 1974 album, Country Life. Stylist for Roxy music, Anthony Price, remembered, “On holiday in Portugal we met these huge German girls on the beach, Constanza and Evaline, who had enormous shoulders, like a drag act. Bryan said, Let’s use them. We put them against a hedge and it was shot at night with a flash as if they’d been caught by car headlights at a country house. It could have been a picture of mad hooray girls at a party in their underwear. The typeface was made to look like a Country Life cover, which Bryan subscribed and aspired to — a clue to his bizarre character.”
One of the notable trends that you pick up as you listen through this set is the change in musical approach. There’s a definite curve that Ferry himself spotted, “During the seventies and later into the punk music era, music was very violent but then we live in violent times. I’m drawn less to that kind of thing, at the moment. When I started, I did a lot of fairly savage things, aggressive music. Now, I am going through a period of reflection. Back to nature.”
I was not able to road-test the vinyl edition, I’m afraid, although, as I hear the Miles Showell produced them as half-speed masters, the final sound quality potential bodes well. As far as the CDs were concerned? I listened with some trepidation because the albums have undergone a new remaster. On the whole, Virgin has done an excellent job. The soundstage for each album is magnificent. Broad, epic with cinematic quality, the instrumental separation is carefully arranged to allow every member of the group time and space which gives each track a clear, concise presentation.
There has been a touch of compression, though, so it’s not all good news but what there is has not been overdone. In fact, it has been used to lift the bass and hone the upper mids. Clinical sounding systems might not appreciate the playback but most audiophiles will find that it’s not too obtrusive.
It’s great to have all of these albums in one, neatly accessible pack. While fans could argue for more true rarities instead of the alternative mixes, this is a welcome box on an iconic group.