Roxy Music: Flesh + Blood

Roxy Music is a very quirky band.  One of the more impressive and success art-rock bands, a melting-pot 1970s band that were known for style, they incorporated a variety of musical styles.

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The band in the mid 1970s.

Achieving an avant-garde success in the early 1970s, they were a glam band straight out of Ziggy Stardust.  Their album covers were nearly as famous as their music, with scantily dressed women in various provocative poses. Roxy Music was one of the most non-politically correct bands of the decade.  After five albums, they broke up in 1975 after releasing Siren, a highly successful album with the hit “Love is the Drug.”

Four years later, they regrouped for Manifesto, which seemed to continue the style of Siren, but less successfully, even with the song, “Dance Away.”   In 1980, they returned with Flesh + Blood, my favorite Roxy album.

Rolling Stone had this to say about this album: Flesh + Blood is such a shockingly bad Roxy Music record that it provokes a certain fascination…In more ways than one, Flesh + Blood is Ferry’s cry for help. Again and again, he admits to being passionately in love with a woman who can’t stand him (“My Only Love,” “Flesh and Blood”).

Allmusic.com liked the album just a little better: Flesh + Blood is simply a lesser solo effort from Bryan Ferry. And even the handful of undeniably strong moments can’t erase the feeling that Roxy Music were beginning to run out of ideas.

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Manzanera, Ferry and Mackay

Ouch.  Okay, the reviews generally were not kind.  Granted, this album does not the Clash’s London Calling.  It does lack energy and originality.  Lead singer Bryan Ferry, who began to fancy himself a nightclub singer at Rick’s (the casino in Casablanca), so as the main songwriter and keyboard player, he bares a lot of responsibility for the material and arrangements.  I prefer to think this album contains a lot of nuances, richer textured material that unfolds slowly.  At this point in Roxy’s career, if you are looking for fireworks and bombast, you’d be looking at the new wave of artists from England.  Ferry has been about style, so there is a lot of sophistication in the arrangements, which do feel silky and smooth.  Ferry would give style and cool lessons later on to Robert Palmer (joking).

The band, which in the early days had as many as six member, was now Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay.  Brian Eno, a member in the early years, went on to a solo career, but found mega-success with U2, Talking Head, David Bowie, Coldplay and Talking Heads.  I guess he did okay.

Side one

“In the Midnight Hour” (Wilson Pickett, Steve Cropper) 3:09  Not the worst version I’ve ever heard.  It has a light, breezy feel to it.

“Oh Yeah” 4:51 (Ferry)  Ferry said his intent was a wistful, nostalgic song.  A single from the album, it’s a well-arranged song.  Critics have said songs like this on the album are soft and silk, they are.

“Same Old Scene” 3:57 (Ferry)  The best song on the album, a heavier, more serious song.  British new wave groups would utilize this atmospheric style.  Musically, a very strong song.  A single, but did not chart in America.

“Flesh and Blood” 3:08 (Ferry) A grittier arrangement, distorted guitar.  Fine bass work.

“My Only Love” 5:16 (Ferry)  A downbeat song with dissonant strings, with another great bass line.  These sad sounding songs with juking bass work, and Ferry’s melancholy vocals are Roxy meat and potatoes.

Side two

No.      Title            Length

“Over You” (Ferry, Phil Manzanera) 3:27  An upbeat and breezy song.  A big hit in the U.K.  Mixed so this song segues into the next.

“Eight Miles High” (Gene Clark, David Crosby, Roger McGuinn) 4:55  A decent cover the Byrds’ hit.  This song has a bit more Manzanera guitar than on the rest of the album.  The band opens up a bit more than on other songs.

“Rain Rain Rain” 3:20 (Ferry)  Back to the downbeat, atmospheric songs, that generate a steady groove.

“No Strange Delight” (Ferry, Manzanera) 4:44  A steady, pounding beat and wonderful bass.  This song has more to offer than you think. Subtle instrumentation, but powerful.

“Running Wild” (Ferry, Manzanera)   5:03  A slow, meandering song with textures.  My only complaint is it sounds took much like other songs on the album.  It has nothing very definitive about it.

The reviews were not very kind. Bored, running out of ideas, uninspired, sleepy, were the terms I heard.  Punk and new wave would up the ante for bands.  Two years later, Avalon would redeem the band with bigger sales and more airplay.

 


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