Thursday, February 1, 2018

Review: Super Deluxe Edition of 'Roxy Music'

More intricate than glam, sexier than prog, Roxy Music wasn’t just a new band in 1972—it was a new genre. Yet Roxy Music wasn’t unprecedented, and they had a tendency to wear their influences on their sequined sleeves. In fact, their debut album begins with rhythmic quotes from The Velvet Underground and Chuck Berry, melodic ones from The Beatles and Wagner, and sonic quotes from Charlie Parker, King Crimson, and Joe Meek. The magic lies in the way Roxy Music took such disparate influences, jumbled them up, and regurgitated them as something entirely their own. Elements such as Brian Eno’s visionary use of synthesizer vistas —very different from Wonder and Townshend’s more rhythmic use of the new instrument—and Bryan Ferry’s vibrato croon and James Bond-from-Neptune image—very different from Ziggy Stardust’s brand of glamour—were entirely new to pop. And no other Rock band made the oboe an integral part of the line up.
Roxy Music is as audacious a debut as one might expect from a band like this. Each song is totally unique from the one that follows, as the thunderous “Re-Make, Re-Model”, gives way to the confident stride/sci-fi rocket ride of “Ladytron”, which crashes to Earth with the country-ish clip-clop of “If There Is Something”, which then morphs into the Move-like prog of “Chance Meeting”. Roxy Music couldn’t even stick to one style in a single song. It was as if they were afraid they’d never get to make another album and were intent on informing the listener of every place from which they were coming on the first one. Amazingly, this was only the beginning.

Such a rich beginning makes a super-deluxe edition of Roxy Music rich with possibilities. Universal’s new four-disc set covers the music’s various guises quite well, with the requisite reintroduction to the original album (in its 1999 remaster—not new but not begging for another rebuff either) occupying disc one and in studio and live BBC sessions on disc three (each of the album’s tracks is represented save “Bitters End”). Discs two and four are the most exciting. Disc two collects demos and outtakes that include a dramatic, cinematic blueprint for “Ladytron” that presage’s Eno’s collaborations with Bowie several years later, an epic early image of “2 HB”, a short but exciting instrumental outtake, and chattering documents of the makings of tracks such as “Re-Make, Re-Model”, “Bitters End”, and “Virginia Plain”. Even better is disc four, a DVD document of TV and stage performances that deliver both killer live music and Roxy Music’s essential visual element. So does a glam-bam, LP-sized package with big hardcover book featuring an excellent essay by Richard Williams and loads of images of the band in the studio, onstage, and posing... as well as outtakes of the saucy, iconic album cover.
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