This article belongs to the story In 1972 Roxy Music gave off their first impression.
It’s quite remarkable just how many reviews were written in the Dutch press (I have found no less than four) for an album by the then unknown Roxy Music. The American press fell behind, as not one single review was published in the US at the time of its initial release. Robert Christgau later righted the wrong.
Below the full American and English reviews. The reviews I have gathered are in (my native tongue) Dutch have been omitted from this article. Would you want to read the Dutch reviews anyway, please click here, or click on the Dutch flag beside/below this article.
Melody Maker, June 24, 1972
ROXY MUSIC: THEY’VE ONLY JUST BEGUN
Kari-Ann stares, with lustful expectancy, teeth bared and surrounded by frosted deep pink lips. She reclines on a counterpane of silvery satin in a halternecked pink and white swimsuit, built strictly for the boudoir. There’s a pink rose failing from one hand, its colour exactly matching her toenails, which peep out from silver platform-heeled sandals. A gold LP nestles beside her.
And all that is just the cover of an extraordinary album, from an extraordinary group. Roxy Music it a concept which not everyone will latch onto at first, but which is as rich in performance as in promise, carefully calculated yet simply oodles of fun. The music on their first album consciously displays echoes of pretty well every style of pop and rock, but it’s not a hotch-potch and they’re not just a British version of Sha Na Na. Despite their general Fifties orientation, the result is thoroughly contemporary, and they use their awareness of earlier modes to inform and reinforce their own unique ideas.
‘Re-make/Re-model’ (the first cut) is a good place to meet them: over a steady, thudding beat Bryan Ferry declaims his lyric with the throwaway insolence of a Lou Reed. Eno’s synthesiser bubbles and squeaks around him, Phil Manzanera’s guitar winds up through the gears to peak revs, and Andy Mackay’s alto gibbers and judders. The short instrumental breaks contain echoes of Duane Eddy, The Beatles, Cecil Taylor, King Curtis and Robert Moog – tossed out as humorous asides.
Roxy’s members – and in particular Ferry, who writes all the songs – are accurately aware of style as beauty unto itself, and Ferry’s compositions have an almost visual appeal which is beyond everyone else in rock these days. ‘2 H.B.’, for instance, is a homage to Humphrey Bogart (including the famous ‘Here’s lookin’ at ya, kid’ line), yet uses thoroughly contemporary means – like alto with echo-repeat, and electric piano loops reminiscent of Terry Riley – to build the mood of a smokey Moroccan night-club. ‘Sea Breezes’, too, is startlingly visual – and not just through Eno’s VCS3 wave noises. Ferry’s wistful melody, embroidered by Mackay on oboe, conjures all kinds of half-forgotten movie fantasies, and the mood is only slightly spoiled by the clever instrumental section mid-way.
‘The Bob (Medley)’ is a portrait of the Blitz, with fearsome synthesiser noises, while ‘Chance Meeting’ has a fascinating fade, the fuzz guitar screaming over lightly-skipping bass. ‘Would You Believe? develops into a Belmonts doowop groove, with more raunchy plastic-reed sax and some great singing – Ferry seems to have half a dozen different voices, none of which sound remotely like anyone else.
Best of all, absolutely, is ‘Ladytron’: it begins as a little love song, with flickering castanets, but soon shifts into a ‘Johnny Remember Me’ groove, all echoing hoofbeats and Manzanera’s guitar flying over the top like the horsemen of the Apocalypse finally crashing out huge mushrooming chords as Eno provides a running commentary.
Okay, there’s a debit side too. Pete Sinfield’s production is generally good, but the overall sound tends sometimes towards mushiness (‘Re-make’ has nothing like the energy of the take they did for Top Gear), and the inclusion of Mellotron strings on If There Is Something, was an obvious mistake – (a) it diminishes the song’s impact and (b) it invites totally unnecessary and misleading comparisons with King Crimson, whom they resemble not one whit.
But take it from me: Roxy Music can bring pictures to your head like no-one else and they’ve only just begun. Hold it right there Kari-Ann – I’m just finishing this Martini, and then…
Richard Williams, Melody Maker, June 24, 1972
New Musical Express, June 24, 1972
In my opinion, Roxy Music – the newest band in the E’G stable and by far the best – are a potentially enormous musical influence. They’ve still to develop but their ideas are already well-formed and come together very nicely, thank you, on this excellent first album.
What are they? Groping for comparisons, I used to say “a cross between Hawkwind and The Wild Angels”, but that’s not really true. On about the eighth listening there’s some of The Velvets in there as well as other stuff that’s all theirs.
The album, beautifully recorded, was produced by Peter Sinfield – which explains why a touch of The Crimsoids can also be felt.
But it’s really Roxy, and they’re new, very electronic, very camp and very, very good. Best track by far is the superb ‘Re-make/Re-model’ which uncannily reminds you of all the rock songs you ever heard until you listen for Eno’s synthesizer. Their electronic feel and their absolute grasp of eeriness as a musical quality removed from spookiness is shown on Ladytron, a clean little piece with a rolling sequence and a witty oboe solo from Andy Mackay.
‘If There Is Something’ is less successful and I wish it weren’t there because there’s too much Crimson-quoting.
The remaining two best, tracks are ‘The Bob (Medley)’ and ‘Sea Breezes’. ‘Bob’, a pastoral commentary on Second World War follies, is a major epic in its own right and can be further exploited at a later date. ‘Breezes’, the slowest and most beautiful track, contains lustrous electric piano from Bryan Ferry and superb lyrics, sung with a metre and a feel that I thought was gone forever since Dylan chose the path of least resistance.
Altogether, this is the finest album I’ve heard this year and the best ‘first’ I can EVER remember.
Tony Tyler, New Musical Express, June 24, 1972
Robert Christgau, 1972
Viva! Roxy Music
From the drag queen on the cover to the fop finery in the centerfold to the polished deformity of the music on the record, this celebrates the kind of artifice that could come to seem as unhealthy as the sheen on a piece of rotten meat. Right now, though, it’s decorated with enough weird hooks to earn an A for side one. Side two leans a little too heavily on the synthesizer (played by a balding, long-haired eunuch lookalike named Eno) without the saving grace of drums and bassline.
Robert Christgau, 1972
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