This article belongs to the story Roxy Music and the superb Viva!.
Viva! Roxy Music received some rave reviews, which live albums rarely got. However, the success the band had earned in the US with predecessor Siren, could not be continued.
Below the full American and English reviews. Some of the reviews I have gathered are in (my native tongue) Dutch. Since I know that many of the readers on the English version of my blog don’t understand Dutch, I omitted those reviews 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.
Rolling Stone, June 1, 1976
Viva! Roxy Music
Roxy Music is the most exciting art-rock band because it’s most like a classic rock & roll group. But because lead singer Bryan Ferry’s quintessentially desiccated voice is so fascinating, the music tends to get lost. By removing the focus from Ferry, Viva!, one of the best live albums in a year cluttered with same, makes clear just how talented Roxy’s players are. Drummer Paul Thompson, as single-mindedly rocking as anyone this side of Charlie Watts, shapes the sound. Whatever complexities the others develop, Thompson brings them back to the ground with a solid thump. Phil Manzanera can play guitar with any of the big guns of the post-Hendrix school, Eddie Jobson has a more melodic touch on synthesizer than most and sax-man Andy MacKay is rarely less than terrific. In fact, the most lamentable omission from the live set is their individual numbers, which establish the group’s solid musical base even more clearly.
There is an ominous quality to Roxy’s music, which Ferry’s mannerisms enhance. But the tension really develops more between Thompson and the group’s revolving bassists (notably John Wetton and Rick Wills) than between Ferry and his sophisticated, miserable view of the world. The best numbers here – “Out of the Blue,” “If There Is Something,” “Both Ends Burning,” “Do the Strand” – make all of this clearer than ever. A simple dance number like “Strand” is beyond the rest of the art-rock brigade – even Steely Dan – not because those bands lack the chops but because they haven’t got the desire. Thanks to Thompson and the other musicians, Roxy does. This recording has its problems – Roxy should never, never use those women to sing with Ferry again, and Thompson’s drums are occasionally mixed so that he seems to be pounding cardboard. But the music has the fire of Roxy’s best shows, and that’s as good as any English rock I’ve heard in the last couple years.
Dave Marsh, Rolling Stone, June 1, 1976
Robert Christgau, 1976
Viva! Roxy Music
This isn’t bad, not for a live album issued in lieu of current studio product. Concentrating on relatively obscure material from the first two LPs, which always sounded a bit thin, it adds humor and some untrammeled Phil Manzanera to “In Every Dream Home a Heartache.” But I prefer the studio “Bogus Man” and “Chance Meeting,” thin and all. And that is bad.
Robert Christgau, 1976
Melody Maker, July 3, 1976
Viva! Roxy Music
The Live Roxy Music Album, as “Viva!” is subtitled, presents us with a collection of eight compositions selected to represent the bizarre diversity of the Roxy repertoire, recorded at concerts in Glasgow (November, 1973), Newcastle (November, 1974) and London (October, 1975).
It’s a genuinely exciting, often thrilling record, which captures precisely the flash and bravado of an impressive and intelligent band. And, as it is possibly the last album Roxy are likely to release for a year (one hears that they are currently engrossed in solo projects), its appearance is most welcome.
To the record. Side one consists of brash, authoritative readings of “Out Of The Blue,” “Pyjamarama,” “The Bogus Man” and, a brief “Chance Meeting” (a beautiful and elegant version with an intriguing oboe/violin duet between Andy MacKay and Eddie Jobson), which segues brilliantly into a ferocious “Both Ends Burning” (marred only by the unpleasant wailing of the Sirens, those two dopey chicks who decorated the stage on Roxy’s last British tour). So far, so very good. But it’s on side two that the action really gets under way, with an extended version of the classic “If There Is Something,” which used to provide the scenario for some spectacular duets between Mackay and Manzanera at one point in the band’s history, I seem to remember. The version included here is more stately, with Manzanera’s swirling, mysterious solo and Mackay’s ethereal oboe work preceding a sudden, dramatic explosion as the band shatter the calm and blast back into the main theme with relentless vigour.
“In Every Dreamhome A Heartache,” one of Ferry’s finest achievements, follows: a sinister, neurotic performance, suggestive of ominous drama, which reaches a staggering climax with overtones of “A Song For Europe.” The album closes, inevitably, with “Do The Strand,” a reckless and fierce interpretation graced by another brilliant solo by Manzanera (whose work throughout has a rare intelligence and discretion).
I’m told that “Viva! Roxy Music” was originally intended to have been a double album which, presumably, would have included versions of discarded epics like “Mother Of Pearl”, “The Thrill Of It All”, “A Song For Europe” and “Virginia Plain”, and I can only regret their absence.
Still, the next time is the best time, as we all know. And I’m sure we shall not have to wait indefinitely for their release.
Allan Jones, Melody Maker, 3 juli 1976
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