If there was ever a more futuristic rock band who broadened the scope of music during the 1970s than that of Roxy Music, then you’re going to have to single them out, because where I’m standing, Roxy Music are arguably the most underappreciated innovators of their era. Their quirky, sometimes wildly adventurous, glam rock sound, really set themselves apart from other pioneers like David Bowie and T. Rex. While David Bowie was the premier artsy extraterrestrial of our time, and Marc Bolan of T. Rex. was a glam rock god, Roxy Music was pretty much on a whole other musical apex. Their imaginative blend of pop art visuals, the avant-garde, Rocky Horror Picture Show-esque camp before there was a Rocky Horror Picture Show, and an eclecticism of modern rock and pop influences brought a cutting edge yet indelibly catchy flavor that would soon transmute into the subsequent sounds of punk, post-punk, new wave, new romantic, electronic, and avant-rock.
Inspired by their formative years in art school, singer extraordinaire Bryan Ferry, electronic wizard Brian Eno and classically-trained saxophonist and oboist Andy Mackay decided to form Roxy Music. The formation was a means of polymerizing their perfervid adoration for experimental music, British pop art, and gaudy fashion. Additionally, they recruited guitarist Phil Manzanera and percussionist Paul Thompson to bring together their hard rock edge. After eight albums that spanned a heterogeneous array of unique sounds and textures over a mere ten year career, it’s pretty much safe to say that Roxy Music belongs in the pantheon of bands who broke new ground. Roxy Music drew up the blueprint for art rock freneticism interspersed with lustrous pop hooks and garish self-referentiality.
# 8 – Flesh and Blood
Opening up our list of Roxy Music albums ranked is 1980’s Flesh and Blood. It’s not as if this is a bad album or anything, but it’s just kind of underwhelming due to how “formulaic” it sounds compared to their previous art rock music. This “softer” approach to rock and pop music wouldn’t be fully realized until their last studio album. Nonetheless, there are still some good tracks on here like the cool synth pop of “Same Old Scene,” the gloomy and lovelorn “My Only Love,” and the late-night vibes of “No Strange Delight.”
# 7 – Manifesto
1979’s Manifesto is where Roxy Music kind of reached their peak and were kind of running out of invented ideas. They took the sounds of disco and integrated them into their artsy persona, which was kind of hit-or-miss. Yet, that doesn’t stop the album from delivering some great standout songs. “Dance Away” is definitely the best one on the whole album. It just makes you want to get on the dancefloor…while simultaneously getting over a heartbreak. “Stronger Through the Years” is also a good song that doesn’t completely abandon Roxy Music’s weirder side.
# 6 – Roxy Music
Speaking of “weird,” here’s their incredible 1972 debut; the first of two albums to feature the enigmatic and legendary musician and producer, Brian Eno. This was when Roxy Music was at their most forward-thinking; they concocted this strange blend of glam, postmodernism, and avant-garde rock/pop music that really made them stand out in the 1970’s.
This one is still a classic with so many great tracks like the opening track “Re-Make Re-Model.” This deconstructive rock song has a nice section towards the end where the band members take turns soloing their own renditions of everything from Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” The Beatles’ “Day Tripper,” and Duane Eddy’s version of “Peter Gunn.” However, there’s the utterly bizarre and quirky Ladytron with some amazing tape effects and VCS3 synthesizer noise courtesy of Brian Eno. If There is Something, The Bob (Medley), and Sea Breeze are also very strong track.
# 5 – Stranded
Their third studio album, Stranded, was the turning point for the band, because Brian Eno had left the group due to creative differences with Bryan Ferry. The band replaced Brian Eno with Eddie Jobson who was a young multi-instrumentalist from the progressive rock band Curved Air. The result was a band a little less quirky and over-the-top with their experimental madness, but with just enough of those qualities to make them a classic British art-rock ensemble.
Stranded is a fantastic record filled with stunning tracks from start to finish. From the rockin’ opener “Street Life,” the glam-oriented “Just Like You,” the extraterrestrial art funk of “Amazona,” the weird and soulful epic “Psalm,” all the way to the lovely piano ballad “Sunset” which closes the album, this is a very underrated album in their discography.
# 4 – Country Life
1974’s Country Life is one of the band’s best and most polished sounding albums as far as arrangements, hooks, and melodies. The album is also defined by one of the most daring and risqué album covers, showcasing two topless women, Constanze Karoli (sister of Michael Karoli, one of the founding members of the legendary German band Can) and Eveline Grunwald (who was also Michael Karoli’s girlfriend).
If there’s one thing that needs to be said about Country Life, it’s that the opener “The Thrill of it All” stands as one of the strongest songs they ever recorded that set the tone for the entire album. “Out of the Blue” is also a standout because it moves like a wildly experimental rock number that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Amon Duul II album. Other album highlights include the theatrical prog pop fare of “Bitter-Sweet,” the infectiously unsettling art rock of “Casanova,” and the punchy new wave-esque “All I Want Is You.”
This album proved that Roxy Music could still push boundaries without the need of sounding too freakishly unorthodox.
# 3 – Siren
As most Roxy Music fans would agree, 1975’s Siren is a flat-out masterpiece that has certain moments on the record that still sound fresh to this day. For starters, their hit single “Love Is The Drug” sounds like a song that LCD Soundsystem would have recorded. The track “Nightingale” also sounds pretty proto-indie rock. The album cover that showcased Bryan Ferry’s then-girlfriend Jerry Hall dressed as a “siren” beside the ocean would become a most memorable image. Roxy Music’s album covers made major statements about the artistry of the band and the juxtaposition of sensuality and art.
Other amazing tracks on the album included “Sentimental Fool,” “Whirlwind,” “She Sells,” and “Both Ends Burning.”
# 2- Avalon
In 1982, Roxy Music experienced a career trajectory that would catapult them into the stratosphere of mainstream success. The band’s final studio album entitled Avalon marked another transitional period for the band, where they rejected their artsy and groove-soaked sensibilities and became a full-blown R&B pop group. Quite honestly, they made it work perfectly.
Singer Bryan Ferry set out to make an album in the form of a romance novel based upon the King Arthur legend involving the enchanted island of Avalon. The result was just t a collection of ten songs drenched in sultry concupiscence and crystalline production. The songs on the album echoed the soulfulness and sexuality of artists like Marvin Gaye, Al Green, and Prince in the hit singles “More Than This,” “Avalon,” and “While My Heart Is Still Beating.”
# 1 – For Your Pleasure
We close out our Roxy Music albums ranked list with, 1973’s For Your Pleasure. This was their final album with Brian Eno. It was an insanely fantastic art-rock opus. With Eno, they were experimenting like mad and creating alien like sounds and textures in a rock and roll format. Just listen to the maniacal and fiery anthem “Editions Of You” where Brian Eno laces the already-bonkers tune with ear-piercing avant-garde noise with his VCS3 synth. Take a listen to the album closer, “For Your Pleasure,” in which Eno distorts the last minute of the song with abnormal tape loop effects and even a Judi Dench voiceover sample.
Of course, we can’t forget the magnificent opener entitled“Do the Strand.” The song was an energetic pop art conglomeration that urged you to dance. Then there is the darkly comedic “In Every Dream Home A Heartache” which is about a strange obsession with a blow-up doll. Additionally, fans loved the creepy art rock jam “Bogus Man” that’s apparently about a serial killer who stalks his victims. My personal favorite song on the album is entitled “Grey Lagoons,” which showcases a groove with an abnormally placed harmonica solo.
We could write about this album all day. It’s a perfect collection of music that still sounds as fresh and new today as it did almost fifty years ago.
Roxy Music Albums Ranked article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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