Essentials: Roxy Music ‘The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982’

With the release of Roxy Music‘s eight-album The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982, musos the world have the opportunity to acquire a desperately-needed (yes, you read that right) career collection of the band’s recorded works. Roxy Music was not only one of the most influential musical formations ever assembled, their influence continues to this day, as does the ongoing output of its storied lead singer, Bryan Ferry. Desperately-needed? You might scoff, but this music endures. Particularly in album format.

Along with Steely Dan and Talking Heads, Roxy Music combined intelligent lyrics with quirky sounds and polished performances that, frankly, set the standards for what was perhaps the pinnacle of adult-oriented rock. And by that expression, I don’t mean the AOR that found its way onto most radio stations. Roxy Music may have made it onto the FM airwaves from time to time, but for the most part their brilliance kept them out of the mainstream (for when has the mainstream ever been known to appreciate genius?) Musicians, though, heralded the innovations that Roxy Music brought to the forefront, and while the early membership in the band of Brian Eno was central to those innovations, his departure in fact strengthened the band (Eno selected his replacement, Eddie Jobson, the keys/violin guy from Curved Air). Notable and not nearly celebrated frequently enough was the truly memorable guitar work of Phil Manzanera. Combine this with the distinctive sax and oboe work of Andy Mackay, the strong bass work of Graham Simpson, the solid percussion of Paul Thompson, and front the combo with whom? – the astonishingly good-looking Bryan Ferry, who possesses one of the best voices in all of music, capable of rock, baroque pop, glamour, and currently, some terrific work on pop standards.

Their debut self-titled album from 1972 is widely considered to be the best first album ever, by any group. Their final album Avalon, contrary to prevalent critical opinion, represents the apotheosis of their career. Flesh and Blood, from 1979, remains as listenable and indispensable now as when it was released. And Stranded, from 1973, is an album that might have been released last week, and had it been, would be ablaze on the charts. Then there are the countless singles from these albums, which sound as fresh and as compelling as when recorded: “Do The Strand”, “Virginia Plain”, “Love Is The Drug”, and “More Than This”, along with “Jealous Guy” are not only showcases for Ferry’s marvellous vocals, they are works of musical integrity. Such flair and panache for sophisticated and listenable singles make Roxy Music much more than the sum of their current reputation, which deserves reappraisal. While Rolling Stone places them number 98 among the top 100 groups of all time, we here at Vivascene would place them easily in the Top 20, and most days (and particularly most nights) much higher.

This collection of Roxy Music contains many instances of genius, making this particular box set a MustHave collection. The previous 4CD set from 1995, entitled The Thrill Of It All was a starter set by comparison, one for the curious. Yes, eight albums by any one group is quite the $280 investment these days when you can stream for practically nothing, but this collection, in the words of Bryan Ferry, is “Oh Yeah”.