Sunday, November 27, 2011

Roxy Music - The High Road (1983) Mini LP

(U.K 1971–1976, 1978–1983, 2001–present)
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Roxy Music are a British art rock band formed in 1971 by Bryan Ferry, who became the group's lead vocalist and chief songwriter, and bassist Graham Simpson. The other members are Phil Manzanera (guitar), Andy Mackay (saxophone and oboe) and Paul Thompson (drums and percussion). Former members include Brian Eno (synthesizer and "treatments"), and Eddie Jobson (synthesizer and violin). Although the band took a break from group activities in 1983, they reunited for a concert tour in 2001, and have toured together intermittently since [extract from wikipedia]
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When Roxy Music first appeared on ‘Top of The Pops’ in 1972, performing their debut single, ‘Virginia Plain’, their impact was instantaneous. For here was a group which appeared to have taken the history of modern popular music, from Elvis to progressive rock by way of soul and the avant-garde, and fused the different inspirations into a seamless, glittering pure pop moment.
So assured was the Roxy Music sound, that the group seemed to have been born fully formed, with no false starts or creative timidity. Rather, their first television appearance was a flawless display of musical virtuosity, lyrical brilliance and breathtaking style. Above all, Roxy Music seemed to have combined the energy of complex rock music with the sheer emotional rush of a three minute pop single. More or less overnight, their audience was secured – from screaming teenage fans to serious students of modern music.
It was typical of Roxy Music’s originality, grand gesture and rejection of pop conventions, that they should have released their first album – ‘Roxy Music’ – before their first single rather than after. The first ‘Roxy Music’ album has now been acclaimed by successive generations of critics as one of the most important records in the history of pop and rock – an album whose influence would be compared to that of ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico’ and ‘Pet Sounds’ by the Beach Boys. As founded by Bryan Ferry, the group would be comprised of some of the strongest and most original musicians working in modern music – all of whom have gone on to pursue highly distinguished solo careers, in addition to their work with Roxy Music.
In many ways, Ferry’s creation of Roxy Music is one of the great statements of Pop art – with all the musicians combining to make an extraordinary, intoxicating montage of musical styles. As the group’s singer, lyricist and principal composer, Bryan Ferry defined the Roxy Music style in a way which was at once iconic and artistically profound.
The revolutionary electronic treatments developed by Brian Eno for the first two Roxy Music albums, would join with Andy Mackay’s mesmeric sax and woodwind playing to provide the haunting, futuristic, filmic ambience of the Roxy Music sound. Added to this was the dazzling virtuosity of Phil Manzanera’s guitar playing and the sheer dexterity and power of Paul Thompson’s drumming. The combined effect was a musical energy and eclecticism which more or less described the potential futures of popular music.
Success for Bryan Ferry (as a solo artist) and Roxy Music had been immediate and triumphant. For the rest of their careers the group were always at the top of the charts, with both their albums and their singles. Roxy Music concerts became legendary as rally-like gatherings of their vast, devoted fan base – many of whom, obsessed by the high romantic glamour conjured up by the group, would treat these occasions as full dress affairs – arriving in elegant costumes of their own, inspired by the Golden Age of Hollywood as much as Weimar decadence.
This would also be a time of change for the group. As Brian Eno had left after the recording of ‘For Your Pleasure’ to commence his own career as a supremely successful pioneer of electronic music, electronic arts and producer, Eddie Jobson became the new group member on keyboards and violin – an instrument well suited to Roxy Music’s unique brand of artistic time travel between musical styles. As ‘Roxy Music’ and ‘For Your Pleasure’ had explored filmic soundscapes as much as futuristic rock and roll, so the third Roxy Music album – the phenomenally successful ‘Stranded’ – would consolidate the group’s musical style. At once deeply urban and richly romantic, there was a bewitching, elegaic romance to even Roxy Music’s most energised and soaring tracks. ‘Street Life’ had all the pulse and pose of Roxy Music’s avant-cocktail classic sound – a track which brought to mind the adrenalin rush of the city.
‘Stranded’s successor, the richly textured, erotically charged ‘Country Life’ would also deliver two of Roxy Music’s most intoxicating tracks, ‘All I Want Is You’ and ‘The Thrill of It All’. These were compositions which became immediate classics in Roxy Music’s legendary live performances – whirlwinds of sound, through which the high romance of Ferry’s lyrics and vocal style could dip and soar with operatic effect.
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The group’s following was always fanatical in the big northern industrial cities of Britain, such as Glasgow and Newcastle, where some of the tracks for ‘Viva’ – the first ‘live’ Roxy Music album – were recorded in 1974. ‘Out Of The Blue’, from ‘Viva’, captures the heady excitement of these shows, with Andy Mackay’s swirling woodwind seeming to add a layer of enchantment to the surging drama of the performance. Here too, the impressive physicality of Paul Thompson’s drumming can be heard to spectacular effect.
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The release of Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry solo albums has always been regarded as a major event in terms of the artwork and packaging of the records, as much as for the music. Bryan Ferry’s vision as a musician has always encompassed the notion that a record brings to life an entire world – the spirit and excitement of which is also communicated through the visual elements of the record. In the case of ‘Country Life’, with its two barely clad cover stars, photographed in harsh, paparazzi style close-up, the record’s packaging became as immediately iconic as it was controversial – earning a ban in America, but also the status of a classic rock sleeve.
In October 1975, one of Roxy ‘s best loved tracks ‘Love Is The Drug’ – the opening track on ‘Siren’ – became an immediate hit. With its suave yet mechanistic sound, the track was instantly seized upon as a pronouncement of high cool. Describing romantic and sexual obsession, the song was a further exploration of the urban underworld – a place of dark bars and addictive predatory romance. ‘Siren’ was a bravura statement of Roxy Music’s endlessly intensifying musical and stylistic ethos. At once swirling and vertiginous, filled with a nervous, exhilarating rush, it was a record which seemed to sum up an epoch. As the American novelist F.Scott Fitzgerald had described the ‘wild spree’ of the 1920s, prior to a sudden crack-up, so ‘Siren’ seemed to catch and define the mood of hedonism in the zeitgeist, as the moment tilted towards darker moods and a colder sensibility.
The late 1970s would also see a fundamental maturing of Roxy Music’s sound, moving the group nearer to the high gloss, musical perfectionism of their later recordings such as ‘Flesh & Blood’ and ‘Avalon’. In this creative process, ‘Manifesto’, released in 1979, would be pivotal, with ‘Ain’t That So’ and ‘Dance Away’ marking the shift towards a slick, dark style which was at once luxuriant and melancholy. ‘Dance Away’ would be a huge hit for Roxy Music, and would seem like the soundtrack to the flamboyant New York disco decadence which had flourished around such art stars as Andy Warhol and Truman Capote at Studio 54.
As a lyricist, Ferry combines the language and proportions of classic pop songs with a modern, angular imagery which exactly mirrors his flawless style as a vocalist. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, he would hone and perfect the pared down, high gloss refinement of his recordings – producing some of his greatest work in the three solo albums, ‘Boys and Girls’ (1985), ‘Bete Noire’ (1987) and ‘Mamouna’ (1994). With their high gloss surfaces and dark folds of sound, these albums might almost be seen to comprise a great triptych of recordings – a musical statement about Bryan Ferry’s founding themes as a lyricist and singer, which describe as well as invoke the timeless capacity of romance and glamour to shape destiny.
In many ways, ‘Boys and Girls’ is one of Bryan Ferry’s greatest achievements as a singer and song writer. The album enfolds the listener like a carefully lit film set; and there appears to be a seamless sequencing to the tracks, in which both ‘Slave To Love’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Dance’, take their place as mesmeric, richly romantic classics – steeped in a bewitching filmic ambience. Equally, ‘Boys and Girls’ became a defining soundtrack of the 1980s, its musical sophistication marking the consolidation of Ferry’s achievements to date.
Its successor, ‘Bete Noire’ is an album steeped in an eerie yet sensual atmosphere. Featuring a veritable ‘Who’s Who’ of contemporary musicians, its sophistication lies once again in its refinement of absolute minimal effects – a record which seems so taut with feeling, that the slightest inflection of music or mood appears massively amplified. ‘Limbo’ is a track which sums up ‘Bete Noire’ – a heady cocktail of voodoo rhythms, calling up steamy night club scenes which are caught between eroticism and the supernatural.
Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music have always transcended fashionability, setting trends rather than following them, and often predicting the various shifts in popular culture. ‘Flesh + Blood’ would be an album that more or less invented the sleak, deep sheen of new music in the 1980s. But true to the founding style of Roxy Music, the album would also mingle classic love songs – ‘Same Old Scene’ being a great example – with the airbrush perfection of the arrangements. Thus ‘Flesh + Blood’ ushered in the design conscious opulence of the 1980s, with irresistible, enchanting love songs which could count amongst the group’s finest work.
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Roxy Music would produce their last studio album (to date) in 1983 – the triple platinum ‘Avalon’, which sealed their reputation as musical pioneers and as a global super-group. Seldom had a group seemed more musically and stylistically assured, delivering such classic tracks as ‘More Than This’, and ‘The Main Thing’, as though with effortless ease. And seldom had a group not only maintained the extraordinary promise of their debut recordings, but exceeded their initial burst of brilliance. As their sold out reunion world tour of 2001 went to prove, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music have always been possessed of a restless musical genius, forever refining their astonishing merger of cutting edge modernism and classic pop languor. [extract from Bryan Ferry's website]
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Album Review
The High Road is Roxy Music's second live release with only four over-five minute tracks, two of them cover songs and one a Ferry solo effort originally released on 'The Bride Stripped Bare'.
Roxy Music toured the world in 1982 and into 1983 to promote what was their most successful album, 'Avalon'. The tour took in Europe, Australia, Japan and finished in USA on 28th May 1983. It was to be 18 years later before the band worked together again.
The show in Frejus France was filmed and released as 'The High Road' video in 1983 and the DVD version was released in 2001.
The set list remained fairly consistent throughout the tour but in the early shows in Ireland they played "More Than This" but it was dropped after the Ireland dates. The Space Between & Eight Miles High and a version of The Doors Light My Fire were also rehearsed for the tour but were not used.
The surprise addition to the set was the Neil Young song "Like A Hurricane" which Ferry nor Roxy had recorded before.
A live album 'Heart Still Beating' and a mini album 'The High Road' (featured in this post) were released using live cuts from this tour.
The support band for the European dates was King Crimson with Mari Wilson on some of the UK dates. A Glasgow band, The Young Ones were the support at the Apollo show as King Crimson could not make that show. Berlin were the support in USA.
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This post consists of an mp3 (320kps) rip taken from my near mint vinyl copy of this Mini LP along with full album artwork. As a bonus, I have also included full artwork from Roxy's 1982 World Tour Booklet which focused on their 'Avalon' album (their best studio album by far).
This live album is nothing short of awesome and their renditions of Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" and John Lennon's "Jealous Guy" leave me breathless every time I hear them.
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Track Listing
01. Can't Let Go (Ferry) 5:29

02. My Only Love (Ferry) 7:52

03. Like A Hurricane (Neil Young) 7:48

04. Jealous Guy (John Lennon) 6:40

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Band Members:
Bryan Ferry (Vocals, Keyboards)

Phil Manzanera (Lead Guitar)

Andy Mackay (Saxophone, Oboe)

Neil Hubbard (Guitar)

Andy Newmark (Drums)

Alan Spenner (Bass)

Jimmy Maelen (Percussion)

Guy Fletcher, Michelle Cobbs, Tawatha Agee (Backing Voc
als)
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Roxy Music Link (67Mb) New Link 24/10/2015
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7 comments:

  1. Hi,
    Please can you activate the link?
    Many thanks.

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  2. Thanks so much for this one!

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  3. Cheers, always have adored this set.

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  4. This is one of my favorite Roxy albums. I love their studio work, but I think they were at their best live. There's just an energy about their live performances (I was lucky enough to see them in my freshman year of college) that you just don't feel on their studio releases -- even though ALL of their albums are great!

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  5. Heard "Like A Hurricane" on XM the other day, glad I found it through you.

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