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17 May 2008 @ 07:13 pm
Roxy Music - Heart Still Beating  
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The motives behind putting out a live Roxy Music album of a recording from the 1982 in 1990, seven years after the band had ceased to exist for a second (more permanent) time were always a bit suspect to me. It kind of appears at a time when EG Records, their home since birth, needed some cash-flow (thanks, in part, to some dodgy investments...ask Robert Fripp...he'll tell you all about it!) and didn't really have any other name bands to provide it. Bryan Ferry's solo career had never really gone as mega as he seemed to think it would in the '80s, which was a shame because everybody else from his era was (from Phil Collins to Steve Winwood). Somehow household name status eluded him, but Roxy Music's stature had grown, a generation of '80s bands had pretty much used 'Avalon' as their template, and another generation was checking out the earlier Roxy stuff and finding stuff there to pillage into the likes of Suede, the Auteurs and Pulp. In 1990, however, Roxy Music was stone cold dead, and the appearance of a full length live document of their last tour, in 1982, seemed a bit..."Out of the Blue" (to use their words). The group had already documented the tour with a rather anemic EP called 'The High Road,' and it offered the two remarkable cover versions that appear here again. They had taken to performing two rather interesting standards. Ferry chose "Jealous Guy" as a tribute to John Lennon, and Neil Young's "Like A Hurricane" had also found its way into their set. Despite their failing to record them in the studio, the EP offered them up as a sort welcome parting gesture. They seemed almost as though they were made for Ferry's voice (even if there are a thousand or so live versions of Neil's tune I prefer by Neil himself). This album is rather more representative of what a Roxy Music show was like in 1982 than the EP, presenting an entire show from Frejus, France from August of '82, but, again, timing is everything and it was nearly a decade old already when this finally came out. Musically, it's often harder to fault this version of the band than one would think. Sure, the earlier version(s) in the first era of the band (1971-'76) were much better in every way, but this was basically the remaining trio (Ferry , Manzanera, McKay) supplemented by the guys who had been playing on the last two Roxy albums, as well as the Bryan Ferry albums both before and after: Neil Hubbard, Andy Newmark and Alan Spenner (along with various percussion and the dreaded backing vocalists). So the playing is incredibly tight (if sometimes un-inspired). I do hate what they did to the rhythm of "Into the Blue," where they try to make it more contemporary by messing with the beat a little. Several of the other older tunes suffer from over-perfection as well. But the 'Avalon' and 'Manifesto' tunes sound great here in the live setting. Funnily enough, I think I learned the words to "Like A Hurricane" from their version because they were sung so much clearer. It's interesting how they show such a sense of restraint, musically, on the song, but the song still sizzles with energy. Even with the chirpy back-up singers, the song totally becomes them...wow. Both Manzanera and McKay get solos in it too. This is the closest thing Roxy Music every did to an album that I didn't like...but I'm discovering now that I like this one as well. Even at their most polished and over-populated, Roxy Music was still run by the intensity and the artistic benevolence of its core three. That the decade became a sort of "lost decade" situation (despite the modest success of Ferry's solo records) for those three after the band, literally burning from both ends, burned itself out. Manzanera and McKays albums as the Explorers were never even released in the States, and Manzanera never regained his solo artist momentum until just a few years ago when, with the rights all back in his name, he re-issued his solo albums on his own label. Ferry never stopped putting solo records, and nearly all of his Roxy players put in an appearance on them at some point, even Eno finally mended the fences with Ferry by the time 'Mamouna' came out in the mid-'90s. It was really no big surprise that Roxy Music re-formed (mostly...no Eno) for a series of live shows in 2003, and it seems almost fated that they are currently working on an album (with Eno included) for release sometime before the end of this decade. For a band that churned out an album every year for their first five years (and they were all classics to) it's almost funny how much time has gone by without one just in the years they staged their live comeback. Just like the Pixes (a band a generation or two younger, I might add), they've found actually creative collaboration much more difficult than churning out the hits live on stage. I kind of avoided getting the newer live CD from the 2003 tour...but hearing the way they sounded 21 years earlier has got me kind of curious now.

 
 
the lunatic is: Frejus, France...
happy sad?: impressedimpressed
what is that?: roxy long ago