26/07/2012

Flesh + Blood

Roxy Music
1980

Ever ahead of their time, Roxy Music released this quintessentially eighties album right at the beginning of the decade. It's the audio equivalent of glossy magazines like GQ, a wide-screen production tastefully swathed in reverb, delay and chorus (the definitive eighties sound effect) - in summary, many of clich├ęs of the music to follow.

However, since this is Roxy Music, it is all done with style and restraint. It sounds wonderfully organic rather than processed. The piano introducing "My Only Love" has just enough delay and modulation to broaden the sound out, the bass interlocks subtly with it and the drums and the strings echo the keyboard hook. It sounds so luxuriant.

Maybe it's because I've just finished reading Guy Pratt's My Bass And Other Animals (a most entertaining read from a well known session bassist), but I was particularly aware of the bass on this album - yet another way in which it foreshadowed one of the key sonic elements of the decade. Whether it's providing bubbly funk in "Same Old Scene" (Pratt says that once you've mastered the bubble, it's all you want to do), anchoring and driving the whole of "Over You", winding rubberily through "My Only Love" or playing more traditional counterpoint in "Oh Yeah", it's always upfront.

The four songs mentioned so far are easily the best, a quartet of absolute classics anyone would be proud of and making this album easily worth the entry price. Listening to the start of "My Only Love" or "Same Old Scene" on my newly setup speakers at a decent volume is my new favourite pastime.

The rest of the album is not quite at the same standard. Some songs are perfectly acceptable - a smooth lounge-funk reading of Wilson Pickett's "In The Midnight Hour" is nice, the title track has a decent enough melody and "Rain Rain Rain" had a nicely minimal feel (relatively speaking; we're not talking as minimal as, say, Mark Hollis). But the cover of The Byrds' "Eight Miles High" does no-one any favours and the other songs are forgettable.

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