Review Summary: The thrill of it all...
They say a picture paints a thousand words, and no where is that notion truer than on the cover art of Roxy Music’s 4th LP, 'Country Life'. The contemporaneously outrageous image of two naked beauties, whose modesty is saved only by carefully placed hands and skimpy lingerie, is, although apparently blunt and simplistic; also incredibly clever and succinct. With one sultry photograph Roxy managed not only to catch the eyes of virtually every male customer cluttering record stores in early seventies Britain with the striking cover art, but also offered a candid glimpse of what their avant-garde, glam rock encapsulated - kitschy glamour, uncompromising boundary pushing and a portal to the exciting world of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. To cut a long story short, on 'Country Life', Roxy executed their modus operandi to a supremely satisfying standard, with the ten tracks surmounting to a position in the bands stellar catalogue that could genuinely be labelled 'greatest'.
Starting with the thrilling (pun intended) 'The Thrill of It All', the album just moves from strength to strength, switching styles and flavours at every juncture, never letting the fear of cohesion or boundary spoil its artistic excess. 'Country Life' moves from pure glam rock glory like on the opening track, to obscure, avant-garde speckles of noise like 'Triptych' and 'Bitter-Sweet', to almost anywhere else you could envision. In their finest moments Ferry and co. swap moods or genres in one single song, as evidenced by the fantastic 'Out of the Blue'. If anyone else changed direction so unexpectedly like Roxy did on said track, it would likely seem misguided and botched, but Roxy just had a knack for pleasantly surprising their listeners, not to mention the right tools for the job - the 'tools' being the wonderful musicians playing behind king crooner, Bryan Ferry’s voguish lyrics. It seemed everyone was just in tip-top shape - McKay’s sax work is gorgeous on numbers like 'Three and Nine', Manzanera’s guitar riffs are as inventive and splendid as expected throughout (but especially so on highlights like 'All I Want is You') and the rest of the band are consistent as ever, despite the succession of fresh bass players passing through Roxy’s ranks. The thing that makes 'Country Life' particularly enthralling is that, whatever the venture into different styles and moods, here, Roxy delivered the goods track after track, providing an eclectic swirl of stylish, arty glam rock that thrills and delights like few others.
'Country Life' also captures the final showing of the early Roxy style, i.e. before funk and soul elements seeped into the mix more and more until the group gradually became a vehicle for front-man Ferry’s seductive crooner persona to run wild with romantic glimmer and enticing, silky soft rock tunes (something that would become fully realised with Roxy‘s final outing, the brilliant 'Avalon'). As such, the record is simply all that was great about the art rock sound of early Roxy, but taken to the extreme and its natural, satisfying succession point. A truly phenomenal album, 'Country Life' enraptured and influenced an innumerable amount of listeners, and with glistening gems such as 'The Thrill Of It All', 'All I Want Is You', 'Out Of The Blue' and 'Prairie Rose' being just a few of the high points, its not very difficult to understand why. No matter the taste preference for a certain time period or style in the bands eclectic discography, 'Country Life' is undoubtedly one of the best Roxy albums, and some would say (with great reason), the best.