Review Summary: Remaking and remodeling modern music. Prog, soul, pop, rock, psychedelia, glam, all mixed into one fine album.
The story goes like this: young and gifted Bryan Ferry knocked on the King Crimson's door, who had been looking for vocalist. The guys from KC were sure that Bryan's voice was not suitable for them, but were impressed by Ferry's vocal abilities. They helped to secure a contract and produced Roxy's first and eponymous record. With the possible exception called "For Your Pleasure", this is Roxy's most daring and experimental album. No other producer but prog rock doyen called Peter Sinfield from King Crimson would allow to the debutants such an artistic freedom.
But, to be honest, Ferry, Eno, Manzanera, MacKay and Thompson deserved such a freedom. Mackay had a classical background, Manzanera was already a competent guitarist, just like Eno, who was a creative keyboards player and Thompson was a very good drummer. Their music here is pure technicolor, playful, psychedelic, and magical, not unlike Pink Floyd's "Piper at The Gates Of Dawn". First five songs (including "Virginia Plain") are conventional and catchy psychedelic pop songs, although noisy, filled with unusual but very accessible sax/oboe/synth parts that are icing the cake. "Re-make/Re-model" is a great proto punk tune (innovative using the sax as a rhythmic instrument), "Ladytron" is a seductive and gentle ballad with superb instrumental break (Eno, Manzanera and MacKay made a great tapestry of riffs, distorsion, psychedelic solos), "If There Is Something" has one of the greatest Ferry's cry-outs ("I would do anything for you, climb on the mountains...") and includes a good guitar work from Manzanera in the first half and then Eno and MacKay take over, while Thompson's drumming is precise, passionate and dynamic. "Virginia Plain" is a perky psychedelic keyboard-led single, three minutes long but also very complex and again very accessible.
That is why is that album so special in Roxy Music's discography. Bryan Ferry is just a singer and a songwriter here. The band does the rest and does it innovative, idiosyncratic, without any pressure, but with a responsibility rarely seen among debutants. They would never be so brave, original and daring. And the band would never have so much artistic freedom and space and time to improvise.
Things get complicated in the second half. The songs are not conventional songs any more, but ambicious mini suites or rock operas, with lots of things going difficult and radically different way. It is very hard to understand a song called "The Bob (Medley)" or "Chance Meeting". They sound impressive, very creatively written and played, but something is missing. Yes, I really wonder how did they put all those elements together, but this is not scientific discipline, but only rock and roll. Simply, There are the moments they are trying too hard. Basically, there is way of thinking very familiar to hard rock, which is not a necessary bad thing, but sometimes I get an impression that Bryan and co think that is better to do complicated songs than some simple ones just because of showing off. The second half's saving grace is dreamy "Sea Breezes" and rocking "Would you Believe"". The closing track is doo wop - "Bitters End". It is put there more as question mark, and to confuse listener.
Ten years after this they would record "Avalon". This album has really nothing to do with "Avalon". But this album is indispensable for anyone seriously interested in progressive rock, art rock or psychedelic soul.