Review Summary: Bye bye Eno. Hello Roxy Music
1973's playmate of the year adorns the front cover, Brian Ferry's then girlfriend, of Roxy's third release. The first of their records where Brian Ferry was not the sole song writer, sharing the credit with Mackay and Manzanera for a few of the tracks. This is often considered among Roxy's 'brilliant' early 70s period: consisting of their self titled debut, their masterpiece 'for your pleasure', this and country life.
Despite the shift in music and obvious confidence boost due to popularity (the album reached number 1 in the U.K. and the single 'street life' peaked at number 9), there was one resounding difference to the two brilliantly inventive albums prior to stranded.
A certain long-haired synthesiser player and treatments specialist who added texture to almost every song of Roxy's earlier period.
They call him Eno, Brian Eno.
Whenever people talk about stranded they seem to mention how great Roxy were doing, how no one noticed the lack of Eno's treatments and synth work - some scrape over the subject and barely mention the 'E' word. That's because, in all intents and purposes, they WERE doing great and many didn't notice the lack of the 'E' word - it rocketed to number 1, a feat they never accomplished with Eno.
This is because to most, the public and the 'museos', Roxy Music is Ferry's beast. On this record he's definitely confident in his abilities but is not afraid to mix it up a little, this is probably his vocal peak. And his band are going through the same motions too, they know exactly what to do but confident enough to take risks: this results in a vast soundscape comprising the make-up of the album, each song sounds radically different in feel - mini epics of a feeling if you will, full realisations of an idea. The album could seem as a sort of 'greatest hits' or compilation if not for the track listing. It's hard to believe the 'perfect-bouncy-pop' sounds of street-life are held on the same album as the vast 'prog-ish' epics like 'song for Europe' (the latter even utilises a french Ferry, you can almost hear the swoons from other early 70s playboy playmates as he croons) - and there's parts of the brilliant 'mother of pearl' that in itself sounds like a different song.
Stranded truly finds itself when its moving from the sparse piano ballads showing off Ferry's intense yet extraordinary voice to the thickly layered instrument sections like those in 'serenade'. The kind of songs that send the words 'perfect pop' spinning around the listener's head.
And in a way that was Stranded's secret, pop, an album that can appeal to the popular music standard's of the early 70s general public yet still be 'arty' enough to be classed as... well, art rock - a trick Bowie would use in his early years. Even though the songs are long there's only eight and you're never once alienated by the noise at hand (perhaps the closest you get to this feeling is the more avant-garde style rock of songs like 'amazona'). Some people were turned away by the sheer invention and experimentation of Roxy's early years - e.g the nine minute long Krautrock of 'the bogus man' or swathes of futuristic synth.
Although gradual, Roxy had begun their move to a more commercial sound, even though they were still experimenting with variety and style it was the kind of variety and style that people wouldn't be turned away from.
So back then it must've felt like Roxy finest work, the music landscape of the time would've felt like "they've cracked it!".
But I miss the 9 minute long Krautrock epics and the swathes of synth, the invention of the Eno years - but it's no secret to those who know me of how much I fanboy over him.
I always find myself drawn to 'just like you' simply because it sounds like it could be off of 'for your pleasure' and the album, although great, tends to make me nostalgic rather than excited. It is great, it's a superb album, an easy yet rewarding listen but Eno's ahead-of-his-time treatments and the bands playfulness are sorely missed on this listener's ears.
I've tried to refrain from blabbing on about Eno, after all Ferry is probably more important in Roxy and after all it could be sheer coincidence that after 'for your pleasure' (and Eno's departure) Roxy's music declined in inventiveness for me, it could be sheer coincidence that his solo career after Roxy Music holds some of my favourite and most enjoyable albums ever.
It could be.
I really should stop dividing Roxy music into the 'Eno' and 'After Eno' years. But I can't, I can't scrape over the E word simply because his swathes of synths ARE sorely missed.
This is the definitive Roxy Music, its brilliant and clever, arty and an easy enjoyable listen. An excellent record full of excellent ideas on how to make a pop song in an interesting way. It's a triumph for good music in the fact it peaked at no. 1 in the charts, a statement that the early 70s were not a desolate wasteland in terms of the music on offer (they really weren't, take that you punks). But it doesn't fill me with the same joy I get from singing along to 'Grey lagoons', or trying (and failing miserably) to do vibrato in 'beauty queen', or 'air guitaring' enthusiastically to 'every dream home a heart ache'. Those early records make me want to buy a synthesiser (they did make me buy a synthesiser in fact) and make music, this record makes me happy yes, but it doesn't influence me, doesn't excite me.
Maybe Roxy themselves seemed Stranded after Eno's sudden departure (clever link eh"), but obviously not for long. It's a great record and Eno himself said it was their finest, it is great trust me.
But it might, if you're anything like me, just have you asking "Where's my nine minute long krautrock song"".
But don't mention the E word!
It's something that can't really be hidden though. And the E word itself will always be the divide in Roxy fans, they didn't sell out (not at all), but I guess I'm just not sold.
Whenever I want to listen to it I end up listening to For your pleasure, and I always feel bad. But if i do manage to listen to this, then it's rewarding. Tts just...
Don't mention the E word!