ROXY MUSIC-FLESH AND BLOOD.

ROXY MUSIC-FLESH AND BLOOD.

By June 1980, when Roxy Music released their seventh and penultimate album, Flesh and Blood, they were reduced to a trio. Only Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy McKay remained. Phil Thompson had by now, left the band, and original members. Brian Eno and Graham Simpson had long left the band. Since then, many members had joined, and left Roxy Music. For Flesh and Blood, the lineup of Roxy Music changed again.

For Flesh and Blood, a number of session musicians were enlisted to help record what would be Roxy Music’s penultimate album. This would include Paul Carrack, who played piano and organ and Andy Newmark, who formerly, was   Sly and the Family Stone’s drummer. He was joined in the rhythm section by some of the most experienced session plays. This included drummer Allan Schwartzberg, bassists Alan Spenner Neil Jason and Jason Tibbs and guitarist Neil Hubbard. They were joined by percussionist Simon Phillips when the recording sessions began at London’s Basing Street Studios and Gallery Studios. That’s where Roxy Music recorded the ten tracks that became Flesh and Blood.

For Flesh and Blood, Bryan Ferry penned Oh Yeah, Same Old Scene, Flesh and Blood, My Only Love and Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.  Bryan Ferry and Phil Manzanera cowrote Over You, No Strange Delight and Running Wild. The other two tracks were covers of Wilson Pickett’s In The Midnight Hour and The Byrds’ Eight Miles High. Once these tracks were recorded, Flesh and Blood was released on 23rd May 1980.

When Flesh and Blood was released, the reviews were mixed. The songs were described as a mixed bag. Some critics went as far as to suggest that Roxy Music were running out of ideas. For what had been one of the most pioneering groups of the seventies, this must have stung. However, Roxy Music had the last laugh.

On Flesh and Blood’s release, it reached number one in the UK album charts, spending a week there in June 1980, and other three weeks in August. So successful was Flesh and Blood, that it was certified platinum in October 1980. In the US, the album reached number thirty-five in the US Billboard 200. Four singles were released from the album. The first was Over You in May 1980, which reached number five in the UK singles charts. Three further singles followed, Oh Yeah, Same Old Scene and a cover version of Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour. That wasn’t the only cover version on the album. Eight Miles High, a cover version of The Byrds’ track was also included on the album. Sadly, after Flesh and Blood, which I’ll tell you about, Roxy Music would only release one further album, Avalon in May 1982. 

Opening Flesh and Blood is the cover of Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour. Previously, Brian Ferry had spoken of his love of soul music, and here he pays homage to one of soul music’s great singers. Straight away, there’s a difference between the original and Roxy Music’s version. As the track slowly begins, instruments reverberate and the song’s counted in. After that things totally change, the rhythm section, saxophones and synths accompanies Bryan’s vocal. His voice is perfect for the songs, strong and clear, his phrasing careful. Behind him, the arrangement is slower than the original, and quite busy. Partly this is caused by the wall of sound that accompanies the band. It slightly distracts you from the band. It’spresent throughout the track, accompanying the main part of the arrangement. Regardless of this, it’s a cover version with a twist, where Bryan Ferry’s soulful vocal pays homage to a soul legend.

Oh Yeah was the first single taken from Flesh and Blood. It’s a song recalling memories of a summer in love, and drenched in sadness when remembering a relationship that has since ended. A piano opens the track, and plays a big part throughout the track. The tempo is slow, drums and guitars join in. Percussion plays, then Bryan Ferry sings. Sadness is apparent in his voice. Around him, a slow, full and sometimes, dramatic arrangement emerges. His voice soars, strongly, as the arrangement grows, combination of bass, drums, guitars and strings surround him. To me, both the arrangement, and the vocal are the reason for the success of the track. It’s a combination of an emotional vocal and dramatic and sympathetic arrangement. 

Same Old Scene is very different from the previous track. It has a quicker tempo, and brighter sound. Percussion and drums combine with guitars as the song bursts into life, the arrangement quickly filling out. From there on it’s a full and powerful arrangement the rhythm section, guitar, keyboards and saxophone accompanying Bryan Ferry’s pessimistic vocal. During the song he sings about an old relationship that haunts him. This makes him to realize that nothing lasts forever and that he should to return to dating, what he calls the “same old scene.” Alan Spenner’s bass playing during the track is brilliant, fast, tinged in funk, as it helps drives the song along. Likewise, Andy MacKay’s saxophone drenches both Bryan’s vocal and the arrangement in a beautiful, lush, dramatic sound. Key to the song’s success are then vocal, arrangement and lyrics. Here, the lyrics have a pathos, in them and a strong narrative, painting a picture for the listener.

Flesh and Blood, sounds totally different to any of the preceding tracks. It has more in common with some of Roxy Music’s earlier music. A bass plays in the distance, gradually getting louder. It throbs slowly. Quickly, drums, guitar and synths join in. However, it’s the bass that’s most prominent, played really well. By now the arrangement is full, synths sweeping as Bryan sings above the band. His voice is stronger and louder, as if he’s trying to make himself heard over the fuller arrangement. It’s an unusual track. Gone are smoother arrangements of Oh Yeah and Same Old Scene. Replacing it, is a rockier sound, with just a little funk courtesy of the bass, as Roxy Music’s past and present collide head on.

After the change in sound on Flesh and Blood, the style changes again with My Only Love. It has more in common with Oh Yeah and Same Old Scene, and begins with keyboards playing slowly, providing an almost moody, thoughtful, even dramatic sound. Then, the bass and percussion play before Bryan sings, they too, seem to be building up a moody and dramatic sound. When he does sing, his vocal is has a thoughtful, pensive sound as he sings about being in love and the one he loves. Behind him, a piano and the rhythm section play a large part in the arrangement, the bass especially. Like on other tracks, strings and saxophone are used to good effect. Later in the track, Bryan’s vocal quickens, it soars high and he prolongs some of the notes. After that, a guitar solo plays and by now, a great arrangement is unfolding. It continues throughout the remainder of this  dramatic, soulful track

Over You is a return to the smoother sound of Oh Yeah and Same Old Scene. The rhythm section and keyboards are joined by handclaps. Bryan’s vocal is quicker, higher, slight strained, as if almost overcome with emotion. Here the arrangement has a similar sound to many tracks released at this time, it’s the drum, bass and keyboard sound that does it. There’s an electronic sound and feel present. This doesn’t mean the track sounds dated. Quite the opposite, it’s far better than many from this time. Later in the track, the arrangement really grows, and towards the end, lovely piano and saxophone solos play, add the finishing touches to one of Flesh and Blood’s highlights.

The second cover version on the album is Eight Miles High, a cover of a song originally made famous by The Byrds psychedelic rock classic. Back in 1966, the song was banned from the radio because it was allegedly about drug taking. Here, Roxy Music give the track a makeover, adding a new twist to an old song. It works well, with Bryan’s vocal perfectly suited to the track. Likewise a funky bass sound is a good addition, as are the drums, which have an electronic sound. During the song a guitar reverberates, and Bryan’s voice soars and quivers, full of character. What I especially like about the song is Brian Ferry’s delivery of the lyrics.  He brings the song to life. Also, the addition of the pulsating, funky bass is a masterstroke. 

A dark broody electronic sound greets the listener as Rain, Rain, Rain begins. Drums then pound, keyboards play and Bryan gives a slow, pensive sounding vocal. Around him, the arrangement grows. Keyboards, guitars and rhythm section combine. Strange, atmospheric sounds enter the mix, as Bryan sings. Still, his vocal sounds thoughtful. Again, there’s an electronic sound on this track, again courtesy of drums and keyboards. In some ways, there’s almost a reggae sound in the rhythm emerging. Like other tracks, the bass playing helps drive the track along. However, the success of the track is down to more than one person, everyone contributes to what is a slow and atmospheric song.

After a hesitant, almost false start, No Strange Delight begins with pounding repetitive drums, joined by that funky sounding bass. As Bryan sings, keyboards play. His voice isn’t as high but has a richness, he leaves space in the vocal. Behind him the rhythm section drive the song along. They’re a constant, joined by guitar, keyboards and an oboe. This isn’t the usual type of instrument you’d expect on a rock album, but this is Roxy Music, expect the unexpected. As the song progresses, the arrangement builds and builds. Near the end, the sound reaches an almost chaotic climax, but thankfully, the band rescue the track just in time.

Flesh and Blood closes with Running Wild a much slower song. Just a piano accompanies Bryan. The song is perfectly suited to his voice. His vocal is slow and thoughtful, the arrangement much more subtle than on other tracks. It  just meanders along beautifully. Drums set the tempo, and everyone follows their lead. What really makes the track is the addition of  a piano, Andy MacKay’s saxophone Paul Carrack’s organ playing. They all play their part in creating a lovely, lush backdrop for Bryan’s vocal. Then, when the guitar solos at the end the track, it’s the perfect way to close both the track and Flesh and Blood. It seems Roxy Music kept one of the best songs until the end of the album.

Released in May 23rd 1980, Flesh and Blood was Roxy Music’s penultimate album. By then, Roxy Music had been released to a trio. Only Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera and Andy McKay remained. Bryan was the main songwriter. He wrote five tracks and cowrote three more. However, on Flesh and Blood’s release, it wasn’t to the same critical acclaim as previous albums. Instead, Flesh and Blood was perceived as a mixed bag. Some critics wondered aloud whether Roxy Music had run out of ideas. That was taking things too far.

While Flesh and Blood may not be remembered as one of Roxy Music’s classic albums, it certainly one of their most accessible. Just like  Avalon, Flesh and Blood are two of their more accessible albums. This is perfect for someone wanting an introduction to Roxy Music. In the case of Flesh and Blood, many of the songs will be familiar to the newcomer to Roxy Music. After all, four singles were released from Flesh and Blood, which like many Roxy Music albums, will be released on SACD, by EMI, on 28th January 2015. Flesh and Blood was the penultimate chapter in the Roxy Music story.

Two years after the release of Flesh and Blood, Avalon released their swan-song, Avalon in May 1982. Avalon, Roxy Music’s eighth album, saw their music complete its move towards the smooth, A.O.R. sound they toyed with on Flesh and Blood. This was very different from the early days of Roxy Music.

Between 1972s Roxy Music, through  1973s For Your Pleasure and Stranded, 1974s Country Life to 1975s  Siren, Roxy Music could do no wrong. They were one of the most groundbreaking groups of the early, to mid seventies. That’s no surprise, given Roxy Music featured musical pioneers like Brian Eno, Bryan Ferry, Andy Mackay and Phil Manzanera. They were responsible for the rise and rise of Roxy Music. For a ten year period, Roxy Music were one of the most successful British groups.

From 1972s Roxy Music, right through to 1982s Avalon, Roxy Music received six gold discs in Britain and two platinum discs. Ironically, Roxy Music’s most successful albums were Flesh and Blood and Avalon, which were certified platinum. Over the Atlantic, Avalon sold over a million copies, and was certified platinum. Rather than Roxy Music’s more innovative side, it seemed that the record buying public on both sides of the Atlantic, preferred the much more accessible sound of Roxy Music on Flesh and Blood and Avalon.

ROXY MUSIC-FLESH AND BLOOD.

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