Saturday, December 14, 2013

Classic Album Review: Roxy Music - Avalon (1982)

Always pretty much a Brit-centric type of group, indisputably so during its earliest Eno-driven arthouse incarnation, Roxy Music had nonetheless made significant inroads into the all important American market by the time of its all-too-premature demise in the early Eighties. The band’s 1980 album, Flesh And Blood, contained a couple of radio-friendly hits which helped bridge the Atlantic divide, but it was 1982’s silky smooth follow-up, Avalon, that really established the band’s reputation in the States.

What a pity then, it was the band’s final album before Bryan Ferry embarked on a markedly less successful solo career – one that recommenced with Boys And Girls in 1985, after Ferry had released a run of solo albums in the Seventies; “filler” side project-type efforts, released between Roxy albums.

But if the band had to break-up, as it did for the best part of the next two decades, Avalon provided as fitting a swansong as you’re ever likely to get, and it is without question Roxy Music’s most accessible and commercially successful effort. It completed a remarkable transformation from unrepentant hard-line art-rock glamsters, to fully fledged neo-soul easy listening popsters – something that initially began as far back as Eno’s departure.

Nothing on Avalon is particularly hard to listen to or overly challenging. Even the seemingly insignificant little instrumental numbers (‘India’, ‘Tara’) add to the impression that Ferry and co were lapping up the sun, sipping expensive cocktails on a beach, shootin’ the breeze and recording whatever whimsical idea emerged.

The combination of Ferry’s nonchalant croon, Phil Manzanera’s instantly recognisible yet frequently sleepy guitar, and Andy Mackay’s successful merging of sax with synth (a real feature on Avalon), proving irresistible.

It should come as no real surprise then, that the album was recorded in the Bahamas. The band may well have been doing exactly as outlined.

Key tracks include the hit single ‘More Than This’, ‘Avalon’ – the super slick title-track, which was also released as single, ‘Take A Chance With Me’, the brooding slow rocker ‘The Main Thing’, and the light and breezy ‘To Turn You On’.

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