Roxy Music, Manifesto

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 05.18.11 in Reviews


Roxy Music

A lot happened between the promotion of 1975's Siren and the recording of 1979's Manifesto, but not much to the band; its members announced midway through 1976 that they've decided "to have a rest from Roxy Music for awhile." A live album, the first hits LP, reissued singles, and several solo recordings are released in the interim, all featuring different member configurations. Most of these did well until 1978, when the singles from Bryan Ferry's The Bride Stripped Bare faltered in the U.K. charts. Soon after, a reconfigured Roxy reunited minus John Gustafson and Eddie Jobson. In their place is keyboardist Paul Carrack (formerly of Ace and eventually of Squeeze and Mike + the Mechanics), and bassists Alan Spenner (ex-Kokomo) and Gary Tibbs (briefly of the Vibrators, soon to be a one of Adam and the Ants), as well as uncredited session musicians.

Even while catching up to the present, Roxy pointed the way to the future

The first offering from Roxy Music MK III picks up where the Ferry solo albums left off while responding to both punk and disco. Since both of those styles eschew guitar solos, there's less flash from Phil Manzanera, and Paul Thompson's rhythms are also sometimes more straightforward. However, there's enough of Andy Mackay's sax for Manifesto to present itself as Roxy Music album, particularly on the Siren-eque "Still Falls the Rain," a Jeckyl and Hyde saga that lets Manzanera rip through the monstrous refrain. The songwriting from Ferry, Manzanera and Mackay is uniformly strong with traces of prior quirks still remaining: The stately opening title track harkens back to For Your Pleasure's drones, while the jaunty "Trash" updates the old glam with punk succinctness.

More striking and commercially successful are the subsequent singles. Whereas some initial Manifesto pressings include "Dance Away" with a fluctuating rhythm that ramps up for a disco finale, the far more familiar single version included on the U.S. LP and all subsequent pressings is a shorter and steadier nightclub ballad that feels like the hit it was. The "Angel Eyes" included here is the original, and suggests a lithe variation on the Stranglers' menacing punk. The single substituted on later pressings and best-ofs is the rerecorded and far more spacious disco arrangement that provided a stylistic blueprint for the burgeoning New Romantic scene, particularly Japan, Spandau Ballet, and Duran Duran. Even while catching up to the present, Roxy pointed the way to the future.