Roxy Music, Stranded

Barry Walters

By Barry Walters

on 05.18.11 in Reviews


Roxy Music

Released in the UK only seven months after For Your Pleasure and less than a month after leader Bryan Ferry's first covers album These Foolish Things, 1973's Stranded ushers in the beginning of Roxy Music MK II. Out went Brian Eno, and another temporary bass player. In come keyboardist/violinist Eddie Jobson, a full time member, and the greatest of the hired bassists, John Gustafson. Together they both stay for three studio albums. Combined with the band's rapid increase in skill, these changes prove monumental. Although opening salvo and single "Street Life" connects new Roxy with old there is, on its third album in two years, less full-throttle rocking/droning out, fewer sudden twists in the arrangements, and more sophisticated soul-searching.

A monumental transitional album

No longer jockeying for leadership with Eno, Bryan Ferry starts sharing songwriting credit here, and yet he feels more in control. This is more of a songwriter's album: There's more piano, and it's more suave, while Phil Manzanera's guitar is less noisy. He's still pretty out-there, though, and chances within the rest of the band are still taken: Listen to how "Amazona" nearly grinds to a halt for the beginning of his convulsive solo, shifts into what feels like another song, and then reverts back its initial pattern. "Psalm" is out on another, less successful limb: Ferry puts on his best Elvis impersonation as the gradually rising instrumentation goes for gospel, but mostly goes on too long, a rare misstep for one of the '70s most surefooted bands.

The second half trumps the first. With thunderous drum fills, ringing oboe riffs, and a typically tuneful Manzanera guitar solo, "Serenade" showcases the reconfigured band's new cohesion. An allusion to the Eurovision Song Contest, "A Song for Europe" situates Ferry at the bottom of his vocal register for an exploration of pre-rock French and Italian pop styles. There's no orchestra, but the band climaxes as if it were one. A one-album teenage veteran of prog-rock's Curved Air, Jobson remains a supporting player here; his electric violin is employed for texture and extra heft. "Mother of Pearl" bursts out of the gate rocking, then abruptly shifts into a piano-led trot, while "Sunset" suggests the contented subtleties that would later be explored on 1982's Avalon. All and all, Stranded is a transitional album, one that introduces themes taken to the next level of elaboration by Country Life.