Roxy Mu­sic’s Self-ti­tled Re-make/re-model of Rock Con­ven­tion Gets a Rich 5.1 Up­grade

Sound & Vision - - REFERENCE TRACKS -

No one had ever seen or heard any­thing like it be­fore. When Roxy Mu­sic re­leased their self-ti­tled de­but in June 1972—iron­i­cally enough, on the ex­act same day their spir­i­tual brother-in-cre­ative-arms David Bowie re­leased The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Star­dust and the Spi­ders From Mars— the artschool-tem­pered British sex­tet in­stantly ush­ered in an im­me­di­ate sea change for both the style and sonic char­ac­ter of an al­ready sag­ging rock scene.

Roxy shook up the form’s vis­ual sen­si­bil­i­ties with a highly styl­ized, play­fully sug­ges­tive front cover fea­tur­ing in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned fash­ion model Kari-ann Muller, clad in a pinkand-white satin swim­suit and sprawled out with a shiny gold record placed just out of the reach of her out­stretched right hand on the back cover. Not only that, but the mu­sic found within such provoca­tive pack­ag­ing undis­put­edly forged new ground—most es­pe­cially the way the al­ways for­ward-think­ing mas­ter synth/tape op­er­a­tor Brian Eno ma­nip­u­lated the oth­er­worldly sounds he was able to coax out of an EMS VCS3 por­ta­ble syn­the­sizer.

“It’s easy to for­get very few bands even had a VCS3 syn­the­sizer in those days,” points out Roxy Mu­sic gui­tarist Phil Man­zan­era (at left in the photo above). “Pink Floyd had one and we had one, but I can’t think of any­one else who was us­ing one at the time. There may have been a Moog out there, but not in the way we and [Floyd key­boardist] Rick Wright were us­ing the

VCS3. It was more of an elec­tronic sound­scape idea, with the dif­fer­ence be­ing it’s com­ing from within the con­text of a pop band.”

And now, the Roxy Mu­sic party is be­ing prop­erly feted with a 45th an­niver­sary spe­cial edi­tion 3 CD/1 DVD set that in­cludes demos, out­takes, BBC Ses­sions, and sur­round sound guru Steven Wil­son’s wholly im­mer­sive 96-khz/24-bit DTSHD Mas­ter Au­dio 5.1 mix. I got on the line with Man­zan­era, 67, to dis­cuss the band’s in­tu­itive sense of in­ter­play and why the al­bum’s in­tent comes across even bet­ter in sur­round. Next time is the best time, we all know….

MM: The in­di­vid­ual re­la­tion­ships be­tween the play­ers is one of the things that makes Roxy Mu­sic such a spe­cial al­bum, in my opin­ion. You and [vo­cal­ist]

Bryan Ferry, Brian Eno, and [sax­o­phon­ist/oboist] Andy Mackay all have what I call an in­ter­play short­hand. Did you feel you were work­ing more di­rectly with one per­son in cer­tain sec­tions of each song, or was it more of a group feel over­all?

PM: Def­i­nitely in the in­stru­men­tal bits, we were hav­ing con­ver­sa­tions, re­ally. That is very much the right way of think­ing about it—the idea of hav­ing mu­si­cal con­ver­sa­tions. I might play this [ver­bally mimes a riff], and Andy would play that [mimes an­other riff], and then Brian would play some­thing else. Then you agree on some­thing, bounce it off each other, and go some­where else.

And when Bryan is singing, you’re there to sup­port the vo­cal and the lyric, to try and cre­ate a mu­si­cal con­text for him. That’s what all of us were re­ally do­ing on that first al­bum. We were try­ing to cre­ate an in­ter­est­ing mu­si­cal back­drop and con­text for this singer with a strange voice—and good looks! (chuck­les)

MM: Steven Wil­son’s sur­round mix puts us in a space that re­in­forces how ev­ery song on this al­bum re­ally has its own in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter.

PM: It’s very dif­fi­cult to cat­e­go­rize the styles of the dif­fer­ent songs, be­cause they chop and change around. They are a bit like col­lages—and Bryan, of course, had been taught how to do paint­ing col­lages by Richard Hamil­ton when he stud­ied at [New­cas­tle] Univer­sity. But I think by a com­plete sort of luck, he ended up with a bunch of mu­si­cians who had this nat­u­ral thing of be­ing happy with hav­ing this blend of stuff. It didn’t have to be a funk or a blues or jazz, or some­thing weird or psy­che­delic. We were all happy to have this com­bi­na­tion of things built around very sim­ple chords.

MM: Does the sur­round ver­sion of the al­bum give you some­thing you al­ways wanted to hear, or some­thing you didn’t ex­pect? What does it mean to you?

PM: To me, the 5.1 is the star of the show. Be­cause if you’re a Roxy fan and you’ve heard these tracks for years, you now hear them in a dif­fer­ent way. There’s so much to gain, so it’s worth it just for that.

MM: Is there one par­tic­u­lar song in the Roxy canon you would like Steven to mix in 5.1?

PM: (slight pause) Ooh. Ac­tu­ally, I’d say “In Ev­ery Dream Home a Heartache” [from 1973’s For Your Plea­sure]. I think that would be amaz­ing to hear in sur­round.

An ex­tended ver­sion of the Met­tlerMan­zan­era Q&A, in­clud­ing a dis­cus­sion of the iconic solo­trade­off sec­tion dur­ing “Re-make/ Re-model,” ap­pears in the S&V In­ter­view blog on soun­dand­vi­sion.com.

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