Rolling Stone review of Viva! Roxy Music
01 June 1976
Rolling Stone review of Viva! Roxy Music by Dave Marsh
"Roxy Music is the most exciting art-rock band because it's most like a classic rock & roll group. But because lead singer Bryan Ferry's quintessentially desiccated voice is so fascinating, the music tends to get lost. By removing the focus from Ferry, Viva!, one of the best live albums in a year cluttered with same, makes clear just how talented Roxy's players are.
Drummer Paul Thompson, as single-mindedly rocking as anyone this side of Charlie Watts, shapes the sound. Whatever complexities the others develop, Thompson brings them back to the ground with a solid thump. Phil Manzanera can play guitar with any of the big guns of the post-Hendrix school, Eddie Jobson has a more melodic touch on synthesizer than most and sax-man Andy MacKay is rarely less than terrific. In fact, the most lamentable omission from the live set is their individual numbers, which establish the group's solid musical base even more clearly.
There is an ominous quality to Roxy's music, which Ferry's mannerisms enhance. But the tension really develops more between Thompson and the group's revolving bassists (notably John Wetton and Rick Wills) than between Ferry and his sophisticated, miserable view of the world.
The best numbers here—"Out of the Blue," "If There Is Something," "Both Ends Burning," "Do the Strand"—make all of this clearer than ever. A simple dance number like "Strand" is beyond the rest of the art-rock brigade—even Steely Dan—not because those bands lack the chops but because they haven't got the desire. Thanks to Thompson and the other musicians, Roxy does. This recording has its problems—Roxy should never, never use those women to sing with Ferry again, and Thompson's drums are occasionally mixed so that he seems to be pounding cardboard. But the music has the fire of Roxy's best shows, and that's as good as any English rock I've heard in the last couple years."
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