[Review] Roxy Music: Country Life (1974)

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Kronomyth 4.0: The bucolic beauty(ies) of Roxy.

Welcome to the crown jewels in Roxy’s family of femme fatales. In the US, unfortunately, prudish interests prevailed and the ladies soon dematerialized, leaving in their wake the unsatisfactory scenery below (an inverted image of the back cover). Fortunately, the censors didn’t mess with the music. Song for song, this is as good as Roxy gets.

Country Life finds the band at a stylistic crossroads, embracing shorter, lyrical songs while retaining the dark and challenging tone of their earlier work. It’s not so much different than Stranded, which also featured rocket-propelled pop music alongside torch songs that twisted like a slow, sharp knife. Critics fell in love with Siren’s song, but that album was never dark enough for my tastes. Nothing on Siren was as sublime as the pairing of All I Want Is You and Out of the Blue, or as frightening as the succession of Bitter-Sweet, Triptych and Casanova.

The album opens with The Thrill Of It All, which would be stripped down and re-cast as “Love Is The Drug” on their next album. What follows is a varied sampler of settings: romantic and dreamy art rock (“Out of the Blue”), a fine approximation of Bob Ezrin’s Teutonic dramas (“Bitter-Sweet”), a masterful stare-down from Bryan Ferry (“Casanova”) and more. Maybe Siren tried too hard; Country Life burns with a cool fire, the beneficiary of the band’s and John Punter’s even-handed production. Ferry’s stilted vocals, wafting on a swirling cloud of sounds, restlessly and breathlessly move across genres, from cabaret to country. Only Ferry could make “oy vey” sound sexy.

Although the band’s idiom was well established by now, there are new wrinkles in the music. Ferry for example, seems to have taken harmonica lessons since Stranded, which pay for themself on Three and Nine and If It Takes All Night (one of two quasi-country songs on the album, the other being the unhinged Prairie Rose). Eddie Jobson has also settled nicely into the band, now comfortable conjuring the ghost of Eno (“In Every Dream Home A Heartache”) on “Out of the Blue.” Andy Mackay also deserves a special shout-out for setting the mood perfectly on songs like “The Thrill of It All” and “Out of the Blue,” while Phil Manzanera delivers arguably his best (albeit too brief) guitar solo on “All I Want Is You” (for my money the best song on the album).

Country Life is, for me, the fulcrum on which the first and second halves of Roxy Music rest. For this reason, it’s probably my favorite album from them. It seems a perfect mix of sweet and bittersweet, joie de vivre and weltschmerz, a transcontinental collection of exotic confections that excites my musical tastebuds every time I hear it.

Read more Roxy Music reviews

Original elpee version

A1. The Thrill of It All (Bryan Ferry) (6:23)
A2. Three and Nine (Bryan Ferry/Andy Mackay) (4:01)
A3. All I Want Is You (Bryan Ferry) (3:08)
A4. Out of the Blue (Bryan Ferry/Phil Manzanera) (4:26)
A5. If It Takes All Night (Bryan Ferry) (3:09)
B1. Bitter-Sweet (Bryan Ferry/Andy Mackay) (4:57)
B2. Triptych (Bryan Ferry) (3:09)
B3. Casanova (Bryan Ferry) (3:23)
B4. A Really Good Time (Bryan Ferry) (3:44)
B5. Prairie Rose (Bryan Ferry/Phil Manzanera) (5:13)

Original 8-track version
A1. The Thrill of It All
A2. Three and Nine
B1. All I Want Is You
B2. Out of the Blue
B3. If It Takes All Night
C1. Triptych
C2. Casanova
C3. A Really Good Time
D1. Bitter-Sweet
D2. Prairie Rose

The Players

Bryan Ferry (voices, keyboards, harmonica), John Gustafson (bass), Eddie Jobson (strings, synthesizer, keyboards), Andrew Mackay (oboe & saxophone), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums). Produced by Roxy Music and John Punter; engineered by John Punter.

The Pictures

Photography by Eric Boman. Design by Nicholas de Ville. Artwork by Bob Bowkett at C.C.S.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and 8-track in November 1974 in the UK (Island, ILPS/Y81 9303), the US

(Atco, SD 36-106), Germany (Island, 88 370 XOT), Japan (Island, ILS-80070) and the Netherlands (Island, 88 370 IT) with lyrics innersleeve; reached #3 on the UK charts and #37 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in February 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2302 051/3100 351) and in 1977 in Japan (Polydor, MPF 1122) with lyrics innersleeve.
  2. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in the US (Atco, SD/CS 36-106A) with censored album cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Atco, SD 36-106) with censored cover [modern mini-logo repeated label].
  4. Re-issued on compact disc and cassette in 1984 in the US (EG/Reprise, 26042-2/4) and Australia (EG, 7864822).
  5. Re-issued on elpee in 1985 in Japan (Polydor, 20MM 9109) with lyrics innersleeve.
  6. Re-released on high-definition compact disc in 1999 in the UK (Virgin, ROXYCD) and Europe (Virgin, 47453).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc on August 29, 2001 in Japan (Virgin, TOCP-65825).
  8. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2009 in the US (Capitol/Virgin, 43649-11) with lyrics innersleeve and poster.

    SD 36-106A album cover
    Atco SD 36-106A album cover

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