[Review] Roxy Music: Siren (1975)

A culmination of their commercial tendencies, and a lesson on the importance of leaving on a high note.

Kronomyth 5.0: Our little isle is green and breezy.

Rolling Stone called it the band’s “masterpiece.” Vibe named it among the 100 Essential Albums of the Twentieth Century. All of which begs the question: Do these guys even own a copy of Country Life?

Siren, like all Roxy Music albums, is brilliant, but it never got under my skin the way the first four albums did. Maybe it’s the banality of Love Is The Drug or the rushed arrangements, perhaps the knowledge of what would come makes me twinge at the traces of disco. Mind you, I like almost every song on here, and that’s by design. The hooks are punched up, the pathos played up. I’m sure most new romantics would have given their milk teeth to write these songs.

But it’s when Siren sounds most like Country Life and Stranded that I’m happiest. Whirlwind is kin to “Prairie Rose,” End of the Line to “If It Takes All Night,” Nightingale to “Street Life,” Sentimental Fool to “Mother of Pearl.” This isn’t, after all, a reinvention of Roxy Music. There is the sense, though, that Bryan Ferry had become less diligent about changing costumes between solo and group albums. The works that followed, Let’s Stick Together and In Your Mind, are only a step removed from Siren, not miles apart.

A higher percentage of group compositions lends credence to the idea that Ferry may have loosened his tight reins on the band in the wake of maintaining two careers and the lavish lifestyle of an international playboy. Andrew Mackay and Phil Manzanera both grab a couple of cowriting credits this time, and even Eddie Jobson gets into the act on the strangely stilted but still catchy She Sells. On his lonesome, Ferry feeds the faithful with torch songs rendered as only he can: Both Ends Burning, Could It Happen To Me? and the beautiful, parting Just Another High.

Worth noting here are excellent performances from Paul Thompson (a generally underrated drummer) and Phil Manzanera, whose guitar solo on “Could It Happen To Me?” is one for the ages. As we all know, the Roxy story abruptly ended soon after, only to resume at the end of the decade with what I can only presume Rolling Stone and Vibe regarded as the greatest album of all time, Manifesto. Honestly, not even Siren would make my list of top five Roxy Music albums, but that speaks more to the remarkable quality of their work than the album’s deficiency.

Original elpee version

A1. Love Is The Drug (Bryan Ferry/Andrew Mackay) (4:09)
A2. End of the Line (Bryan Ferry) (5:18)
A3. Sentimental Fool (Bryan Ferry/Andrew Mackay) (6:16)
A4. Whirlwind (Bryan Ferry/Phil Manzanera) (3:37)
B1. She Sells (Bryan Ferry/Eddie Jobson) (3:40)
B2. Could It Happen To Me? (Bryan Ferry) (3:35)
B3. Both Ends Burning (Bryan Ferry) (5:16)
B4. Nightingale (Bryan Ferry/Phil Manzanera) (4:12)
B5. Just Another High (Bryan Ferry) (6:37)

Original 8-track version
A1. Love Is The Drug
A2. Just Another High
B1. Whirlwind
B2. She Sells
B3. Could It Happen To Me?
C1. Both Ends Burning
C2. End of the Line
D1. Sentimental Fool
D2. Nightingale

The Players

Bryan Ferry (voices & keyboards), John Gustafson (bass), Eddie Jobson (strings, synthesizer, keyboards), Andrew Mackay (oboe & saxophone), Phil Manzanera (guitar), Paul Thompson (drums). Produced by Chris Thomas; engineered by Steve Nye.

The Pictures

Cover by Jerry Hall, Bryan Ferry, Graham Hughes, Anthony Price, Nicholas de Ville, Bob Bowkett, Celine, Adrianne Hunter.

The Plastic

Released on elpee, cassette and 8-track on October 24, 1975 in the UK (Island, ILPS/ZC1 9344), the US (Atco, SD/CS/TP 36-127), Australia (Island, L35668), Germany (Island, 89 464 XOT), Japan (Island, ILS-80361) and Mexico (Island, LA 009). Reached #4 on the UK charts and #50 on the US charts (charted on November 29, 1975 for 20 weeks) (certified gold record in the Netherlands).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in February 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2302 052) and Germany and Italy (Polydor, 2310 505).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in Germany (Polydor, 2344 090).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Polydor, MPF 1103).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Atco, SD 36-127) [angled logo label].
  5. Re-issued on compact disc in the US (EG/Reprise, 26043-2).
  6. Re-issued on cassette on December 29, 1987 in South Korea (Yeh Eum, YVPC140).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in 1988 in Japan (EG/Virgin, VJD-28030).
  8. Re-issued on elpee, cassette and compact disc in September 1991 in the UK (EG, EGLP/EGMC/EGCD 20).
  9. Re-released on high definition compact disc in 1999 in the US (Virgin, 47455-2 ROXYCD5).
  10. Re-released on super high material compact disc on July 31, 2013 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-98140).
  11. Re-issued on SHMCD on January 28, 2015 in Japan (Virgin, UICY-76961).

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