[Review] Roxy Music: Stranded (1973)

The third album solidifies around Bryan Ferry’s romantic persona, mixing torch songs with compressed helium in a can.

Kronomyth 3.0: You may be stranded if you stick around.

Stranded is such a good record that the departure of Eno is merely worth a mention. The band’s third album centers on the magnetic personality of Bryan Ferry, as inevitable as it was, and features half an album of torch songs mixed with the band’s helium arrangements. I suppose you could make the case that For Your Pleasure and The First Roxy Music Album were more exciting and unpredictable. You could make an equally valid case for Stranded as the more refined record, as the band focused its energies on songcraft rather than sonic experiments.

Surprisingly, it was Bryan Ferry’s solo career, and not Brian Eno’s, that cast a shadow over Roxy’s third record. These Foolish Things had been released weeks earlier and reached the UK top 10. Eno’s experimental instrumental record with Robert Fripp, No Pussyfooting, was greeted with complete commercial indifference. Anyone inclined to level the charge that Roxy had become Ferry’s mouthpiece had only to listen to These Foolish Things to hear the difference between Ferry the crooner (Foolish) and Roxy the art-rock innovator (Stranded).

As with their first two records, Stranded leads off with its best track, Street Life. The album’s namesake, “Street Life” is three-and-a-half minutes of controlled chaos with Ferry in the eye of the hurricane. The next track, Just Like You, is the romantic side of Roxy, all breathy sighs and a lump-in-the-throat guitar solo from Phil Manzanera. Amazona fuses two songs together into one great track (I suspect Ferry wrote the chorus) and showcases Manzanera’s unique ability to fashion rhythm guitar textures and grooves into a lead instrument. Manzanera was never the quintessential flashy guitarist, and yet without his flash these songs fall apart. Side one ends with Psalm, on the surface a hymn, but scratch that surface a little and it’s another death song along the lines of “Strictly Confidential” that slowly and powerfully builds momentum over eight minutes.

Side two starts with Serenade, a serviceable Roxy song that would have felt right at home on Siren. Ferry and Andy Mackay then take us deep into the burned-out beau monde that has always been at the core of Roxy’s romantic vision with A Song for Europe. Ferry’s French at the end cements the image of him as a continental romantic idol. The wonderful Mother of Pearl follows; two very different songs that are (again) fused together. The first half is a noisy descent into madness; the second half is the sublime experience of true clarity. Following the pattern of alternating a rock song with a romantic ballad, the album ends with Sunset.

Like I said, the loss of Eno is incidental. 18-year-old whiz kid Eddie Jobson provides enough exotic noises (violin, keyboards) to fulfill the group’s art-rock obligations, and Ferry’s crooning is closer to pandemonium than pandering. At least half of Stranded is classic Roxy Music, and the other half is rarely less than interesting. The first four (maybe five) Roxy Music albums are ravishing beauties of rock & roll, in my opinion. Choose one over the other? Jamais, jamais, jamais, jamais!

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Original elpee version

A1. Street Life (3:27)
A2. Just Like You (3:34)
A3. Amazona (Phil Manzanera/Bryan Ferry) (4:12)
A4. Psalm (8:04)
B1. Serenade (2:58)
B2. A Song for Europe (Andy Mackay/Bryan Ferry) (5:43)
B3. Mother of Pearl (6:53)
B4. Sunset (6:00)

Songs written by Bryan Ferry unless noted.

The Players

Bryan Ferry (voices and piano), Johnny Gustafson (bass), Eddie Jobson (violin synthesizer & keyboards), Andrew Mackay (oboe, saxophone & treatments), Phil Manzanera (guitar & treatments), Paul Thompson (drums and timpani) with Chris Lawrence (string bass on B4), The London Welsh Male Choir (choir on A4). Produced by Chris Thomas; engineered by John Punter.

The Pictures

Cover design by Nicolas de Ville. Photography by Karl Stocker. Fashion by Anthony Price. Artwork by Bob Bowkett at CCS. Roxy Hair by Smile. Cover concept by Bryan Ferry.

The Plastic

Released on elpee on November 1, 1973 in the UK (Island, ILPS 9252) and Australia (Island, L-35.301) and in April 1974* the US (Atco, SD 7045) with gatefold cover; reached #1 on the UK charts and #186 on the US charts. (*First appeared in 4/20/74 issue of Billboard.)

  1. Re-issued on elpee in the US (Atco, SD 7045) [angled Atco with tiny wheels pattern in background label] with gatefold cover.
  2. Re-issued on elpee in February 1977 in the UK (Polydor, 2302-050) with gatefold cover.
  3. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in Germany (Polydor, 2344 078/3100 350).
  4. Re-issued on elpee in 1985 in Japan (Polydor, 20MM 9108) with gatefold cover.
  5. Re-released on picture disc elpee in Japan (Island, ICL 60 P).
  6. Re-issued on compact disc on April 30, 1988 in Japan (Virgin, VJD-28028).
  7. Re-issued on compact disc in September 1989 in the US (EG/Reprise, 9 26041-2).
  8. Re-issued on compact disc in September 1991 in Europe (EG, EGCD 10).
  9. Re-released on remastered high-definition compact disc on September 13, 1999 in Europe (Virgin, ROXYCD3).
  10. Re-issued on remastered compact disc on August 29, 2001 in Japan (EMI, TOCP-65824).
  11. Re-issued on remastered HDCD on September 26, 2007 in Japan (Virgin, VJCP-68823).

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