Judge Brett Cullum reveals his passion for white dinner jackets and fog machines while waxing nostalgic about alien transvestites.
T'ain't no big thing to wait for the bell to ring
Roxy Music only released eight studio albums from 1972 until 1982, and after that the band was disbanded and lead singer and founder Bryan Ferry continued on as a solo artist. Many of the band members were successful; for example, Brian Eno became a noted musician and producer who helped to create the sounds of David Bowie and Devo after leaving the group. They were arch, stylish, and artificial in all the best senses of those words. Roxy Music invented themselves as visual stylists and musical painters long before MTV hit the airwaves and ushered in a sea of imitators. They were a band that had to be both seen and heard to get the full scope of the artistic vision.
If I get rhapsodic discussing Roxy Music: The Thrill of It All it's because I've been a fan of the group since I was in high school, even though the band had long broken up by the time I got there. Roxy Music was the rock group that I tracked down every recording, because I related to the arch style and the visual fantasy the guys created. I emulated Bryan Ferry as best I could, even threatening to dye my hair jet black and get blue green contacts much to my parents' dismay. About the closest I ever got was going out in a white dinner jacket whenever I went dancing. Yet still, any time I want to feel cool and sexy, I reach for my CD copy of Avalon and pretend to be as lounge-lizard smooth as Bryan Ferry.
I saw this two-disc set on shelves in Europe back in December of 2007, and I cursed my Region One NTSC-only playing DVD player. I didn't think this release would make its way across the shores to the United States. Roxy Music was always more successful overseas, and Europe was their biggest fan base. Thankfully, the US fans get exactly the same DVD that came out in November in another region. Rumors fly that the band will release a new album and possibly tour in the coming year, but until then, these 38 clips are the best thing to hold us over.
Facts of the Case
We're looking at the richest time of output for Roxy Music, which spans their career as a band, tracing their art rock beginnings in Glam and ending up with the swan song release of the blue-eyed soul adult rock Avalon. Some are obvious choices, such as the hit "Love Is the Drug," and others are obscure head scratchers such as the inclusion of "Psalm." The clips are culled from European footage chronicling various television and concert appearances. Don't expect all of the selections to be live, because many of the television performances are lip synched, which was standard for that time (and still is when you think about it), and there is inclusion of several rather cheesy music videos as well. Historically we get the earliest appearances of the band on Top of the Pops, the last filmed performance with Brian Eno, and a video directed by a famous Hollywood legend. It's a musical journey that somehow starts off with alien transvestites playing acid rock and ends with lounge lizards haunting a wine bar with a dry ice machine in tow.
Disc 1, 1972-1976
Disc 2, 1979-1982
Extras on Disc Two:
The release is an eclectic hodgepodge of visual performances culled from material that has been available in various incarnations and some clips that have not been officially released yet. The band members handpicked all of these various tidbits for the fans and refer to the project as depicting three distinct incarnations of Roxy Music—Eno early experimental days, the "not so sure" middle ground, and finally the smoother adult contemporary rock at the end. Some of the clips are revelations, and one of the most amazing live performances comes from the 1975 clips, which find Ferry at the height of his self-parody decked out in a military uniform and pencil thin mustache. Fans will take particular note at the inclusion of videos for "Trash" and "Avalon," which did not appear on another video hits release from the '90s. Acclaimed film director Ridley Scott (Alien) directed the lush mini-movie accompanying "Avalon," and it is considered one of the band's high points as it bowed out of the music scene. The band itself is critical of the ambitious project and said it didn't quite live up to what they were aiming for even though it is easily one of their most beautiful promotional videos.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
The video and sound presentation varies with the source material. All of it is presented full screen, and sometimes it looks muddy or aged depending on the age and state of the original. Audio options include three configurations with a basic stereo, a five channel mix, and a DTS track. If you choose the more aggressive surround or DTS track, it is only available on selected songs and not the entire program. The quality changes continuously, and that is going to bother some viewers who like things uniform throughout.
Rabid fans and collectors are going to be a bit miffed there isn't more new material found here. If you have many of the DVDs released before this one, you should have a fair amount of this material already, and this is simply a "greatest hits" of many previous products. Seems like that's the way with Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, we get a lot of collections repackaged and resold again and again with only a little more never seen or heard material to add to the mix. The bulk of the discs deal with the later years, and that means you get a lot more of the post-Eno years.
Nothing seems more thrilling than being able to see as well as hear a decade of one of the legendary and influential art rock bands of all time. Even though Roxy Music isn't as popular as those they inspired, this is the band that created groups like Duran Duran or A-Ha, which sprang up in their wake in the decade after they split up. This band paved the way for New Wave and the New Romantics, and they helped usher in the ideas MTV cemented. Bryan Ferry, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Paul Thompson, Brian Eno, Eddie Jobson, Graham Simpson, and Rik Kenton proved design and music could blend easily and effortlessly. Legendary rock critic Lester Bangs claimed they represented the "triumph of artifice" with their calculated cool and suave images. Because so much was put in to their visuals, DVD is the only way to truly experience what Roxy Music was all about. For that reason alone Roxy Music: The Thrill of It All is required viewing for anybody who hopes to know the band and understand what their appeal was. It's a gorgeous collection of clips that create a nearly definitive history.
Guilty of being the ultimate way to experience Roxy Music's decade of art
Give us your feedback!
Other Reviews You Might Enjoy
Scales of Justice
• Videos for "The Main Thing" and "Avalon"
• Roxyrama - An Archive Site
Review content copyright © 2008 Brett Cullum; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.