Agony Shorthand

Tuesday, July 22, 2003
ROXY MUSIC : “COUNTRY LIFE”…..A record more notorious for its risqué cover art than what’s actually in the grooves, “Country Life” finally made its way into my collection on CD this past month and got a couple of good spins in this weekend. My version of the LP was the l-a-m-e American version that eliminated the women on the cover and instead presented an exceptionally DULL backdrop – a bunch of bushes and leaves. Their US label couldn’t even tart it up one bit – just airbrush out the offending material and leave the rest (!). I have to hand it to the band and their tongue-in-cheek 1974 urbane sophistication – no one in their right mind who was ready to “break” America, as Roxy Music were after some minor FM radio airplay, would release an LP with boobs on the cover and expect it to be stocked in K-Mart or Musicland or whatever the nation’s top retailers were 29 years ago. I’m sure they knew that, but their cool Euro sophistication – where they’re a lot more open about sex, you know; just ask them – played up well in the States anyway, in addition to being a massive hit everywhere else in the world. Recently a fanzine that I forget the name of tried to track down the “Country Life girls” before abandoning ship – turns out they’d already been beat to it by over a decade, as this article here attests. (Note the CAN connection).

See what I mean about the cover art? I couldn’t even escape writing a paragraph on it. On to the music. “Country Life” is arguably a more consistent record song to song than even the ENO records – the first album and “For Your Pleasure” – but aside from the hits on the first side (“The Thrill of It All”, “All I Want Is You”, “Out Of The Blue”), I’d have to still take the first two records for overall payoff. There are moments of driving, mid-70s FM rock and roll guitar on this one, most obviously on the “The Thrill of It All”, but at a level so far above their peers in terms of songwriting craft that this remains my #1 favorite band of the lean years of 1972-75. Has there ever been a less “macho”, completely unconventional million-selling rock singer than Bryan Ferry? Remember that his lounge lizard, smooth-crooner persona was only fully realized after his loud rock years. Sure, “Country Life”, like all Roxy Music records, has got a couple of full-on stinkers: this record’s bombs pop up at the start of side 2: “Bittersweet” and “Triptych”. Redemption thankfully arrives in the form of “Casanova” and the disc-ending “Prairie Rose”, but it’s side one, with the aforementioned hits and the rollicking, tin pan alley-esque “If It Takes All Night”, that really delivers the goods. All of the early Roxy Music LPs have recently been reissued on CD, but with no extra tracks. It appears, though, that we Americans are finally able to handle the red-hott “Country Life” cover art.