Album I can't live without: Avalon
The album I can't live without
'More Than This', off the Roxy Music album Avalon, is a song I could listen to endlessly, it's pure ear candy.
I've always been a fan of the band since first hearing their hits on the radio in the 80s, but 'More Than This' is timeless - the finest moment of their later career, of which Avalon was the concluding statement.
On 'More Than This', Bryan Ferry sounds world-weary and plaintive, musing about life itself: "It was fun for while", "like a dream in the night", "no care in the world". But ultimately, there comes a reckoning: "maybe I'm learning why the sea on the tide has no way of turning". "More than this, there is nothing".
While the lyrics may hint at nihilism, the music itself is deeply romantic, beginning with the instantly recognisable guitar figure that gives way to the song's hypnotic melody. For the last minute and forty five seconds, Ferry's vocals end and the song becomes wholly instrumental, propelled by the driving bass. The core of the song is the beautifully ethereal synth lines and particularly Phil Manzanera's magnificently poignant guitar playing - one of the best guitar non-solos ever because there isn't an overplayed or wasted note.
Finally, there is the bittersweet sadness of the haunting last 15 seconds, where the song becomes a ghostly echo of what has gone before, quietly pulsating out in to nothingness.
There is a dark under-current to the album Avalon; along with its flawless production, the record is shot through with melancholy. As Ferry sings on the title track: "Now the party's over, I'm so tired", and we can hear his weariness.
Once the party of youth and the carefree days is over, what is left is detritus, regret, and looming middle age. This is an album about reflection, longing, and the recognition of mortality. There are none of the vocal idiosyncrasies that characterised earlier records; Ferry is smooth and urbane, luxuriating in the 'lounge lizard' persona of his solo albums.
Elsewhere on the album, the excellent 'The Space Between Us' has Ferry declaring "this relationship ain't right", 'The Main Thing' thrives on the back of a sexy and ominous groove, and Manzanera shines once again on the up-beat and hopeful 'Take A Chance On Me'. Ferry dominates proceeding's and Andy MacKay and Manzanera are happy to compliment Ferry's synth-washed tracks in exemplary supporting roles.
The lovely instrumental 'Tara' closes the album with MacKay's oboe notes dissolving in to the sound of waves crashing on a lonely beach.
Avalon itself was the legendary island of Camelot lore, the place where Excalibur was forged and King Arthur was taken to recover from battle. So the album is Ferry's soliloquy about personal lost kingdoms, and the need for renewal. Avalon was the last album Roxy Music ever made, but they went out having forged a classic.
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