Following a four year hiatus which included Bryan Ferry’s underrated In Your Mind (1977) and the astonishing Bride Stripped Bare (1978), Roxy Music’s Manifesto is often considered a failed attempt to exploit the dance/pop market prevalent in 1979. While it wafted commercially (despite Dance Away becoming one of the bands biggest ever hits), artistically it ranks with the high water mark of the art-rock styling’s of their first four or five albums, and can now be enjoyed as one of Roxy Music’s highest achievements.
The album opens with the title track, an electro-disco epic with a colossal intro, when finally a stately Ferry joins in “I am for a life around the corner, that takes you by surprise, that comes leaves all you need, and more besides!” and “Now and then I’ve suffered imperfection, I’ve studied marble flaws, and faces drawn pale and worn, by many tears!” The vigour is frighteningly flamboyant, one of Roxy Music’s finest moments. Track two Trash is recommended to any fan that wonders where the band would have gone if Brian Eno stayed after their 1972 self-titled debut. An insistent guitar figure from secret weapon guitarist Phil Manzanera pulses beneath Ferry who works himself into a frenzy before Roxy Music’s trademark art-rock melodrama. The swanky snap of minor hit Angel Eyes follows made brilliant by Ferry’s lathering anguish blending fresh rhythms into the Roxy Music signature sound. Likewise unappreciated marvels Still Falls the Rain and arty Stronger Through the Years close side one, both tracks concentrating on superb song craft, shifting the band’s musical footprint prior to its pompous, if intermittently rewarding trajectory towards Avalon (1982).
Unfortunately, side two is what hardened Roxy Music fans were not accustomed in 1979. We get several unrestrained pop supper-club Ferry anthems mostly concerning dancing: the seductive funk-rock of Cry Cry Cry and Ain’t That So are hard not to love, similarly the lush accessible disco-pop track Dance Away was what Ferry solo would become in later years. The band then close out the album with the effortless Spin Me Round full of mid-tempo dance beats, swirling mirror-balls, instrumental interludes – all multiple highlights that keep on giving to this day.
The cool Manifesto on one hand significantly redefined their art-rock/disco-lounge methodology, and on the other was the beginning of Roxy Music as Bryan Ferry’s backing band. An album of totally original materiel, it was released without Ferry’s fixation on the cover song – something he generally did with great aplomb (Hard Rain), and sometimes great tedium (In the Midnight Hour), all before they ran out of ideas on Flesh + Blood (1980).
- Manifesto ∗∗∗∗∗
- Trash ∗∗∗∗∗
- Angel Eyes ∗∗∗
- Still Falls the Rain ∗∗∗∗∗
- Stronger Through the Years ∗∗∗
- Ain’t That So ∗∗∗
- My Little Girl ∗∗∗
- Dance Away ∗∗∗∗
- Cry, Cry, Cry ∗∗∗
- Spin Me Round ∗∗∗∗∗