wed 07/12/2022

Music Reissues Weekly: The Best of Roxy Music | reviews, news & interviews

Music Reissues Weekly: The Best of Roxy Music

Music Reissues Weekly: The Best of Roxy Music

What was on CD two decades ago reappears on vinyl

A pensive-looking Roxy Music in 1972Brian Cooke

In summer 2001, The Best of Roxy Music reached number 12 on the album charts. The 18-track compilation tied-in with the band’s reunion tour, which kicked off that June. Original band members Bryan Ferry, Andy MacKay, Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson came together for the dates. They’d last played live in May 1983, after which they split.

The Best of Roxy Music was CD-only and now reappears as a double album to coincide with the band’s 50th-anniversary shows, presently on-going in the US. The UK dates begin in October. Between the 2001 shows and what’s in this year’s diary, there were tours in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011. The current US performances have featured an unsurprising set list: nothing unexpected has been played. Not a re-make or re-model then.

The Best Of Roxy MusicWhile issuing something to mark the new shows is predictable, the unimaginative return of The Best of Roxy Music raises questions. Is what was defined as the best-of in 2001 the same as what might be chosen in 2022? Nonetheless, here this is – a collection sequencing its tracks in reverse chronological order of their release dates. Ten are from the band’s purple period of 1972 to 1976 (six feature the Eno line-up) and eight date from their 1979 to 1983 return. It’s mostly what was on single, but there are a few album tracks.

Beyond being on vinyl, the selling point is half-speed mastering. It sounds punchy and open but lacks the attractive compression which helped define the impact and oomph of the original singles of “Virginia Plain,” “Pyjamarama,” “All I Want is You” and “Both Ends Burning.” It’s pressed by the Czech Republic’s GZ Media. An unspecified number – “limited,” according to the promotional material – of copies are on yellow, rather than black, vinyl.

As to questions, another is what this is mastered from. Nothing is said about this on the record’s sleeve or in the promotional material, so it’s a fair bet the audio source is the master compiled for the 2001 CD release. With respect to what’s on offer, the promo bumph says the album has “restored and enhanced artwork, lyrics, and has been remastered at half-speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios.” No clues there about the audio source. This matters.

Roxy Music Virginia Plain germanySo in all probability, what’s heard reuses a digital master from 2001. If this is the case, the original master tapes have not been used – the tapes contemporary with what was issued originally; the master tapes for “Re-Make/Re-Model,” “Virginia Plain,” “Pyjamarama” and so on all the way up to track one, “Avalon.”

Another question then comes into play. Digital mastering must have developed in the years between 2001 and 2022. Are there limitations to the audio of the new The Best Of Roxy Music which are inherent to its source? Back in 2001, the CD’s tracks were annotated as either "1999 Digital Remaster" or, for "Jealous Guy" only, "2000 Digital Remaster." Is what’s being sold now for around £34 sourced from digital masters created 22 or 23 years ago?

While much of the above is conjecture, a reasonable chance remains that the original master tapes for each of the 18 tracks on the new vinyl The Best Of Roxy Music were not used in its production. However, it does sound great and much of the music is amongst the best generated by any British band. Nothing will ever dampen the thrill of experiencing, say, “Both Ends Burning.” As the years pass, “Virginia Plain’s” debt to motorik is increasingly intriguing – the first Neu! album was issued before “Virginia Plain.” And whatever it is that’s bought, the best of Roxy Music remains unbeatable.

@MrKieronTyler

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