It’s gotta be one of the sexiest record covers in music history, especially from a red-blooded American male perspective, giving you a little bit of a visual tease of nipples and pubic area without giving away too much. You’ve seen the album countless times in magazines, on record store shelves, probably even hanging on your big brother’s wall, but have you actually heard any of the songs on Roxy Music’s “Country Life” LP?
I freely admit over the course of buying and listening to records over the years, “Country Life” is one (of many albums) that has eluded my ears, even though the cover art has been permanently etched in my brain for so long. Upon purchasing this LP, I can’t quite say for sure what I was expecting to hear on the other side of the cover, but I was pleasantly surprised after the first few laps around the turntable.
“Country Life,” which marks Roxy Music’s fourth studio album, is a glam record of its own genre, if I can even call it a glam record, and is much more than just an artsy fashion ad, to which the cover art not-so-subtley implies. Like most of the glam records that came out of England in the 1970s, Roxy Music sounds completely New York, littered with the kind of swagger and flash you only find on Lou Reed solo records…and then some. Clearly, David Bowie, Pink Floyd and The Velvet Underground have obvious influences on this record, like on the opening track “The Thrill Of It All,” with the sounds of rocket launching horns and delicate piano. Yet at the same time, Ferry and company makes the band sound as though they could have influenced those aforementioned bands, instead, which could very well be the case.
Ferry croons his way through the record like an entertaining, English Gatsby-like character, a chap looking for danger, drinks, and the embrace of a late-night companion without care, like the track “Three and Nine” suggests. What’s definite about this album is that it sounds 1970s, and at the same time, sounds timeless, as well. Sex, drugs, wealth, blues and loneliness have and will always be universal themes in rock music, and Roxy Music takes these themes to a stylishly new high. The layered instrumentation alone on the track “Out Of The Blue” puts the record somewhere in 1960s psychedelia or 1,000 light years ahead of their time.
“Country Life” has some really stellar stand-out tracks, such as “Bitter Sweet”, a Brechtian like waltz a la Lou Reed’s “Berlin”, “Casanova” and “All I Want Is You,” with the record shining well beyond the eye candy of the sexy cover art.
Overall, the album is a unique exercise in 1970s decadence, one that is obviously a precursor to 1980s nouveaux-riche American and European decadent culture. Just think ‘Miami Vice’ for starters. Regardless of taste, ”Country Life” is a fine and sophisticated record you’ll want in your record collection, as well as one you’ll want to play over and over. It might be worth be checking out the rest of their catalog, too.