Avalon (Roxy Music album)

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Avalon
Studio album by Roxy Music
Released May 1982 (LP)
September 1983 (CD)
Recorded 1981–1982, Compass Point Studios, Nassau; The Power Station, Manhattan, New York
Genre Art rock, pop rock, new wave
Length 37:31
Label Warner Bros./E.G.
Producer Rhett Davies and Roxy Music
Roxy Music chronology
Flesh + Blood
(1980)
Avalon
(1982)
The High Road
(1983)
Singles from Avalon
  1. "More Than This"
    Released: April 1982 (1982-04)
  2. "Avalon"
    Released: June 1982 (June 1982)
  3. "Take a Chance with Me"
    Released: September 1982

Avalon, released in 1982, is Roxy Music's eighth (and, to date, last) studio album. Recorded in 1981–82 at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, it is generally regarded as the culmination of the smoother, more adult-oriented sound of the band's later work. It was a huge commercial success, hitting No. 1 in the UK (for 3 weeks) and staying on the album charts for over a year. Although it only climbed as high as No. 53, Avalon is notable as the band's only platinum record in the US. The lush arrangements and synthesizer-drenched sound of Avalon later found its way onto Bryan Ferry's solo album Boys and Girls (1985).

A single, "More Than This," preceded the album and was a hit in Britain (#6), Australia (#6) and most European countries (#2 in Norway, No. 6 in Switzerland, No. 8 in France, No. 17 in Sweden, No. 24 in Germany & The Netherlands, No. 32 in Italy). Although a chart failure in the US, the song was popular on the college radio circuit. It is unusual for a pop song in that Ferry's vocal ends at 2.45 minutes, leaving the last 1.45 minutes as a synth-driven instrumental. It has since become regarded as a classic Roxy Music song. In 1997, a cover of "More Than This" performed by 10,000 Maniacs with the lead singer Mary Ramsey became a US hit when it reached 25 on US Hot 100.

The title track was released as the album's second single and also became a UK Top 20 hit. A third extract, "Take a Chance With Me," with a remixed version of album track "The Main Thing" on the b-side, reached UK No. 26 and was Roxy Music's last UK hit single. The extended remix of "The Main Thing" is only available on the 1995 box set, The Thrill of It All. New York DJ duo Rub N Tug released an official dance remix in early 2007.

The music video for the single "Avalon" was directed by Howard Guard in Mentmore Towers country house and features Sophie Ward.

Cover artwork[edit]

Bryan Ferry's girlfriend (and soon-to-be wife) Lucy Helmore appeared on the album cover (designed by Peter Saville[1]) wearing a medieval helmet and carrying a falcon, evoking King Arthur's last journey to the mysterious land of Avalon and continuing the tradition for Roxy Music albums to feature images of women on the cover artwork (though perhaps less apparently than previous albums).

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 5/5 stars[2]
Rolling Stone 4.5/5 stars[3]
Robert Christgau A−[4]
Pitchfork Media 8/10[5]

In 1989, the album was ranked No. 31 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "The 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s". In 1993, Entertainment Weekly included the CD as No. 25 in their 100 Greatest CDs A Love-It-Or-Loathe-It Guide to the Essential Disc Library.[6] In 2003, the album was ranked number 307 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Avalon is the highest entry of four Roxy Music albums that made the list (Siren, For Your Pleasure and Country Life being the others). In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 45 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s".[7] In the 1982 Pazz & Jop Critics Poll done by the Village Voice, Avalon was voted the 11th best album of 1982.[8]

The album has consistently been praised by rock critics. Reviewing the album in Rolling Stone, Kurt Loder wrote "Avalon takes a long time to kick in, but it finally does, and it's a good one. Bryan Ferry stars as a remarkably expressive keyboard player and singer whose familiar mannerisms are subsumed in a rich, benevolent self-assurance. And reed man Andy Mackay shines in a series of cameos (his oboe meditation on Ferry's "Tara" is particularly lovely). Ten years after its debut, Roxy Music has mellowed: the occasional stark piano chords in "While My Heart Is Still Beating," for example, recall the stately mood of "A Song for Europe," but the sound is softer, dreamier and less determinedly dramatic now. Ferry's songwriting, however, has seldom seemed stronger."[9]

Mark Coleman in the Rolling Stone Album Guide gave the record 4 and half stars out of 5 and wrote; "this austere, beautiful set of songs represents a mature peak. The controlled chaotic edge of the early albums is completely gone, and cofounders Manzanera and Mackay provide only skeletal guitar and sax lines. Ferry fills in the details, creating layered synth landscapes around his tragic scenarios and melodic ruminations. Avalon's pervasive influence on the British pop scene of the '80s can't be overstated. Roxy Music's stature is even further enhanced by the absence of a latter-day comeback album. So far, anyway."[10] The Spin Alternative Record Guide rated Avalon nine out of ten: "1982's Avalon remains one of the all-time great makeout infernos, a synthesized version of Al Green's Call Me, Van Morrison's Moondance, and João Gilberto's Amoroso."[11]

2003 surround-sound remix[edit]

In 2003, Virgin reissued Avalon on Hybrid Super Audio CD with a new 5.1-channel surround sound remix by the original production team of Rhett Davies (the producer) and Bob Clearmountain (the mixing engineer). The original 1982 stereo mix is left intact and is the same for the CD layer and for the HD layer, allegedly being transferred from analogue master tapes to DSD and processed in DSD throughout the process. The surround part of the HD layer includes the full album in the original running order plus the bonus track "Always Unknowing", whose original stereo mix is only available on CD on the 4-CD boxed set "The Thrill of It All" and in the 2012 complete recordings box set.

Except for "India," the short instrumental piece whose original multi-track tape had been lost, all tracks in the surround mix were remixed from multi-track sources, as opposed to two-channel stereo mixes being 'upmixed' to 5.1 as in some DVD-Video releases. For "India," the stereo mix is panned clockwise a few times as the piece is being played, which ends in the rear right channel, from which the saxophone begins the next piece, "While My Heart Is Still Beating," making up for "India" not being a fully-fledged surround recording. The surround mix has roughly the same running times as the ten tracks present in the stereo mix. The main difference is in the stereo image being 360-degrees wide, as opposed to a front image plus rear ambiance, and the levels at which various tracks from the multi-track are mixed into the multi-channel mix. For instance, the guitar parts in "The Main Thing" and "Take a Chance With Me" are noticeably more prominent in the multi-channel mix than in the stereo mix. Guitar, saxophone, synthesizer, and percussion parts are often placed in the rear part of the sound field, while lead vocals tend to stick to the front centre, as opposed to being mixed in dual-mono in front left and right like in the somewhat traditional 2.0 stereo mixing.

In an interview with Sound on Sound regarding the surround-sound remix of Avalon, Clearmountain stated "This record probably means more to me than anything I've ever done. I've had more comments and compliments on this album by far than anything else I've ever done."[12]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written by Bryan Ferry except as noted.

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "More than This"   4:30
2. "The Space Between"   4:30
3. "Avalon"   4:16
4. "India"   1:44
5. "While My Heart Is Still Beating" (Ferry, Andy Mackay) 3:26
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "The Main Thing"   3:54
2. "Take a Chance with Me" (Ferry, Phil Manzanera) 4:42
3. "To Turn You On"   4:16
4. "True to Life"   4:25
5. "Tara" (Ferry, Mackay) 1:43

Personnel[edit]

Additional personnel
Production
  • Peter Revill - Assistant producer
  • Ian Little - Assistant producer
  • Benjamin Arbiter - Assistant producer
  • Barry Bongiovi - Assistant producer
  • Colin Good - Assistant producer
Engineering

Singles[edit]

  • "More Than This" (March 1982) (#6 UK) (#6 AUS)
  • "Avalon" / "Always Unknowing" (June 1982) (#13 UK) (#22 AUS)
  • "Take a Chance With Me" / "The Main Thing (Remix)" (September 1982) (#26 UK)

Chart positions[edit]

Year Chart Peak
Position
1982 Australian Kent Music Report Albums Chart 1
1982 Canadian RPM Top 50 Albums Chart[13] 1
1982 UK Albums Chart 1
1982 Billboard 200 53

Avalon in popular culture[edit]

Preceded by
Complete Madness by Madness
UK Albums Chart number one album
5 June 1982
19 June 1982 – 26 June 1982
Succeeded by
Complete Madness by Madness
The Lexicon of Love by ABC
Preceded by
Rio by Duran Duran
Australian Kent Music Report number-one album
12 July 1982 – 26 July 1982
Succeeded by
Sons of Beaches by Australian Crawl

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.petersaville.info/sleeves/1982-1984.html
  2. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "allmusic ((( Avalon > Review )))". Allmusic. Retrieved 17 March 2010. 
  3. ^ Brackett, Nathan. "Roxy Music". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. November 2004. pg. 705, cited 17 March 2010
  4. ^ Christgau, Robert. "Roxy Music". robertchristgau.com, Retrieved on 17 March 2010.
  5. ^ Tom Ewing. "The Complete Studio Records 1972–1982". Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 10 August 2013. 
  6. ^ http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20462324,00.html
  7. ^ http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/feature/best-albums-of-the-1980s/308/page_6
  8. ^ http://www.robertchristgau.com/xg/pnj/pjres82.php
  9. ^ http://www.rollingstone.com/music/albumreviews/avalon-19820610
  10. ^ DeCurtis, Anthony (Ed.). "Roxy Music". Rolling Stone Album Guide. 1992. pg. 607
  11. ^ Weisbard, Eric. "Roxy Music". Spin Alternative Record Guide. October 1995. pg. 337
  12. ^ "Recording & Remixing Roxy Music's Avalon". Sound On Sound. Retrieved 1 July 2014. 
  13. ^ http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/rpm/028020-119.01-e.php?&file_num=nlc008388.6554&type=1&interval=20&PHPSESSID=nr3948gv50imhll74mk29cstk4