In the 1980s cassette tapes were primarily bought for playing on car stereo systems. So unless you spent an awful lot of time in a car by yourself, the cassettes that were played most frequently tended to be the ones that everyone agreed about. Even though I loved The Teardrop Explodes and John Foxx and The Human League I had a hard time convincing all of my fellow passengers of their obvious merits. I seemed to have no such problems with Spandau Ballet's 'True' or Roxy Music's 'Flesh + Blood' so we played these two cassettes to within an inch and a half of their respective lives.
Now I know that 'Flesh + Blood' is not the greatest album ever made, and God knows it's certainly nowhere near Roxy Music's best offering, but the sheer number of plays that it received in the presence of friends makes it quite a special one for me. It's also our cassette of the day today. Sadly the age of this tape, combined with frequent, repeated plays results in Bryan sounding slightly more 'warbly' than nature (or co-producer Rhett Davies) originally intended.
It's fair to say that the process started on 'Manifesto' which sees Roxy Music morphing into Bryan Ferry and his band continues apace here, with all of the rough edges that were so gloriously present on earlier Roxy Music albums deliberately sanded down, french-polished and buffed to a very high gloss. For the first time on a Roxy Music album there are a couple of cover versions, Wilson Pickett's 'In the midnight hour', which opens the album, and The Byrds' 'Eight miles high' tucked away on side 2. Both are pleasant re-workings that add nothing to the originals, and I don't think I'm doing anyone an injustice to consider them as filler.
Elsewhere, however, there are some very fine (if slightly over-polished) tunes, and if the slow, lingering closers on side 2 'No strange delight' and 'Running wild' might have struggled to make the first two Roxy albums I don't think I'm overstretching it to suggest that they might have held their own on 'Siren' or 'Stranded'.
But the best, and most crowd-pleasing to a 1980s car-full, are the brilliant 'Over you' and the Radio 2 favourite 'Oh yeah', which is a track about a track (which could also be called 'Oh yeah') being played on the radio.
Many doubted at the time that it was possible to make an album that was slicker, more polished, more grown-up, more dinner party with a hostess trolley than 'Flesh + Blood'. The release of 'Avalon' two years later just goes to show how wrong many people can be.
Listen out too for Gary Tibbs just passing through on his way to fame, fortune and make-up with Adam and the Ants..
Label – Polydor/EG
Year – 1980
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