Avalon (Roxy Music album)

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Avalon
Avalon album cover.jpg
Studio album by
Released28 May 1982
Recorded1981–1982
Studio Compass Point Studios, Nassau; The Power Station, Manhattan, New York
Genre
Length37:31
Label E.G. Records/Polydor
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
  2. "Avalon"
    Released: June 1982
  3. "Take a Chance with Me"
    Released: September 1982

Avalon is the eighth and final studio album by English rock band Roxy Music. Released in May 1982, it was recorded in 1981–82 at Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and is generally regarded as the culmination of the smoother, more adult-oriented sound of the band's later work. It was the band's most successful studio album, reaching No. 1 in the UK (for 3 weeks) and staying on the album charts for over a year. Although it only peaked at No. 53 in the United States, Avalon endured as a sleeper hit and became the band's only million-selling record in that country, ultimately receiving a RIAA platinum certification.

Contents

The first single, "More Than This", preceded the album and was a Top 10 hit in Britain, Australia, and several European countries. The title track was released as the album's second single and also became a UK Top 20 hit. A third release, "Take a Chance With Me" (with a remixed version of album track "The Main Thing" on the B-side) reached the UK Top 30 and Roxy Music's last UK hit single to date. In the United States, "More Than This" (No. 103) and "Take a Chance With Me" (No. 104) narrowly missed the American Top 100.

Background and production

Bryan Ferry started working on the material for Avalon while staying at Crumlin Lodge on the west coast of Ireland. Ferry was there with his girlfriend, Lucy Helmore, who would become his wife in 1983. The album cover artwork featured the same lough (lake) that can be seen from the lodge. [2] Phil Manzanera has said about the making of the record "By the time you get to Avalon, 90 per cent of it was being written in the studio. That album was a product of completely changing our working methods," adding "for the last three albums, quite frankly, there were a lot more drugs around as well, which was good and bad. It created a lot of paranoia and a lot of spaced-out stuff." [3] Bryan Ferry said "I've often thought I should do an album where the songs are all bound together in the style of West Side Story, but it's always seemed like too much bother to work that way. So instead, I have these 10 poems, or short stories, that could, with a bit more work, be fashioned into a novel. Avalon is part of the King Arthur legend and is a very romantic thing, when King Arthur dies, the Queens ferry him off to Avalon, which is sort of an enchanted island. It's the ultimate romantic fantasy place.” [4]

Phil Manzanera has said of the title track, "Avalon", "When we were recording the third or fourth album in London we'd often be working in the same studio as Bob Marley, who'd be downstairs doing all of those famous albums. It just had to rub off somewhere." [5] Rhett Davies recounted the story of how the song got made: "With the 'Avalon' song we had to recut the entire song right at the end of the album. We were actually mixing the album, and the version of the song that we'd done just wasn't working out, so as we were mixing we recut the entire song with a completely different groove. We finished it off the last weekend we were mixing. We put some percussion on and some drums on, and then on the Sunday, in the quiet studio time they used to let local bands come in to do demos, Bryan and I popped out for a coffee, and we heard a girl singing in the studio next door. It was a Haitian band that had come in to do some demos, and Bryan and I just looked at each other and went 'What a fantastic voice!' That turned out to be Yanick Étienne, who sang all the high stuff on 'Avalon'. She didn't speak a word of English. Her boyfriend, who was the band's manager, came in and translated. And then the next day we mixed it." [6]

Artwork

The artwork for the album was designed by Peter Saville. [7] Although less visually obvious than it had been with past releases, Avalon continued the tradition for Roxy Music albums to feature images of women on the cover artwork. Bryan Ferry's girlfriend (and soon to be wife) Lucy Helmore appeared on the album cover wearing a medieval helmet with a falcon perched on her gloved hand, evoking King Arthur's last journey to the mysterious land of Avalon. The artwork design was created on Transparency film with retouching by John Abbott at TRP SLAVIN in Chenies Street, W1, now the RADA Building.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
SourceRating
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [8]
Mojo Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [9]
Pitchfork 8.0/10 [10]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [11]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [12]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar half.svg [13]
Smash Hits 8/10 [14]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 9/10 [15]
Uncut Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg [16]
The Village Voice A− [17]

In The Village Voice 's 1982 Pazz & Jop critics' poll, Avalon was voted the 11th-best album of the year. [18] In 1989, the album was ranked No. 31 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of "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. [19] In 2000 it was voted number 187 in Colin Larkin's All Time Top 1000 Albums . [20] 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 at No. 371, Country Life at No. 387 and For Your Pleasure at No. 394 being the others); Avalon and Country Life were dropped from the 2012 revision, but Avalon was re-included on the 2020 revision at No. 336. In 2012, Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 45 on its list of "Best Albums of the 1980s". [21]

The album has consistently been praised by 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." [12]

Mark Coleman in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide gave the record four-and-a-half stars out of five, 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." [22] 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 ." [15]

2003 surround-sound remix

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 Roxy Music Complete Recordings boxed 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 track plays, 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." [23]

Track listing

All tracks are written by Bryan Ferry, except where noted.

Side one
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."More Than This" 4:30
2."The Space Between" 4:30
3."Avalon" 4:16
4."India" (instrumental) 1:44
5."While My Heart Is Still Beating"3:26
Side two
No.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."The Main Thing" 3:54
2."Take a Chance with Me"4:42
3."To Turn You On" 4:16
4."True to Life" 4:25
5."Tara" (instrumental)
  • Ferry
  • Mackay
1:43
Total length:37:31

Personnel

Track numbering refers to CD and digital releases of the album.

Roxy Music

Additional personnel

Production

Singles

Chart performance

Certifications and sales

RegionCertification Certified units/sales
Canada (Music Canada) [41] Platinum100,000^
France (SNEP) [42] Gold379,600 [43]
Germany (BVMI) [44] Gold250,000^
Netherlands (NVPI) [45] Platinum100,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ) [46] Platinum15,000^
Spain (PROMUSICAE) [47] Gold50,000^
United Kingdom (BPI) [48] Platinum300,000^
United States (RIAA) [49] Platinum1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.

Related Research Articles

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