(All Album Reviews by JJ)
Manifesto was Roxy Music's 'comeback' album. There had been a hiatus period in 1975 as the band concentrated on solo projects, before reconvening at the tail end of the punk/new wave explosion and just prior to the next big British subculture, the new romantics. There are elements of all these styles on the album, whether intentional or not, and the result is a slightly patchy yet worthwhile album.
For me, the first half of the album, dubbed the 'East Side', is generally better than the 2nd and more in tune with the Roxy of old given a spit-and-polish to bring them up to date. I say 'generally', as I always found the faux-punk of “Trash” to be thoroughly unconvincing and a very curious choice of first single from the album, and it flopped accordingly.
However, all is well elsewhere on the first side. The title track is the best thing here, having a warped funk feel reminiscent of The Walker Brothers' “Nite Flights” from the previous year, whilst Bryan Ferry's sudden, unexpected appearance some two minutes into the track is very dramatic and effective. Ferry's vocals are utterly compelling, and the result is a minor masterpiece comparable with their best work on earlier albums.
It's not a one track album; this album version of “Angel Eyes” is considerably different to the more disco-flavoured single version, with Phil Manzanera's power chords providing guts and Paul Thompson's powerhouse drumming adding a rockier feel to the track. The bittersweet, Berlin-era Bowie stylings of “Still Falls The Rain” and the menacing “Stronger Through The Years” uphold the standard, too.
The second half of the album dubbed the 'West Side' is distressingly lightweight at times, however. The triumvirate of “Ain't That So”, “My Little Girl” and “Cry Cry Cry” serves to reinforce the influence that Roxy Music had on the new romantic movement in that they predict the flimsy grooves of Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran.
“Dance Away” shines out from most of this material, having a danceability and a very catchy hook that meant it was a guaranteed hit single, if some way from their artier early 70s sounds, it's certainly the track which is closest to their subsequent direction. Of this 'West Side', arguably only “Spin Me Round” is comparable to their earlier sound, with its sense of slightly weary decadence harking back to triumphs like “Casanova” and “Bitter-Sweet”, whilst the memorable extended coda that reminds one of For Your Pleasure.
All in all, this is a rather inconsistent album, but has more than its fair share of classic tracks. Though Avalon is arguably the best of the reformation albums, Manifesto probably has more to offer for fans of the band's first five albums.