FROM THE VAULT: 1982
Less dissonant than Siren, richer than Flesh+Blood and more soulful than Manifesto - Avalon has always held a special place in the hearts of Roxy Music fans. And it's a good reminder that - Bryan Ferry's golden larynx aside - the studio was essentially the band's key instrument (even years after Brian Eno's 1973 departure).
Who can help wondering if there's ever been a more skilfully mixed fadeout than the last magical minute of opening cut More Than This: luminous keyboards, synths spiraling around like stray ions, and a robotic percussion track, all weaving together in terminal splendour. It's a spooky harbinger of the title track, whose haunting lush beauty may sound overwrought to some 21st-century ears, but that's the way Arthurian epics go. And high in the mix, Phil Manzanera's guitar-work never sounded better.
There are a few duff tracks, for example the turgid India, but for what became the group's swan-song, Avalon holds up well.
Above all, it's the album on which Ferry's emotional input finally matches the group's immaculate soundscapes. Ferry (above) recaptured some of Avalon's sumptuous sheen for his subsequent solo effort Bete Noire, before a grimly inevitable slide into the fading crooner's middle age: the cover version years.
But back in 1982 he was on top of the game - and proving that the artist for whom the term 'lounge lizard' was created was warm-blooded after all.