Side One: Mint Minus Minus
Side Two: Mint Minus Minus (on the quieter end of this play grade)
- You'll find insanely good Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) grades on both sides of this early pressing of Roxy's Art Rock classic from 1975
- The sound here is incredibly rich and full-bodied with a ton of bottom end weight, much less grain, and much more Tubey Magic than every other copy we played it against
- Some of Bryan Ferry's strongest and most consistent songwriting - Love Is The Drug, End of the Line, Sentimental Fool and more
- 5 stars: "Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrates on Bryan Ferry's suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren."
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Siren is one of our favorite Roxy albums, right up there with the first album and well ahead of the commercially appealing Avalon. After reading a rave review in Rolling Stone of the album back in 1975 I took the plunge, bought a copy at my local Tower Records and instantly fell in love with it.
As is my wont, I then proceeded to work my way through their earlier catalog, which was quite an adventure. It takes scores of plays to understand where the band is coming from on the early albums and what it is they're trying to do. Now I listen to each of the first five releases on a regular basis. Even after more than thirty years the band's music never seems to get old. That seems to be true of a lot of the records from the era that we offer on our site. Otherwise, how could we charge so much money for them?
What the best sides of Siren have to offer is not hard to hear:
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange -- with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio
No doubt there's more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
The Best Copies Rock
The best copies are fairly transparent and mostly grain-free, with full-bodied vocals and lively sound. There are lots of "spacey' effects on side one, and "spacey" effects rather unsurprisingly need lots of space within which to operate, so the more open the pressing, and the more ambience-resolving it is, the better, as long as it's tonally correct: neither bright nor thin.
Of all the Roxy albums (with the exception of Avalon) this is probably the best way "in" to the band's music. The earlier albums are more raucous, the later ones more rhythmically driven -- Siren catches them at their peak, with, as other reviewers have noted, all good songs and no bad ones.
What We're Listening For on Siren
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next -- wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information -- fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness common to most LPs.
- Tight, note-like bass with clear fingering -- which ties in with good transient information, as well as the issue of frequency extension further down.
- Next: transparency -- the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the players.
- Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren't "back there" somewhere, way behind the speakers. They're front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt -- Steve Nye in the case -- would have put them.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing -- an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Imports? Not So Fast
The British and German copies of Siren are clearly made from dubbed tapes and sound smeary, small and lifeless.
To be fair, Siren has never impressed us as an exceptionally good sounding recording. Like other middle period Roxy, records such as Country Life and Manifesto (the albums just before and after), it simply does not have Demo Disc analog sound the way For Your Pleasure, Stranded or the eponymous first album do (the latter two being the best sounding in their catalog).
One would be tempted to assume that the import pressings of Siren would be better sounding, the way the imports of the first four Roxy albums are clearly better sounding. There has never been a domestic Hot Stamper pressing of any of those titles and, since we never buy them or play them, there probably never will be.
But in the case of Siren it's the imports that are made from dubs. It may be a British band, recorded in British studios with a British producer, but the British pressed LPs are clearly made from sub-generation tapes, whereas the domestic copies sound like they're made from the real masters.
Go Figure. And another thing: when it comes to records, never assume.
The typical domestic pressing is flat, bass-shy and opaque, sounding more like compressed cardboard than analog vinyl. Unsurprisingly, the CD, whether imported or produced domestically, is clean and clear and tonally correct but lacks the warmth and richness of the better vinyl pressings.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don't have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that's certainly your prerogative, but we can't imagine losing what's good about this music -- the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight -- just to hear it with less background noise.
Love Is the Drug
End of the Line
Could It Happen to Me?
Both Ends Burning
Just Another High
Abandoning the intoxicating blend of art rock and glam-pop that distinguished Stranded and Country Life, Roxy Music concentrates on Bryan Ferry's suave, charming crooner persona for the elegantly modern Siren. As the disco-fied opener "Love Is the Drug" makes clear, Roxy embraces dance and unabashed pop on Siren, weaving them into their sleek, arty sound.
It does come at the expense of their artier inclinations, which is part of what distinguished Roxy, but the end result is captivating. Lacking the consistently amazing songs of its predecessor, Siren has a thematic consistency that works in its favor, and helps elevate its best songs — "Sentimental Fool," "Both Ends Burning," "Just Another High" — as well as the album itself into the realm of classics.
It's a superb album, striking the listener immediately with a force and invention reserved only for the most special musical experiences. The overall sound, while never lacking the essential characteristics one associates with Roxy, is less dense and ornate than much of its predecessor. There's a crispness and vitality in Chris Thomas' production which is reminiscent of the sense of adventure and cavalier spirit which marked their early recordings, an impetuosity which has lately been absent from their work.
Successive Rolling Stone Record Guides have given it five-star reviews.
The 1983 edition states: "Siren's title is appropriate; it has that sort of effect on the listener. It is Roxy's masterpiece, calling the listener back by virtue of its finely honed instrumental attack and compelling lyrical attitude. "Love is the Drug," Roxy's nearest approximation to an American hit single, set the scene of transitory love in a plastic world, while "She Sells" and "Sentimental Fool" pictured the participants in the charade as simultaneously pathetic and heroic".
The 1992 edition says "On Siren Roxy perfects its suave attack". In the fourth edition "Siren is smoother; it's the first Roxy Music album without any failed moments."
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