The best of Roxy music was CD-only and now reappears as a double album to coincide with the band’s 50th anniversary shows, currently underway in the United States. UK dates start in October. Between the shows of 2001 and what’s on the agenda for this year, there were tours in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2010 and 2011. The current American performances presented an unsurprising set list: nothing unexpected has not been played. Not a re-make or a re-model then.
While it’s predictable to release something to mark the new shows, the unimaginative return of The best of Roxy music Raises questions. Is what was defined as the best-of in 2001 the same as what could be chosen in 2022? Nevertheless, here it is – a collection sequencing his tracks in reverse chronological order of their release dates. Ten are from the band’s purple period from 1972 to 1976 (six feature the Eno line-up) and eight are from when they came back from 1979 to 1983. That’s mostly what was on the single, but there’s some album tracks.
Beyond being on vinyl, the selling point is mid-speed mastering. It sounds punchy and open, but lacks the appealing compression that helped define the impact and punch of the original singles “Virginia Plain”, “Pyjamarama”, “All I Want is You” and “Both Ends Burning”. It is pressed by GZ Media of the Czech Republic. An indefinite number – “limited”, according to the promotional material – of copies are on yellow vinyl rather than black.
As for questions, another is what this is mastered from. Nothing is said about this on the cover of the disc or in the promotional material, so it’s a safe bet that the audio source is the master compiled for the CD release of 2001. As for what is offered , the promotional bump states that the album has “restored and improved artwork, lyrics and has been remastered at mid-speed by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios”. No clue about the audio source. It is important.
So in all likelihood what is being heard reuses a digital master from 2001. If so, the original tapes were not used – the contemporary tapes of what was originally released; the master tapes for “Re-Make/Re-Model”, “Virginia Plain”, “Pyjamarama” and so on up to track 1, “Avalon”.
Another question then comes into play. Digital mastering must have developed between 2001 and 2022. Are there limits to the audio of the new The best of Roxy music that are inherent in its source? In 2001, the CD tracks were annotated as “1999 Digital Remaster” or, for “Jealous Guy” only, “2000 Digital Remaster”. Does what currently sells for around £34 come from digital masters created 22 or 23 years ago?
While much of the above is conjecture, there remains a reasonable chance that the original master tapes for each of the 18 tracks on the new vinyl The best of Roxy music were not used in its manufacture. However, it sounds great and much of the music is some of the best generated by a British band. Nothing will ever dull the thrill of feeling, say, “Both ends are burning.” As the years go by, “Virginia Plain’s” debt to motorik is more and more intriguing – the first Neu! the album was released before “Virginia Plain”. And no matter what you buy, the best of Roxy Music is unbeatable.