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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Explorers - "Explorers" Vinyl, LP, Album, 1985

What would Roxy Music sound like without Bryan Ferry?  The Explorers are the answer to that question.  It's a band that made only one album, and it included Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay from  Roxy Music. James Wraith is the vocalist for this band, and if I'm not mistaken the other musicians on this album also played in the Roxy Music format.  When Bryan Ferry got himself in the recording of "Boys and Girls" after their iconic nod to the smooth pop world of "Avalon," Phil and Andy made their move with The Explorers.  

Listening to the album, I can imagine some of these songs being Roxy Music material.  One can easily imagine Ferry taking over the vocals of Wraith.  In fact, Wraith, here and there, sounds like a Ferry imitator.  Or perhaps he was instructed by Manzanera and Mackay to do so.  In that sense, the songs here sound like demos for a future Roxy Music album.  "Explorers" is not the worse album in the world, but it's a weak record.  On the other hand, it's interesting to hear the Roxy textures that are on these recordings.  As I have stated before, Manzanera and Mackay are very much the sound of Roxy Music, and it's not all Bryan Ferry.  

There are three excellent songs here, that would fit perfectly in a Roxy project.  They are "Lorelei," "Breath of Life," and "Venus De Milo" (and no, it's not the Television song).  These songs are right in the middle of side one, which thinks gives hope for side two.  Alas, that's not the case.  The other disturbing aspect of this album is that Phil and Andy don't leap over the fence like they did with respect to their first solo albums.   One of the things I loved about Mackay's first solo album that it was a crazed mixture of Joe Meek sounds, with a degree of camp thrown in - and Manzanera's "Diamond Head" is a great mix of Latin/pop/prog/avant-garde touches.  "Explorers" unlike that very name, is a band playing it safe in the mid-80s.  It's a shame that they went for a commercial sound than something experimental and wild.  In fact, it's shocking that those two didn't forge ahead in making sounds that maybe similar to Eno or even David Sylvian of that time.   If you're a Roxy Music completest and must fill that missing hole in their history, then, by all means, do get the album.  As mentioned there are some highlights, but it's like a human being looking for water in Death Valley.