New Musical Express MAY 12, 1973 - by Tony Stewart


The Golden Rose Festival in Montreux, Switzerland, managed to gather an impressive array of artistes over its three day run. It's pretty good to be able to see people as Focus, Stone The Crows and Roxy Music as a side-stall entertainment during the television competition. So once again the question arises: Why in hell can't the British networks get something similar together? Or are most interested parties under the illusion British concert-goers prefer sleeping in fields and hiding under Woolworth's plastic bags - while rain has, once again, stopped play. God, it's about time they realised there's nothing like comfy seats and central heating.

The music at Montreux was certainly good. Perhaps, not quite all of it would set the world on fire, the major disappointment being the performance of Johnny Rivers and the LA Boogie Band. But before we come to the reviews, I'd just like to relate a little story. The weekend had gone extremely well, with the pleasant sort of atmosphere generated between fellow countrymen - when out in Europe. That is, until Roxy Music stepped in on the Sunday. The Friday previously the kind Jo Lustig had coordinated a reception for his lad Ralph McTell, a foreign group, and Roxy. This was basically a crafty deal between a couple of recording companies to have a booze-up and meal. Persons connected with Roxy tried their hardest to put McTell off being there, and they nearly succeeded. Okay, Roxy blew the gaff open with their set. But they're not bloody Gods - just people. Like Ralph. And the wheeling and dealing which went on stank. Stank.

McTell himself played one of his finest sets on the Friday evening. Perhaps due to fatigue he was more relaxed than usual. Just with acoustic guitar accompaniment to his fine voice he came across strongly. On the same show came perhaps one of the biggest hypes since Heinz Beanz in the form of a vocal duo called The Olsens. Around the town we'd noticed stickers declaring they're in the mode of Simon & Garfunkel. Tweeting tweeters would be a better description of their mundane music, which was presented with an uncohesive rhythm section. One was on acoustic guitar, the other on hand percussion, and both were on vocals: little to justify the programme declaration: There were no limits to the expectations from the Olsen Brothers. A later paragraph read: At a recent concert in Tivoli in Copenhagen... no less than 30,000 people passed through the turnstiles. Which way? As I've said, Johnny Rivers (remember The Castaways?) didn't happen. It's a Boogie Band by name and by nature, but their music lacked any real drive - though the ability of Jack Conrad - a bass player of some talent who played with The Doors - was noted.

SATURDAY: a bookie could have set up office in the main hall and earned himself quite a few bob on the speculation to who was going to blow who off the stage. Would the great Roy Buchanan equal the performance on his last set, Second Album? Or maybe Maggie Bell and Stone The Crows would prove nitty air-pushing rock 'n' roll is the best thing? Will Focus thrash the lot? I'd have put my money on Focus - so I'm glad there was no betting. Take a bow, Miss Bell and boys, you slammed home just how good you are. Buchanan and his small band appeared first and, I'll reiterate, he's one of the greatest guitar talents alive. Superlatives are ineffective when describing the feeling he possesses, and my only advice is to go and see him. Sadly his selection of material did mar the act, until Sweet Dreams. After about five numbers I could feel my ass slipping in the seat. The blues were fine, but too much of it spreads a feeling of lethargy. The Crows were on form though. It's a bit of a needle considering they have not yet received their true recognition. Maggie sang like a demon. Perhaps her finest delivery came with Penicillin Blues, but there were others, too.

Focus came on, complained about the sound (quite rightly) left, and then returned for a set. Good, as always, but without any magnificence. They tried hard and did admirably considering the problems they had to suffer. Sunday also saw some pretty remarkable music. Tir Na Nog with their airy acoustic numbers were fair. Mama Lion, who replaced The Kinks, were moderately bad, though I've seen worse. And when the fond memory of such a singer as Maggie Bell still lingers, Lynn Carey ain't even a runner-up.

It was Roxy's day, and just about their festival. Even after leaving the stage and then with the audience waiting over an hour for Lion to do their sound check, the calls when they were seated again, came for Roxy. Okay, it's visually rock n roll glamourdrag, but the music... ooh. As they kicked off into Do The Strand the audience were transfixed. Roxy tend to steal the breath right out of your body. Finding a description of their music is a difficult task. Bryan Ferry's music and lyrics are as outrageous (from a sense of originality) as are Eno's dabblings with his electronic devices.

I've been rather cynical about Roxy before because their albums just don't reek like the stage act. They're slightly more-than-competent musicians with flashes of sheer blinding genius individually. Perhaps the only criticism which could be levelled at them is that song structures are frequently overworked, and sag like a ninety-foot rope right in the middle.