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Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Roxy Music "More Than This" Song Analysis

A reader called "Noise" asked for a song analysis from Roxy Music's seminal album Avalon, so I decided that the big hit from the album, "More Than This," would be a good choice. Avalon was the band's seventh and final record, but they went out with an album that Rolling Stone rated as #31 of the 100 greatest albums of the 80's. The album was produced by Rhett Davies and engineered by the incomparable Bob Clearmountain (it's a crime that he's never won a Grammy). As with all song analysis, we'll look at the song form, the arrangement, the sound and the production.

The Song
The form of "More Than This" is interesting because there's not much to it. It looks like this:

Intro, Verse, Chorus, Verse, Chorus, Chorus, Verse, Verse, Verse, Verse

After the third chorus, the verse enters again and repeats instrumentally. There's never a vocal after that. You almost get the feeling that they ran out of lyrics or ideas for the song after 2:34 when the vocal stops.

The Arrangement
The arrangement of the song is wonderfully 80's, in that it's well layered with lots of elements.

  * The Foundation: Bass and drums

  * The Pad: The synthesizer playing string parts.

  * The Rhythm: A stereo guitar line, shaker

  * The Lead: The vocal supported by a synth line, then later the synth playing the lead line by itself

  * The Fills: The fills constantly change from synth to guitar fills that never repeat

The best thing about the arrangement is it's so layered and varied. The synth strings support the vocal and the fills change from section to section.

The Sound
Once again the sound is wonderfully layered using different ambient textures. Some verbs are long, others are lush and others are short, while you hear timed delays on the guitars. especially like how all the guitars sound different from one another yet never get in each other's way. While the toms sound huge and have a great tone, the kick, drums and bass are somewhat small compared to the rest of the mix, although it works well in this song.

The Production
The production on "More Than This" is pretty typical of what you'd find in the 80's with a lot of different parts and layers. Again, listen to all the guitar parts, as sometimes there's 3 or 4 happening at once, yet they all manage to live together without stepping on each other. Also notice that most of the guitar parts are single note, and not chords. The tambourine on beat 4 of every other measure and the shaker for motion are both nice touches. Also listen to how the vocal in the verse alternates between being doubled and just a single lead.

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