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Music Review: Bryan Ferry – Olympia

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Written by Caballero Oscuro

Ever wonder what happened to the long-rumored new album from Roxy Music? Wonder no longer, as it appears that the limited results of that effort have been repurposed here on lead singer Bryan Ferry’s latest solo album. After a recording hiatus of nearly 30 years, and nearly 40 years for returning early member Brian Eno, it would have been fun to see the Roxy name attached to a full album, but that by no means diminishes the substantial pleasures to be found on this now “solo” album.

Roxy mates Brian Eno (synthesizers), Phil Manzanera (guitar) and Andrew Mackay (oboe) make instantly recognizable contributions on multiple tracks, but interestingly only come together on a lush cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren”. They’re not alone. That track also boasts contributions from Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead), Nile Rodgers (Chic), and David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) among many others. Elsewhere, Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) adds his insistent bass on three tracks, Dave Stewart (Eurythmics) co-writes three tracks, and Ferry pulls off winning collaborations on one track each with Scissor Sisters and Groove Armada. With all that talent on tap, including the legendary Bob Clearmountain behind the mixing board, it’s no wonder that the final product sounds like it was recorded with golden equipment and hearkens back to the seemingly long-gone era where albums were a big deal with big budgets to match.

Even with Eno on board, the Roxy-leaning tracks are pure Avalon era, with “Song to the Siren” in particular sounding like it could have been a new discovery from those early ‘80s recording sessions. While I greatly enjoyed the Roxy reunion, I was pleasantly surprised by the results of Ferry’s riskier moves teaming up with Scissor Sisters on “Heartache by Numbers” and Groove Armada on “Shameless”. The Groove Armada effort is the furthest from what one might expect of Ferry, but finds the legend completely comfortable with the bouncy synth and basslines running under his smooth vocal. Unfortunately, the opening track and first single, “You Can Dance”, is easily my least favorite, at least in this incarnation. The track was originally released last year on DJ Hell’s album “Teufelswerk” in a completely awesome, nimble dancefloor stormer that has now given way to a bombastic, plodding rock version that finds Ferry’s voice struggling to rise above the din.

In addition to the Buckley cover, Ferry includes his rendition of Traffic’s “No Face, No Name, No Number” to positive effect, and closes the album with the sweet and understated original song “Tender is the Night” that sounds like his earliest solo efforts, in particular “These Foolish Things”, when he first adopted his suave lounge lizard persona as a counterpoint to Roxy’s then far more glam/art rock leanings. It’s immensely pleasing to find Ferry building on his earliest successes both solo and with Roxy Music, but also great to see him striving to successfully expand his horizons with new players after four decades in the game. In spite of the many contributors and eras present on the varied tracks, they tie together into a vastly satisfying and cohesive album that’s a sheer delight from nearly beginning to end.

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