Digital Spy NOVEMBER 6, 2010 - by Mayer Nissim


When this year's most interesting X Factor contestant ambled up to the stage during 'Musical Heroes' week to sing John Lennon's Jealous Guy, it wasn't the late Beatle who immediately sprang to mind. Instead, it was Bryan Ferry, whose tribute cover with Roxy Music topped the chart in 1981. Aiden Grimshaw might have dismissed his own wobbling warbling as "a bit rubbish", but his over-the-top, tortured, artsy rendition bore the decades-old influence of Ferry, Eno, Bowie, Bolan and all those acts who wisely imparted the knowledge that sometimes more is more. Not in the sense of quantity, of course, as this is Ferry's first album of mainly-new material since Frantic way back in 2002.

As well as a fetching snap of Kate Moss on its cover, Olympia boasts eight Ferry-penned or co-penned tracks, a cover of Tim Buckley's Song To The Siren and another of Traffic's No Face, No Name, No Number. It also has input from Daves Stewart and Gilmour, Mani, Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood, Chic's Nile Rodgers, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, Scissor Sisters, Brian Eno and Bryan's other Roxy bandmates. Despite the eclectic guest cast and long gestation period, Olympia is a coherent, solid record that is so much more modern, slick and stylish than we have any right to expect from a man entitled to a free bus pass.

You Can Dance is a perfect opener - all swooning broodiness, like Massive Attack and David Bowie in a gentlemanly duel. As with much of Olympia (and indeed classic Roxy), it manages the tricky feat of sounding distant and aloof yet somehow also incredibly engaging. Similarly, Alphaville is all twenty-first century style and funk, the grooves dragging you up to its ivory tower for a shuffle. Me Oh My layers on clean piano, twiddly guitar lines and Ferry's affected, strained croak to twist you this way and that. Its grandeur is possibly eclipsed by the nearly seven-minute Reason Or Rhyme, which envelopes you in waves and waves of sound until you completely lose yourself in it. Put slap-bang in the middle of the album, the brace of covers do stand out a little, but their glossy arrangements prevent them from breaking up the flow too much.

When it became clear that the Roxy Music reunion was to be a live-only affair, feelings were mixed. The legacy of many a beloved artist has been blotted by a substandard return to the studio. Some of those thoughts might well have lingered as Ferry announced his solo comeback. On the flip side, as artists get to a certain age - seemingly after their second album these days - everything they put out is eye-rollingly heralded or promoted as a "return to form". In the case of Olympia, though, it's hard to disagree.