New York Times NOVEMBER 17, 1994 - by Neil Strauss


Record Of The Week

If the songs on Bryan Ferry's new album, Mamouna, sound fragile and overwrought, it's because they are.

In a recent interview by telephone from Chicago, this forty-nine-year-old English singer, who is to perform his suave lounge-rock at the beacon theater on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, said he'd been working on the album for seven years. "Perhaps I was trying too hard to write a masterpiece," he said.

Mr. Ferry laboured ad infinitum on the album, which he had originally planned to call "horoscope," adding layers of instruments, revamping rhythms and, most laborious of all for Mr. Ferry, adding words. "Most of the songs I do start off as abstract instrumentals, and they sometimes exist like that for a quite a few years," he said. "Writing lyrics is the most difficult part of the process. You feel the burden of the European literary tradition on your shoulders, even though you're trying to write something much more street and immediate than that."

The album might still have beem a work in progress if the guitarist Robin Trower hadn't come along in 1991. With Mr. Trower as producer, Mr. Ferry took a break from Mamouna to record an album of other people's songs, Taxi. That album took him only a year to record, probably because he didn't have to write any lyrics.

"Before I hitched up with Robin Trower," Mr. Ferry said, "I was working without a producer, which proved to be not the best thing for me to do, especially since I didn't have a manager at that time either."

Now Mr. Ferry has a manager, David Enthoven, who used to manage Mr. Ferry's former band, Roxy Music. In the 1970's, Roxy Music, which also included Brian Eno, helped move rock out of the streets and into the art schools with its avant-garde synthesizers, genteel love songs and stylised approach to 1950's rock. Mr. Eno left the group in 1973, nine years before it recorded its most successful album, Avalon, and broke up because of internal dissension.

Mamouna reunites Mr. Ferry and Mr. Eno for the first time since. The two wrote the song Wildcat Days together, and Mr. Eno is credited with "sonics," "sonic emphasis" and "swoop treatments" on various songs. Though two former Roxy Music members, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, also contributed to the album, Mr. Ferry says he remains ambivalent about a Roxy Music reunion.

"I don't really want to feel joined at the hip to certain people for the rest of my life," he said. "But at the same time, I'm aware that a lot of my best work was done in that band context. I suppose it's quite unusual for a band to break up after its most successful album. So we'll see what happens."