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The Sunday Times APRIL 14, 2002 - by Mark Edwards
BRYAN FERRY: FRANTIC
Record Of The Week
The first division of rock musicians are those that have created a unique, unmistakeable sound. The premier league comprises those musicians that have managed this feat more than once. There aren't many: The Beatles, Dylan, Bowie, Prince, Joy Division / New Order. After so many years of silence, interspersed by covers albums, it's easy to forget that Bryan Ferry belongs in this elite; to forget that Roxy Music reinvented rock in 1972, and then honed another polished, inimitable style on Avalon, ten years later.
Frantic will remind you just how good Ferry can be. Energised by the live jazz-band feel of his last covers album, As Time Goes By, he appears to have been able finally to discard the obsessional, multi-layered recording style that has hampered his output for the last fifteen years, to create a far more immediate sound. There is also a new fragility in his voice, which adds a touch of humanity to the smooth crooner of yore.
And then there's Dave Stewart. Horrendously unfashionable, Stewart has been beavering away as a collaborator of several really good albums recently, notably Sinead O'Connor's Faith And Courage. Here he co-writes Goddess Of Love, a song that recaptures that Avalon magic. Ferry also hits top form on Fool For Love, Hiroshima (which features Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood on guitar) and San Simeon (another Stewart co-write), and he's not far off on the straight-ahead white funk of Cruel and on Nobody Loves Me (which could slip effortlessly onto Flesh + Blood).
There are moments that don't quite cut it. Of the two Dylan covers, Don't Think Twice, It's Alright is unremarkable. The last two tracks will divide listeners. Some will be annoyed that I thought the reunion with Eno eschews their early Roxy sound in favour of light airy keyboards; others will enjoy the charming, lazy shuffle. Some will consider One Way Love a piece of dated pop fluff; others will find its chorus irresistible and the vocal performance exhilarating. It's the unfamiliar sound of Ferry having fun.
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