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Ferry's Return to Rock Romanticism

Bryan Ferry - Frantic
(Virgin Records)
2 1/2 Stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: May 16, 2002

Bryan Ferry

By Tony Bonyata

Bryan Ferry, one time-lead vocalist and clothes horse for the early '70s glam rock-turned-pop romantics Roxy Music, has just released his first solo album of newly-penned numbers since 1994 entitled Frantic. On it he's recruited a wealth of talent such as Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood, Eurythmics' Dave Stewart (who co-wrote a few numbers), as well as fellow Roxy partners drummer Paul Thompson, Colin Good, Chris Spedding and Lucy Wilkins. Brian Eno, the brainy electro-wizard who left Roxy Music early in the band's career to pursue more ambient and artistically challenging endeavors, even makes a welcome appearance on this collection.
More than half of Frantic is filled with new compositions that are, as always with Ferry, suave, sexy and sophisticated. While these tracks hold up quite well on their own, Ferry, like early glam rock contemporary David Bowie, is no stranger to the cover song. Unlike his last endeavor, As Time Goes By, a expertly produced collection of lush standards from the '30s and '40s, here we find Ferry not only expertly adding his seductive warble to two Bob Dylan classics, "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" and "Don't Think Twice," but also displaying a charming eloquence on the harmonica as well. Dipping all the way back to medieval times Ferry unveils a rich tapestry of beautiful sound on a brief melancholy version of Richard The Lionheart's "Ja Nun Hons Pris," before updating Leadbelly's classic folksong "Goodnight Irene" into a backwoods cajun blues ballad.
These interpretations work wonderfully on their own and Ferry could have easily followed suit and produced yet another album made up entirely of cover songs, but he's instead used these numbers as textural springboards to his new compositions. Greenwood's other-worldly guitar on "Hiroshima," a track inspired by the film "Hiroshima Mon Amor," adds a spectral element to this sensual number. One of the album's highlights is the new composition "Cruel," which, with it's bouncy beat, quirky rhythms and Ferry's ethereal voice touching down and taking off throughout, is probably the closest in sound to his former band.
Closing out the album with the simple but effective "I Thought," which was co-written by Eno, who also supplies keyboards and backing vocals to the track. Ferry, who exudes a coolness through sexuality and worldly sophistication, shows after 30 years of writing and performing why his audience is still frantic about him.

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