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Stick to what you do best

Bryan Ferry - Dylanesque
2 1/2 stars (out of 5 stars)
Reviewed: June 12, 2007
Bryan Ferry

Review by Andy Argyrakis

Even though he's most readily regarded as the suave and debonair singer for Roxy Music turned solo star, Bryan Ferry has always taken an interest in eras beyond the experimental 1970s and decadent 80s. In 1999, the smooth singer finally explored some of those affinities on As Time Goes By, digging all the way back to the 1930s, while 2002's Frantic blended originals and covers, including a pair of Bob Dylan tunes. In fact, that lauded folk hero/reluctant rock star serves as the main muse behind the appropriately titled Dylanesque, which covers some the troubadour's top tunes and buried treasures.

On paper, the concept may come across compelling at first, but the more one considers Ferry's decision, the more questions arise. Would Ferry take a true to form take on his classic songbook or reinterpret the tunes through a more sophisticated lens? Perhaps most pertinently, how would the crooner pull off the much more gravely tone of the southern-tinged tunesmith? In terms of the first inquiry, it's impossible for the Roxy Music man to deliver an exact replica, simply because his tender voice is in such stark contrast to Dylan's rougher tones. "Make You Feel My Love" is perhaps the most glaring of these distinctions, turning from the rough neck urgency of its first take to a watered down lounge ballad.

And that directly ties into the second key question, which is somewhat disappointedly answered throughout Ferry's much more tender and easygoing treatments of tunes that were meant to be shouted off key and strummed with a mindset of protest. He turns "The Times They Are A-Changin'" from a hippie anthem to an adult contemporary doldrum, while the normally electrifying "All Along the Watchtower" is watered down in comparison to the original (even with an extended guitar solo at the end that oddly fades out just as it's getting interesting).

Though there are far fewer places for Ferry to be credited than on one of his normal studio CDs, he does at least provide a beautifully soulful and tasteful version of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door." Aside from that harmonica-laced rendition, the disc also uncovers some of Dylan's less familiar gems (such as the "Like a Rolling Stone" b-side "Gates of Eden"), which will at least re-introduce those brilliant reflections to the public at large. And for Ferry fans who find the above criticism hard to swallow, just think about how it would sound if the tables were reversed. Dylan slogging his way through "Slave To Love" would be just as out of character, suggesting both legends should stick to what they know best.

Watch Bryan Ferry's "All Along the Watchtower" video

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