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Bryan Ferry Frantic Review

Album. Released 29 April 2002.  

BBC Review

The smoothest Geordie in the world dusts off the tuxedo one more time. His best album...

Chris Jones 2002

It's hard not to feel a surge of déja vu when first listening to this latest waxing from the overlord of lounge lizards. Not a nostalgia for the old days but a warmth that comes from knowing that old heroes have still GOT IT. Now in his sixth decade the smouldering Geordie puts so many contemporaries to shame (Neil Young take note) with an album that grows richer with every listen.

Even in Roxy Music's heyday Mr Ferry was cleverly carving out a solo niche for himself. Covers albums such as These Foolish Things and Another Time Another Place (you remember, the one with Bryan poised in a tuxedo by a Bel Air swimming pool à la Bogart, sealing his place as roué supreme) allowed him to plunder the past while throwing new light on old chestnuts. Frantic manages this trick particularly well with two songs by Dylan. The opener "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" is almost obscenely ballsy with BF's harmonica (a muscular sonic signifier throughout) slotting into the mix alongside Chris Spedding's magnificent guitar histrionics. With "Don't Think Twice" he somehow manages to turn Zimmerman into a fitting accompaniment to cocktail hour. Even more bizarre is his brilliant reconstruction of Leadbelly's murder ballad "Goodnight Irene" as a cajun lament. Who would have thought it?

But this is no simple rehash of ancient ground. The new stuff outnumbers the old and there's no denying the quality on offer. One thing which always marked Ferry as more than just a well-dressed glam has-been (apart from his undeniable way with a tune) was his willingness to experiment and tracks like "Goddess of Love" with its skittering electronics and intimate whispers show that the creative heart is still beating strongly. Who else would preface a song like "Fool For Love" with Mary Nelson's sumptuous recital of "Ja Nun Hons Pris" (written by Richard Coeur De Lion, medieval trivia buffs)? It matters not one jot that old lags like Spedding, the great Paul Thompson and producer Rhett Davies are along for the ride. Ferry, by now, knows exactly what he wants and who can deliver it. With the nuts and bolts firmly in place he displays an ease and poise that men half his age strain to achieve. "San Simeon" even manages to mention cocktails without one hint of cliché.

Most delightful however is the closing duet with Brian Eno, "I Thought". Reprising their collaboration on Mamouna this sums up the value of this whole album. Its (seemingly) childish simplicity, with cheap cha-cha beatbox rhythm and wobbly guitar, is both disarming and strangely poignant. It recalls the halcyon days of both men's early solo efforts and reminds us how only the true masters can make it look so easy.

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