Bryan Ferry ‘Avonmore’ Review: former Roxy Music frontman’s assured suave sounds remain perfectly intact.
Roxy Music may (once again) be no more, but frontman Bryan Ferry isn’t waiting around. Next week comes the release of Avonmore, his 14th studio album, and his first since 2010’s Olympia.
And from opener Loop Di Li, it’s clear we’re in well-charted waters; Ferry’s immaculate cocktail glamour is on full display, with glittering piano, fretless bass, latin percussion and sumptuous guitar and horns.
Midnight Train keeps that vibe going, with an ambling disco beat and the soulful intertwining guitar licks of nine (nine!) guitarists, creating a dizzying, multi-tiered collage of sound.
Avonmore (produced by Rhett Davies), like all Ferry efforts is a star-studded endeavor, featuring musical icons like Ronnie Spector, Nile Rodgers, Mark Knopfler, and Maceo Parker. And his righthand man this time out is frequent collaborator, and former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, who’s front and center on the bluesy Soldier of Fortune, and the sleek and lusty Drive Me Wild.
Ferry has mined the worldweary Lothario role for some 40-odd years now, and his more weathered voice still espouses tales of doomed romance and late night trysts. But he’s never overly cocky, and that vulnerability is key to his enduring appeal. This is perfectly encapsulated in the lyrics of One Night Stand: Like a man with a broken dream/you never know what might have been.
A tropical breeze runs through the serene Lost, which conjures the melody of Roxy Music’s Avalon. Indeed one could argue that no matter how many diverse collaborators Ferry works with, he’s continually mining the same sonic terrain, refining the sound that began in Avalon, and traveled though solo albums like Boys and Girls, Bete Noire, Mamouna and Frantic.
This is keenly reflected with his cover of Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns, where he takes an old Broadway show tune, strips it bare and tailors it to his strict sonic palette. But just when you think he’s content playing it safe, along comes Johnny and Mary, a Robert Palmer cover that closes the album.
Produced and arranged by Todd Terje, the song is doused in a warm ambient bath with oscillating synths that reference the theme to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks. Ferry’s whispered vocals sends chills with his tale of doomed heartache.
So yes; barring that track, Avonmore is essentially an album that preaches to the converted, but is it such a crime if one’s hermetically sealed song-craft has become its own sub-genre? A dash of old-school romance and well-mannered bedroom etiquette is sorely needed in the 21st century, and Ferry’s still here to show us how its done.
Want to own Avonmore on Amazon or iTunes? Click on the proper links below. And click here to stream it on NPR before its November 17th release:
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