Bryan Ferry: Olympia


RIYL: Roxy Music, Thievery Corporation, The Blue Nile

Bryan Ferry’s post-Roxy Music solo career exists in a coccoon of sorts, with few fingerprints from the outside world sullying their beauty and timelessness. Before anyone mistakes that for overblown hyperbole, let’s look at those words a little more closely. His records are beautiful in the sense that they are impeccably played and produced, and they’re timeless in that Olympia, his latest solo record of (mostly) original material, could have come out the same year he released his last solo album Frantic (2002), or Mamouna (1994), or even Bete Noire (1987). Likewise, Mamouna and Frantic could have come out this year without anyone batting an eye as to when they were recorded.

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So they are beautiful and timeless, yes. But truth be told, Ferry hasn’t written a really compelling song in quite a while – that might explain why he hasn’t made back-to-back albums of original material since 1987 – and Olympia does not buck the trend. There are some nice moments, like the bouncy “Shameless,” the haunting “Reason or Rhyme,” and his convincing cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song to the Siren,” but there isn’t a “Slave to Love,” or even a “Limbo,” to be found, a point only exacerbated by opening track “You Can Dance,” which begins with a sample of Avalon track “True to Life.” Likewise, “Me Oh My” is built on the bones of “My Only Love,” from Roxy’s Flesh & Blood. Neither song is bad, per se, but they’ve been done before, and better. There is also the matter of Ferry’s voice. He sings the entire album in that whispered hush, rarely testing his upper range or even his falsetto.

No one expects Ferry to churn out hard-charging numbers like “Both Ends Burning” anymore, but Olympia is awfully sedate, even for a man known for his lounge lizard cool. It’s more or less interchangeable with his recent work, which is a bit of a letdown considering Ferry was able to get four other Roxy veterans (Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Andy Newmark) to appear, but the overall effort is good enough. If you’re content with good enough, that is. (Astralwerks 2010)

Bryan Ferry MySpace
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David Bowie: A Reality Tour


RIYL: Mott the Hoople, Queen, Iggy Pop

David Bowie’s 2003-04 “A Reality” tour wasn’t billed as his last, but until he decides to jump back onto the stage for another go-round, that’s exactly what it is. And while the double CD A Reality Tour serves as a five-years-late memento of that occasion (and companion piece to the 2004 DVD of the same name), it still comes off as fresh and exhilarating as the concerts themselves felt five years ago. A big reason for this is Bowie’s achieving the sweet feat of placing copious material from his last two studio albums – 2002’s Heathen and 2003’s Reality – among his ’70s, ’80s and ’90s classics in the best possible light. That is, “Afraid” and “New Killer Star” sound quite at home among older gems like “Breaking Glass” and “Ashes to Ashes.” And while such a large amount of new material (ten songs out of 33) inevitably leaves no room for big hits like “Young Americans” or “Space Oddity” (I also clearly remember Bowie playing “Blue Jean,” also left off this set, at the show I attended in 2004), the strength of all the material here – which also includes his takes on tunes he gave to Mott the Hoople (“All The Young Dudes”) and Iggy Pop (“Sister Midnight”) – is enough so that the stray hits aren’t really missed at all.

One could call this a “career overview,” as the album’s accompanying press release would have us believe, but in practice, A Reality Tour feels more like a continuation of Bowie’s career arc, one that he has left open-ended despite its skewing towards the sound he created on his last two albums and his late ’70s collaborations with Brian Eno. Even if he decides not to return to the world stage, however, he has surely left his legacy in fine shape. (ISO/Columbia/Legacy 2010)

David Bowie MySpace page

  

More Than This: The Story of Roxy Music

Bar none the best Eagle Vision video we’ve seen to date, “More Than This: The Story of Roxy Music” is absolutely packed with interviewees, each with a unique perspective on the band’s musical vision, artistic direction and influence. The set is much more focused on the “Eno years” (that way they can include more interview footage of Eno himself), but this makes sense since many consider that period, with all due respect to Avalon, to be their creative peak. The list of rock star fans who sing the band’s praises here is as impressive as it is diverse; Duran Duran’s John Taylor, Bono, Steve Jones, Siouxsie Sioux, and Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers all talk about the impact Roxy had on them, and they even recruited producer Rhett Davies and mixer extraordinaire Bob Clearmountain to discuss how people would ask them to make their records sound like Avalon. Even the extended interview segment – usually a crashing bore – is lots of fun, poking fun at the band’s tendency to have a revolving door at the bass player position. They also included performances of three songs from a 2006 concert. A great tribute to a sorely underrated band. (Eagle Vision 2009)

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