15 April 2002


Written By Graham Bottomley.

Woody Allen's movie, StarDust Memories contained a scene where aliens strode from a space ship and boldly told the New York comedian " We especially like your earlier, funny movies". Bryan Ferry has suffered a similar fate with his music.We can only imagine how many times people have asked " Why don't you record an album like Stranded, For Your Pleasure or These Foolish Things ?" Early Roxy and solo material are regarded by the cognoscenti as both groundbreaking and his creative zenith . Well... Bryan was listening - because Frantic is partly a return to his glory days. The staccato upfront delivery, deeper warble and a traditional rock ensemble backing and arrangement are evident.More importantly - the majority of songs are tuneful.

It's All Over Now Baby Blue starts with a throbbing bass and crashes into a foot tappin' rocker. Strumming acoustic, electric guitar and honky- tonk piano underpin an in your face vocal similar to his work on 1973's These Foolish Things album.The strings kick in and a harmonica wails in the background. It is evident that this simple arrangement sets a beefier tone light years from the restrained ambiance of his 90's albums.

Dave Stewart's co-penned Cruel continues the uptempo theme with pulsating American Indian backbeat,Navaho chants and synthesized guitar.Ferry's vocal delivers like Tokyo Joe from In Your Mind. Bryan lyrically regrets the demise of the Buffalo, our fragile ozone layer and forlorn factory workers. He tongue in cheek says that James Bond, Jaquie O, Johnnie Ray and Garbo have no answers....perhaps alluding that we are too preoccupied with celebrity - and care little about day to day problems.

Goin' Down is goin' nowhere and sounds like a reject off The Bride Strips Bare with quasi-reggae guitar, harmonica and a lead guitar lick that could pilfered from the Mark Knoffler stable.This one is repetitive and could have been passed over again.It lacks the passion of the other cuts on this opus.

The uptempo and dead catchy Goddess Of Love cries out as the next single with solid Paul Thompson backbeat and beaut vocal and guitar interplay. El Ferrari is singing higher and the synth and organ swirl rainbow-like over the siren girl chorus. This is pop circa 1974 - with multi-instrumentation over a singalong chorus.

Don' t Think Twice pays homage to The Only Face from the singers recent solo tour. Intricate and beautiful piano weave Bryan's delivery through thoughtful Dylan lyrics, until harmonica kicks in to heighten the blues feel . This is a highlight and crosses into Elvis vocal delivery. Ferry no doubt realized it's live potential.

Get your balalaikas out for Nobody Loves Me - rollicking into a Russian AY, AY, AY backing chorus then slowing to a military backbeat complete with angelic chorus. Maestro, Colin Good steers the ferry with heaven sent piano. This is a much more adventurous version than the Alphaville session - but its charm lies in it's inventiveness and keyboard swept tunefulness..

GQ magazines most alluring man's predilection for obscurities is served here with the 13th century Ja Nun Hons Prins - with the vocal reins handed to classically trained Mary Nelson...very magnanimous indeed.It is an awkward but pretty segue, supposedly penned by Richard The Lionheart.

Another Dave Stewart number for A Fool For Love - and its stripped bare from it's Alphaville arrangement. The vocal is sweet - augmented by acoustic electric that builds in a stop-start arrangement. Once again Knoffleresque guitar is prominent along with slide and harmonica. This is indeed a satisfying, gentle interpretation that grows upon repeated play. The high angelic , 60's Star Trek like Mary Nelson vocals at the coda add to its warm nature.

Break out the moonshine, throw down them jugs and watch out for the gators....the country tinged Goodnight Irene has the singer revisiting his Gasboard college band days.It would not be out of place in Deliverance and conjures Louisiana swamps with its twangy quaint ho-down feel. It sure is ambitious - and he goes within a swampcat whisker of pulling it off.

If Roxy had existed , the ethereal Hiroshima would be on their next album.It actually sounds like Ultravox or Japan playing Roxy - with Bry on vocals.Japanese backing vocals and Manzanera-like treated guitar have this sounding like our heroes Stranded period.Even the synthesizers hark back to 1973.This one is for the fans, and is as close as we get to him hitching a tardis to his vintage years...a very good drop indeed.

Love is the Drug footsteps commence San Simeon. This is very much In EveryDreamhome meets Mother Of Pearl. His spoken delivery recalls each of those classics with lines like " Tiger Skin Love Rug - I stroke - you bite me".It revisits the millionaire's heartache of his most decadent period. I prefer the more uptempo Alphaville version - resplendent with chunkier rhythm. The violin and chello wind through the halls of the Howard Hughes mansion to create a yearning, lush life ambiance. This could have been a Ferry masterwork but ends up faltering in its ambivalent laid back delivery.Once again Mary Nelson's siren like call entices us to stay in his opulent castle.

Brash and youthful is the only way to describe the joyous One Way Love. He sounds like he is really enjoying himself on this Drifters number that was a infectious 1964 R and B hit.A ridiculously catchy lead guitar belts out a riff that cries out to be loved.Some will say it is too obvious and frivolous....I say get on the dancefloor , grab that air guitar and sing this till you go hoarse.There is life in the old boy yet !

And now to the number that had me nodding my head in approval. I Thought sure put a wide grin on my dial. I was clapping, and foot tapping from the first play. This is the song that Bryan has been threatening to do for years...and he co-wrote it with Eno ! This is one hell of a tune - despite a cheesy and shaky drum machine and organ start .This ditty has superb bar piano, sumptuous Duane Eddy guitar, simmering Eno synthesizer and 60's spaghetti western harmonica - not to mention one of Bryan's best lyric. Indeed, a shimmering jewel in the Ferry catalogue. I never wanted it to end. You will sing and hum it for days.

Well...Bryan has plundered his past to create an album that sounds like In Your Mind, These Foolish Things and spiced it with a little early Roxy. It has moments of brilliance, experimentation and diversity. ' All styles served here' as he once pleaded. That is part of his appeal. An artist who will tackle 13th Century obscurities, 30's standards and the avante guarde.The combination with Dave Stewart has produced some of the better pop moments on the album, and we cross fingers that it will bear more fruit. The Roxy tour was the catalyst to remind our hero that he is at his bewildering best when centred in the traditional guitar, piano and drums idiom. He shows on the last track that he still has greatness left in him. I will settle for his other terrific moments including Cruel, Goddess of Love,Hiroshima and Nobody Loves me. Ferry fans should be happy that he has returned to what he does best....creating great music.

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