'Frantic' by John O'Brien - Mon 25th Feb

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'Frantic' by John O'Brien
25 February 2002


Frantic is Bryan Ferry’s new album, the first to contain some of his own songs since 1994’s Mamouna. Since then he has done the 'As Time Goes By' album an album of 30’s standards in 1999 which he toured extensively with acoustic musicians. He then reformed Roxy Music to take them on the road for a nostalgia trip before getting back to the studio to complete the long awaited new album

‘Frantic’ opens with Ferry’s new single, his version of the Bob Dylan song ‘It’s All Over Now Baby Blue’ released 30 years, almost to the day since the ground breaking Roxy Music debut album. Bryan Ferry has always been known as an interpretative artist and covering Dylan is nothing new to Ferry who has previously covered 'A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall' and 'It Ain’t Me Babe' on his first two solo albums. Baby Blue is given an up beat work out with slide guitar and Ferry’s harmonica playing giving the track an overall sound not dissimilar to The Waterboys 'Fisherman’s Blues'. The first self penned song on the album 'Cruel', combines driving bass and Chris Spedding’s slide guitar. Bryan lyrically disapprovingly looks at the world around him “ Everywhere I go there's a world full of heartache, hole in the sky now tell me where for God's sake where is that sunshine where is that rainbow Oh God I want to hear tell me what I want to know”.

Bryan’s version of Don Hix’ 'Goin’ Down' is treated with a quassi reggae counter rhythm and Ferry’s vocal shrill and harmonica weaving in and out of Spedding’s guitar licks in sound visit’s Bob Dylan’s 1998 album 'Time Out Of Mind'.

The Marilyn Monroe inspired 'Goddess Of Love' is the best candidate for a single from the Ferry originals on 'Frantic'. The hook joins Bryan’s vocals with Sarah Brown from the Roxy Music 2001 touring band. The underlying clipped guitar and minimalist bass part allows the drums to drive this track forward as one of the most commercial Ferry originals since his 'Boys And Girls' & 'Bête Noire' albums of the late ‘80s.

Colin Good’s piano with Bryan’s vocal and harmonica solo are all that makes up the arrangement for the second Dylan track on 'Frantic' “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”. Colin Good's ‘less is more’ arrangement leaves Ferry’s vocals sitting on top of his delicate finger work. This sort of arrangement, an obvious throwback from the ‘As Time Goes By’ period works well in one of the standouts of Frantic.

'Nobody Loves Me', a dual paced song, combines a throbbing chorus with an almost military style verse section. Ferry’s vocals emitting the emotions of this plaintive lyric. The 13th Century medieval 'Ja Nun Hons Pris' with the ethereal voice of Mary Nelson is the prelude to what is the albums tour de force, ‘Fool For Love’. Roxy drummer Paul Thompson in the studio with Ferry for the first time since 1979’s ‘Manifesto’ and guitarist Chris Spedding provide the perfect backdrop for Ferry’s narrative.

In Bryan’s version Leadbelly’s classic 'Goodnight Irene', you have the vision of him trading in the tuxedo & Martini for dungarees and moonshine complete with a band of Cajun musicians.

'Hiroshima', another original, inspired by the film ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ is another contender for the next single. Most 56 year old fathers tell their teenage sons to ‘turn that down’, instead Ferry borrows their records and name checks people like Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead supplying guitar blending with oriental vocals providing another highpoint of the album.

Bryan chose the name ‘Roxy’ for his band in 1972 as he felt the name was synonymous with the idea of a dream palace, 'San Simeon' visits Randolph Hearst's fantasy palace. Footsteps open the track taking you along the footpath seducing you to enter and ‘forget all your troubles’. Bryans vocals are accompanied in unison with whispered vocals like many Hammer Horror movies and the operatic background vocal creates an atmosphere like a landscape scene from an episode of Star Trek.

The arrangement of The Drifters 'One Way Love' is aimed for Radio Play/MTV. This track is probably the most up beat major key song on the album. In contrast, I Thought, the Ferry/Eno composition belies Bryan Ferry’s suave sophisticated image with an introduction that sounds like it is coming from some primitive bontempi organ recorded for a karaoke track. 'I Thought' is more of an Eno ‘Here Come The Warm Jets’ than a Bryan Ferry 'Bête Noire' song.

Overall, the album has many contrasting styles and it takes a few listens to hear them blending together. The high points of the album seem to be in the songs that Bryan has written or co-written with Eurythmics Dave Stewart. ‘Frantic’ is a departure from the multi tracked multi layer albums Ferry has done post Roxy. Bryan 30’s acoustic sojourn ‘As Time Goes By’ has been a catalyst for Bryan to bring his voice to the front of the mix and that can be heard in many of the tracks though some of the tracks have his trademark of the vocals being deep within the mix to lure the listener in.

This album is like nothing and everything Ferry has ever done before, then most of his albums have that appeal.

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