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Bryan Ferry's 'Olympia' review: Roxy Music band reunites under Kate Moss' faded 1980s portrait

by Jim Farber

Shades of the past haunt Bryan Ferry's new album. It's his first disk of (mainly) original pieces in eight years, his first to boast a studio track reuniting no fewer than four members of his treasured Roxy Music  band in 37 years, and his first solo work to feature a song co-written with Roxy's sterling guitarist -- Phil Manzanera -- ever.

If that's not enough, the cover art of "Olympia" boasts an upside-down shot of stunningly cold model (one Kate Moss)--— a clear homage to the vintage Roxy chic that faded in the mid-'80s.

Given the fact that Ferry his often talked about a studio reunion with the old band (buttressing their live comeback shows), could "Olympia" be their test run?

The question turns out to be moot. No matter who plays on these songs -- and a virtual army of musicians do -- the best ones expertly nail the gauzy allure of late-period Roxy. There's even a dash of the band's early '70s zest in some tracks. In the percolating disco piece that opens the disk, "You Can Dance," Ferry drops references to "the mambo" and "the can-can" with an inflection that recalls the cheek of Roxy's 1972's classic "Do the Strand."

Such moxie comes as a considerable relief after Ferry's murky last disk of original pieces (2002's "Frantic"), as well as his most recent release in '07, an opaque take on Dylan songs called -- what else? -- "Dylanesque."

A piece like "Alphaville" has special energy, while "Shameless" could stand next to his sacred band's biggest hit, "Love Is the Drug," based on its parallel bass line. A collaboration with the ever-giddy Scissor Sisters ("Heartache By Numbers") keeps up the hot pace, though it nicks none of that group's camp.

Much of the music still holds to Ferry's usual high-toned wash of sound -- those dreamy soundscapes that reek of privilege and money. That never holds truer than in a cover of Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren." Ferry's plush take sounds nothing like the ­original, but it excels through the use of ex-Roxy member Andy Mackay's grand oboe line.

An even better choice for a cover is the old Traffic ballad "No Face, No Name, No Number," which mirrors Ferry's usual equation of love objects with apparitions.

As always, romance remains ruinous and impossible -- but also vital and, thus, tragic. Even at 65, Ferry is still entranced by something elusive. How wonderful that his latest vain reach for it has the kind of verve we haven't heard from him in years.

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