New York Daily Times - Dylanesque - Album Review - Sun 24th Jun

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by Jim Farber

It Ain't Him, Babe

People seldom mention it, but Bob Dylan writes really pretty tunes. Unfortunately, we're so busy obsessing on the depth, resonance, and profundity of his pieces - and of the man himself - that we often lose sight of his songs' blissful surface.

None of this escaped Bryan Ferry, who seems to have clued into that specific aspect on his latest album. For "Dylanesque," the singer buffed up 11 of the bard's classics, seldom boring beneath the grace of their tunes.

It's an interesting album for that reason, but on another level "Dylanesque" represents a botched opportunity. Ferry has proven himself a highly original interpreter over the years. His first two solo albums in the early '70s featured nothing but covers, often fascinating ones. Ferry first tackled Dylan in 1973 - and tackled is the right word. He launched a subversive take on "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall," turning it from an apocalyptic warning into a nihilistic joke.

Nothing here shows such guts. "Dylanesque" takes a clean, pop-oriented and unthinking approach to the Dylan cannon. Ferry sped up "Simple Twist of Fate" losing the original's deliberate intonations. His take on the already zippy "All I Really Wanna Do" sounds light enough to have been written for a boy band.

Ferry does even less fathomable stuff to "The Times They Are A-Changin.'" He makes no attempt to nail the politics at all. His "Positively 4th Street" likewise has little rancor, though again, it offers a stronger sense of the tune.

Ferry decided to record this album as a breather before attempting to write songs for an upcoming Roxy Music reunion CD. It will be that band's first original work since 1982's impeccable "Avalon." You can imagine why Ferry would want to take it easy before attempting to reconquer such heights. But as a consequence he seems to have gone too far in the other direction, slackening off to an unseemly degree.

While it's theoretically intriguing to deliver weighty Dylan songs with such light regard, it's too bad a man as sleek and knowing as Ferry didn't bring more probing to bear here.

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