REVIEW BY: Bruce Rusk
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/27/2009
Bryan Ferry’s success has rested largely on his Roxy Music legacy. At its heart, even at their most collaborative, RM was an extension of Ferry’s creative vision. Ferry’s style and persona became the crux of their image and their sound. Frantic is unmistakably Ferry. Fans of Roxy Music and Ferry’s previous solo work will be treading familiar ground here. Like a modern day Sinatra, he still plays the suave sophisticate, but always with a thread of vulnerability. His breathless delivery and plaintive voice seem on the verge of breaking at any moment. He deftly portrays the melancholy dreamer, the slave to love, and the ever-hopeful romantic.
Two tracks in particular really shine from the first listen, replete with lush arrangements and a familiar tone (and are no doubt in part helped by the participation of former Roxy member Brian Eno); “Goddess Of Love” would slip easily into Avalon-era Roxy, while “Fool For Love” is a perfect Ferry vehicle, full of bittersweet ennui when he sings: “In days gone by, there was a king / A fool for love, and all it brings / So high and wise / Could read your mind / A fool for love / And love is blind.”
Over the past decade, Ferry has worked the guitar into a more prevalent force in his music. Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood, axe legend Robin Trower, and frequent Ferry collaborator Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics add their considerable talent to this end. Stewart also co-wrote several of the tracks, and some of the grittier, more guitar-driven sound can certainly be credited to his influence. Greenwood adds some eerie sonics to the cyberpunk ballad “Hiroshima,” one of the darker cuts on the disc. The guitar work lends a nice dynamic alongside the sighing and swelling strings and keys.
Ferry has always had an infatuation with American roots music, largely with the work of Bob Dylan. His fascination with Dylan would culminate in his 2007 covers album Dylanuesque. On Frantic, he reworks two Dylan tracks. “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” works fine as the album’s opener with a folksy vibe, but “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” feels clunky. Plunked down between the two of the most Roxy-like tracks, “Don’t” breaks the smooth flow of the heart of the disc. The Leadbelly folk standard “Goodnight Irene” lands with a similar thud.
Those minor bumps aside, Ferry has created another great disc of his signature smooth, melodic rock. I’ve always found Ferry’s cool and natural style compelling and satisfying, and this is no exception.