Dylanesque

Bryan Ferry

Virgin, 2007

http://www.bryanferry.com

REVIEW BY: Mark Millan

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/29/2009

Dylanesque was Bryan Ferry’s first new album after a five-year break following 2002’s Frantic.  The idea to do a complete record of Dylan songs was not a new one for him, but Ferry finally felt the time was right to go ahead with it. Several longtime band members returned for this disc, including Chris Spedding on guitars, Andy Newmark on drums, and Paul Carrack (piano/organ/keys). Ferry produced the album with his trusted right-hand man Rhett Davies, and they for the most part breathed new life and elegance into some of Dylan’s most revered songs.

Ferry is at his most suave on the love songs, of course, and the prettiest of the bunch is his reworking of “If Not For You.” With an easy groove and accompanied by some delicate backing vocals, it is completely transformed into a new life form. “Make You Feel My Love” is reinvented into a piano ballad on which Ferry is almost speaking directly to his love instead of serenading her. “All I Really Wanna Do” retains some of its ‘60s charm, but it kind of gets lost among the rest of the stronger material to be found here.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

My favorite track on the album is the glorious rendition of “Simple Twist Of Fate,” which is a song tailor-made for Ferry. He sounds self-assured and breezes through the pop arrangement, discovering every nuance buried within Dylan’s mesmerizing lyrics. “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” is given the sort of slow-burning rock arrangement that Ferry is more accustomed to, but it maybe wasn’t the best choice to open the record with. “Positively 4th Street” lacks the potency and drive of Dylan’s original, replacing his cynical delivery with some out-of-place crooning.

The exuberant “Baby Let Me Follow You Down” and the swaggering “All Along The Watchtower” are both strong takes on classic songs that Ferry nails with surprising ease; the band is at their rollicking best to match him blow for blow. Two of Dylan’s most lauded protest songs are also tackled here: “The Time’s They Are A-Changin’” and “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.” The former is delivered in a slick, smooth rock vein that sounds great, but again the song loses some of its potency along the way. The latter is more up Ferry’s alley, and he and the backing singers recreate the mood of the times.

Another really strong cut here is Ferry’s beautiful take on “Gates Of Eden,” on which he weaves the story better than most singers could. His voice is so rich and heavy with sentiment that he really couldn’t miss with this one. A gorgeous, enchanting arrangement brings the song to a whole new level, and as a result it’s now a struggle for me to enjoy the original.Ferry’s haunting harmonica adds the final touches to what is five minutes of pure brilliance.

Bryan Ferry has long covered Dylan songs on several of his solo projects, but with Dylanesque, he delivered a full album’s worth of new covers, and although a few are underdone, for the most part he has refreshed and reenergized some of Dylan’s prime cuts. Ferry’s really done it all now, but I still hope there’s some truth to those rumors about a new Roxy album (and the sooner the better).

Rating: B+

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