I had mixed feelings when I heard Ferry was releasing an album of Dylan covers. On the plus side his previous solo album, ‘Frantic’, had found Ferry a man seemingly reborn, his best album in a great many years, in my opinion. In addition Ferry generally does fantastic covers, often changing the original song in such a way as to leave one in awe of his inventiveness. That is what covering a song is all about, not the near note perfect renditions of the original so many so called artists insist on recording. He has also being covering the odd Dylan song, to great effect, since 1973, through this did not prevent some sections of the music media expressing surprise at the move! Where have they been for the past thirty years? Dylan is also a great artist to cover, simply because his own versions of his songs are rubbish. I know messers Bowie, Ferry and Bolan, amongst many others, where all influenced by and are/were fans, but I’m sorry, his rubbish. Have you heard that dreadful caterwauling he calls singing? Steven Hawking would make a better vocalist! His tuneless acoustic guitar, and a harmonica that sounds like it is being played by an out of breath asthmatic, also do little for me. Consequently a cover version is almost guaranteed to sound better than the original.
So, what’s to be concerned about? Well, I do question why this album has been recorded. Is it a tribute to an artist whose material he loves, or is it because Ferry is devoid of any ideas of his own? Although a new Roxy Music album is on its way, I have already heard Ferry suggest it would not be with us till 2009. I am hoping it was a joke but who knows.
Another matter completely is the album sleeve. As usual there are many artfully posed pictures of Ferry, and as with his previous album, they were all taken about 15-20 years ago. Bryan looks fantastic for a man of his age, and most people I know would sell their own mothers into slavery to look as good at 60. He obviously does not agree. This may be vanity, or a poor attempt at marketing, but nobody who brought this album would not have done so if a current picture of Ferry were on the sleeve. It is the music which matters, which as it happens, is unfortunate.
As I am unfamiliar with most of the originals, bar the ludicrously over-rated ‘Knockin on Heavens Door’ and ‘The Times They Are a Changin’, I am unable to appreciate any inventiveness on Ferry’s part, and would ask you to bear this in mind when reading all comments that follow. I have been I fan of Roxy Music’s and Bryan Ferry’s for more years than I care to remember. However, I have found Ferry’s solo work to be hit and miss, and this album falls well within the latter category. One or two tracks are ok; ‘Simple Twist of Fate’ is one of these in my opinion. But even the best tracks here would be little more than filler on a Roxy Music album. This record is largely a plodding, middle of the road, bore. Occasionally one hears a hint of the old Roxy magic but it is soon overwhelmed by the flaccid blandness that comprises most of the music here. It is a shame, because Dylan’s lyrics are great, and many of the tunes good, but the presentation is pedestrian.
Bryan Ferry is getting on a bit, and perhaps in the evenings ready to settle down in front of the fire with his slippers, a glass of brandy, and listen to music like this. I to am getting on a bit but I am not ready to do any of the above, and I hope I never am.
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