Under Review: Bryan Ferry – Olympia

Even when you consider the countless bands that have drawn influence from Roxy Music, it’s surprising that no such band has been able to completely emulate their oddball exuberance and style.  I even hesitate to assert that former leader Bryan Ferry’s own solo career has provided Roxy fans with sufficient material.  Sure, Ferry has led a strange and captivating outing as a solo artist, but his nu-crooner persona rarely allows him to explore his experimental side.  On Olympia, his first album of original material since 2002, Ferry mostly sticks with what he does best, but is also coaxed out of his satin safety net by some old and new friends.  The appearance of former Roxy Music mates Brian Eno, Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay shouldn’t be too surprising; rumor had it that Roxy’s original lineup was working on a new record.  Whether or not Olympia represents all or most of what that album would’ve been like, it works as both a follow-up to Avalon as well as a natural continuation of Ferry’s trajectory.

For many of the songs on Olympia, including the churning opener “You Can Dance,” Ferry collaborated with Dave A. Stewart, and the ominous, sleazy grooves of the Eurythmics are somewhat implied.  Also implied is the recent shift towards anthems undertaken by the Scissor Sisters; their collaboration, “Heartache By Numbers” is the chiming, pensive counterpart to their own “Fire With Fire.”  The middle of Olympia features two back-to-back covers: “Song To The Siren,” which has been covered countless times, slowly builds to a thrilling climax, while Traffic’s “No Face, No Name, No Number” is given a slight tropical flavor.  At first, Olympia sounds like Ferry’s spinning his immaculately groomed wheels, but look closer and you’ll find that this is a pretty great record.  When someone who helped develop a genre makes an album that ropes in all of that genre’s tricks, it’s because he knows better than anyone else what to do with the parts.  Boasting throbbing disco and ethereal balladry, Olympia might not offer quite the radical variety of Roxy Music’s early recordings, but it’s one of Ferry’s most enjoyable efforts to date.

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~ by E. on November 1, 2010.

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