Bryan Ferry : Olympia
The thirteenth solo album from the ever-cool Bryan Ferry is not nearly as dead-eyed as its drippy Kate Moss-adorned cover would suggest. Olympia revels in the pastiche sound of late Roxy Music, and why not – there are enough current young bands aping it.
Ferry owns his sound, pulling together all of the best elements of his variable solo work. It’s a reliably polished effort but it still has the spark of the originator’s genius, creating a final package on par with the last few Bowie albums. Once you accept the MOR nature of it, it’s not hard to submit to its glacial charms.
Awareness of Olympia’s genesis as a potential comeback Roxy Music album perhaps sets the expectations a little high. Anyone expecting Brian Eno’s appearance as keyboardist to trigger the off-kilter masterstrokes of the band’s earliest albums will be left stranded with a floppy ‘80s fringe masking any hint of true ingenuity. But opening up the floodgates to other contributors – an atypical move on Ferry’s part – makes for some key highlights, such as the Scissor Sisters co-write Heartache By Numbers and the Groove-Armada-produced disco-filler, Shameless.
When it comes to cover versions, Ferry gets it half-right: Song To The Siren is as pitch-perfect a cover choice as Jealous Guy, but a mediocre take on Traffic’s No Face, No Name, No Number marks the start of a noticeable slump in the album’s quality. Tender Is the Night is a sweeping, stellar finish, however –a stately digestive to some of the album’s overblown tendencies.
Ferry’s vocals are more weary and weathered, but they suit the lush trappings. The songs take their time, basking in their cool ambience as each they hover at the five-minute mark, and reveal a well-aged grand dame doing things at his own graceful pace.
Olympia is out now through Virgin/Emi