The Bryan Ferry Orchestra
The Jazz Age
May 16, 2013 Web Exclusive
As one of the leading luminaries of the glam rock age, Bryan Ferry is not necessarily someone whose forays into the world of jazz you might immediately be intrigued by. After all, the tightly knit chart successes he enjoyed with Roxy Music don't appear to have a great deal in common with the freedom and indulgence of the Jazz Age.
To those more familiar with Ferry's solo work, though, this project will be less of a surprise. A year after Roxy Music released their debut record, he began his solo career with These Foolish Things, a covers album containing reworkings of numerous jazz standards. The Jazz Age is essentially These Foolish Things in reverse: a collection of his own recordings reworked into a Roaring '20s style.
The songs selected for revamp range from the art rock classic likes of "Virginia Plain" and "Love is the Drug" to lesser-known solo album tracks such as "The Only Face" and "I Thought." In some cases there have been severe alterations to the running time; "The Bogus Man" from 1973's For Your Pleasure is cut from over nine minutes down to just two with a nod towards accessibility.
At times The Jazz Age does feel slightly like a novelty record. The oh-so-slick, mournful "Slave to Love" is imagined as a dance hall romp with limited success, while "Virginia Plain" receives similar treatment and in doing so loses the tension brought about by Phil Manzanera's guitars.
In other places the transition works, highlighting the atmospherics of the original songs. Anyone familiar with "Avalon," for example, will feel that the song feels right at home in the middle of a '20s result. Meanwhile Martin Scorsese favorite "Love is the Drug" sees its smoky, swampy aesthetic flourish as a New Orleans funeral march. Best of all, though, is the mono recording; despite this being a world away from Ferry's signature sound, the muffled classic American jazz-era sound feels genuinely authentic. (http://www.bryanferry.com)
Author rating: 6.5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10