From his earliest recordings with his group Roxy Music, at the beginning of the 1970s, Bryan Ferry has taken his place as one of the most innovative and distinctive singers and lyricists to emerge in popular music. In his music you hear an original vocal brilliance which merges - with effortless, breathtaking elegance - the poise of Sinatra, the charisma of Gainsbourg and the intensity of Johnnie Ray. But then there was something extra - a quality of nuance, verve and performance which seemed so ultra-modern, and so refined, that it seemed to break wholly new ground.
The emotional intensity of Bryan Ferry�s vocal style can be heard to great effect on his epic interpretation of the Bob Dylan classic, �A Hard Rain�s A-Gonna Fall�. This spectacularly theatrical, artisticaly defining opening track on his first solo album, �These Foolish Things�, released in 1973, would introduce what Ferry has described as his �ready-mades�; cover versions of recordings by artists whom he admires, which he then interprets in his own style. Like all great singers, he turns the cover version into a form of self portraiture. In the case of �A Hard Rain�s A-Gonna Fall�, Ferry creates an astonishing fusion of racing energy and high sophistication - turning Dylan�s political allegory into a bravura display of snarling, swaggering cool.
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Bryan Ferry�s vocal genius lies in his peerless ability to merge musical styles - from French chanson, through classic crooner to hard edged rock - creating that sheen of pure drama which has become his artistic signature. This was the case with his thunderous, pulsing interpretation of the northern soul classic, �The In Crowd �, which became a hit for Ferry in 1974. Once again, Ferry takes the existing style of a recording and then creates an amplification of its entire tone and meaning. In this case, the effect of such interpretation is to create a over version which has the sensuality of pure pop and the emotional sophistication of cinema. Indeed, Ferry�s interpretation of �The In Crowd� has become an iconic statement about high fashion, high society and high living - the mythic soundtrack to the legend of the Jet Set.
Throughout the first half of the 1970s, Bryan Ferry recorded an unbroken series of aggressively modern, intoxicating cover versions - including two of his best loved tracks, �Shame Shame Shame� and Wilbert Harrison�s �Let�s Stick Together�. Both of these tracks took strength from their pounding, mesmeric beat - which became the perfect chassis for Ferry�s vocal. More than any other singer of his generation, Bryan Ferry performs a song in such a way as to make it entirely his own. His vocal style brings a whole world to life, making each song a dramatic performance. �Tokyo Joe�, released in 1977, is a perfect example of Ferry at his most filmic. Inspired by a Hollywood musical from the 1930s, this track maintains a high energy, subterranean night club feel which often distinguishes the potent atmosphere of Ferry�s recordings.
As also defined by his work with Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry achieves a perfect tension between langour and melodrama, the results of which become a classic definition of high romance. Many of Ferry�s greatest songs describe the fate of the lonely, isolated romantic - always on the outside, even at the heart of the grandest party or the most exotic city.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the musical style of Ferry�s recordings acquired a rich, melancholy lustre - well suited to such tracks as �Can�t Let Go� from the album, �The Bride Stripped Bare�, released in 1978. Once again, the one of this song is filmic, with Ferry�s lyric describing a collision between the glamour of Hollywood and an emotional collapse. Musically and vocally, the track is breathless, racing and urgent, conveying the sense of nervous exhaustion - �all in the dark and afraid tonight, nowhere to run or to hide...�
As a lyricist, Ferry combines the language and proportions of classic pop songs with a modern, angular imagery which exactly mirrors his flawless style as a vocalist. Throughout the 1980s, he would hone and perfect the pared down, high gloss refinement of his recordings - producing some of his greatest work in the three solo albums, �Boys and Girls�, �Bete Noire� and �Mamouna�.
In many ways, �Boys and Girls� is one of Bryan Ferry�s greatest achievements as a singer and song writer. The album enfolds the listener like a carefully lit film set; and there appears to be a seamless sequencing to the tracks, in which both �Slave To Love� and �Don�t Stop The Dance�, take their place as mesmeric, richly romantic classics - the same romance that one finds in the film �Casablanca� or Scott Fitzgerald�s novel, �The Great Gatsby�. Equally, �Boys and Girls� became a defining soundtrack of the 1980s, its musical sophistication marking the consolidation of Ferry�s achievements to date.
Its successor, �Bete Noire� is an album steeped in an eerie yet sensual atmosphere. Featuring a veritable �Who�s Who� of contemporary musicians, its sophistication lies once again in its refinement of absolute minimal effects - a record which seems so taut with feeling, that the slightest inflection of music or mood appears massively amplified. �Limbo� is a track which sums up �Bete Noire� - a heady cocktail of voodoo rhythms, calling up steamy night club scenes which are caught between eroticism and the supernatural.
Throughout the 1990s, Ferry continued his work on the �ready-made�; those songs which he covers in a way that makes them entirely his own. �Girl of My Best Friend�, from the �Taxi� album of 1993 is both a tribute to the original by Elvis Presley, and a classic Ferry track in its own right. Given Bryan�s background as an art student, with a specific interest in American Pop art of the 1950s and 1960s, it seems particularly apt that he should have paid this musical homage to the star - Elvis - of so many Pop art paintings.
Bryan Ferry is an artist who endlessly refines his work, through recording and performance. Each new release is both an advance and a consolidation of what has gone before. Since the early 1970s, with his first recordings with Roxy Music, he has described the emotional theatre of romance - often from the position of loneliness, nearly always from the perspective of a loner and an outsider. On �Mamouna�, released in 1994, he seems to describe the thoroughfare of loneliness in a way which brings to mind another Presley classic, �Heartbreak Hotel�. Ferry�s opening song on �Mamouna�, entitled, �Don�t Want To Know�, conveys all the hope and hopelessness of a person searching for love. Featuring Ferry�s early collaborator in Roxy Music, the electronics wizard Brian Eno, this richly atmospheric track establishes a mood of haunting melancholy which pervades the whole album.
It seems only fitting that such a student and fan of Hollywood�s Golden Age as Bryan Ferry, should exit this selection with a song made famous by Fred Astaire - �The Way You Look Tonight�. One of the great love songs of all time, this lyric might well have been written by Ferry himself, and here his interpretation seems to mirror all his themes as a writer and performer. For as these recordings prove, Bryan Ferry has achieved the rare distinction of bringing a world to life in his songs. He describes love and loneliness, luxury and isolation. �He is the great anatomist of glamour - always modern and instantly classic.
In 2002 Bryan released 'Frantic', his first album to feature original material since 'Mamouna' seven and a half years earlier. The album was put together from various sessions and projects that Bryan had worked on since 1992. During this period, Bryan had work with Eurythmics Dave Stewart on an album called 'Alphaville' which has remained unreleased. Some of the tracks from the 'Alphaville' sessions made their way on to 'Frantic' either slightly re-mixed/edited or completely re-recorded. The album is a mixture of original material and interpretations of other artists songs.
Bryan recorded some of these tracks during his 'As Time Goes By' tour in 2002 with pianist Colin Good, bassit Zev Katz and the string section from that band. He also went back to the studio to re-record some of the 'Alphaville' sessions with members of the Roxy Music 2001 tour band, including original Roxy drummer Paul Thompson. The original version of 'Goodnight Irene' dates back to 1992 during the sessions for his 1993 album 'Taxi'. Frantic was critically acclaimed, and featured many 'Ferry regulars' along with musicians Brian Eno and Jonny Greenwood.
In September 2006 Ferry returned to the studio to record 'Dylanesque', which has been released.
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