Bryan Ferry has been on a bit of a retro tear as of late. His last album, 2008’s Olympia, opened with a sound that was more than a little reminiscent of those last vibrating bars that close out True to Life, the final track on Roxy Music’s Avalon. The effect was to create a sense of continuity between Roxy’s last album and the first track on Olympia, as though the record had somehow emerged from a time warp nearly 30 years later.
Unfortunately, Olympia – despite the glam Kate Moss album cover and retro keyboard sounds – was not quite the companion piece to Avalon that we all would have liked. The production was a bit too loose. The songs, unrefined. But then, Avalon is truly one of the greatest albums of all time. A work I would probably but in my top twenty if not top ten.
The best sequels to Avalon were the two Solo album’s Ferry released immediately after Roxy Music disbanded: 1985’s Boys and Girls ( which according to wikipedia is often called Avalon II) and 1987’s Bête Noire. With production help by Rhett Davies and Patrick Leonard respectively, these albums delivered intense, exotic sophistication. Jazz, funk, and ethereal, distinctly eighties electronic sounds melding together to create a dark night of blue-eyed soul.
As Ferry’s catalogue developed, he gradually moved away from the the subtle, hyper-detailed ambience of these eighties landmarks. 1993’s Taxi was still interesting but with each successive album Ferry has become more and more of the traditional crooner he has so long been modeling his image after. This transformation probably reached its zenith with 1999’s As Time Goes By, a collection of jazz standards, along with 2007’s Dylanesque.
With Avonmore, Ferry has finally returned to the promise shown in his two Eighties works. Rhett Davies is working once more in the producer’s chair and the album is chock full of interesting performers including Niles Rogers, Flea, Johnny Marr, Maceo Parker and Ronnie Specter.
All of these ingredients create a work that is satisfying on a lot of levels. Most of all because it’s so great to a see an artist who has explored so many different avenues of musical expression return to what they do best and truly deliver.