Bryan Ferry’s first album of mostly original songs since 1994•s Mamouna may be notable for high profile guest stars like fellow former Roxy Music bandmate Brian Eno, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics, and Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood. But it’s the shadow of Bob Dylan that hangs over the proceedings to the greatest degree.
The record kicks off with a terrific cover of Zimmy’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Ferry sounds more vocally animated than he has in years and even rips into one of the record’s many harmonica solos. The stripped down sound is the first indicator that Ferry has all but abandoned the gauzy, lounge lizard sound of his post-Roxy efforts. He later takes on
As for the album’s originals, most have the much bigger sound we’ve come to expect from Ferry. But songs like “Cruel” (co-written with Stewart), which features four guitarists (including Chris Spedding) and a string section, have a crisper vitality than some of his previous solo stuff. Eno adds swirling keyboards and backing vocals to the record’s first single, “Goddess Of Love,” an ode to Marilyn Monroe and one terrifically catchy, dense pop song with Ferry’s best croon. “Marilyn says I got nothing to wear tonight / Only a pair of diamond earrings that catch the light,” he sings. Roxy drummer Paul Thompson is also along for the ride.
Greenwood and Eno are both featured on “Hiroshima•,” a slightly weird, thoroughly modern update on the Roxy sound. And Stewart contributes the electro-pop sheen on “One Way Love,” which resembles a Eurythmics leftover from the ’80s. But the Stewart co-write “San Simeon” is pretentious and un-involving.
The record concludes with the Ferry/Eno co-write “I Thought,” a fairly bland though pleasant collaboration. “I thought I’d be your streetcar named desire / Your man • the one you seek,” Ferry sings. “I thought I’d take you deep within myself / Subtitles when we speak.” The song fades out on another Ferry harmonica solo.
For the most part, though, Frantic is a record full of fresh sounds and engaging vocals. Ferry proves he’s still the essence of cool and he’s not just some well-preserved rock fossil. He’s not afraid to put down that martini, take off that tuxedo jacket, roll up his sleeves and get down to business.