Bryan Ferry: Avonmore US CD 
- Loop De Li
- Midnight Train
- Soldier Of Fortune
- Driving Me Wild
- A Special Kind Of Guy
- One Night Stand
- Send In The Clowns
- Johnny + Mary
Last night my wife arrived home from work toting a bag of new CDs; among them, the one CD that had recently become something of a priority to buy. Since we just bought tickets for a Bryan Ferry show to he held on August 2nd, I really needed to get “Avonmore.” She had stopped by at Harvest Records and picked the new Ferry opus up, which shocked me since I would not assume that they would have it in stock. How did I find it? Well, after a single listen, let’s dive in with hasty conclusions!
More or less, it’s the Bryan Ferry Album® that he’s been carefully honing since 1982. Polishing, and repolishing immaculate discofunk riffs until they are suitably remote and emotionally distant. Lately he’s been deliberately pastiching the “Avalon” vibe for some of his dubbed out intros. He did it on “Olympia” and the lead off track, “Loop De Li” opens with some more dissolute 1982 atmosphere before cranking up the groove and immediacy of the number. Only six guitarists on this song, but it still managed to attain a suitable Ferryness.
In contrast, “Midnight Train” sported nine guitarists, each contributing licks that have been carefully composited in a track that managed to actually sound a little frisky with some sonic space to spare. Johnny Marr was one of those guitarists, and he co-wrote “Soldier Of Fortune” which stands out here as the closest thing to an acoustic folk number that Ferry would allow himself to record. The immediacy of its vibe was in contrast to the Ferry’s fragile vibrato for a different approach that I could stand some more of. It’s true, that Ferry has born the brunt of that cigarette addiction in his voice of the last 17 years. I notice the change on “As Time Goes By” and it’s gotten more fragile with time.”My wife says “it sounds like he’s underwater” and that’s as good a simile as any. In 2016, it’s impossible to imagine him belting out a number like “Bitter-Sweet.” So now is the time for him to use his vulnerability to the hilt.
It’s immediately apparent that Ferry is at the keyboard with the subtle Farfisa that heralds “Driving Me Wild.” His fingers are all over the keys here, with only Paul Beard additionally on a pair of cuts. Still, we love it when he plays the Farfisa. It brings a much-need rudeness to the proceedings. “A Special Kind Of Guy” comes off with the whiff of “Taxi.” You’d almost swear that it was Robin Trower [curiously, a guitarist who did not get the call for this album] back with the distinctive wah wah fills he contributed there, but it’s Ferry stalwart Neil Hubbard assuming the position here. Leaving space for Nile Rodgers to embellish with his rhythm playing.
The corker of a title track managed to actually get a head of steam up with its tightly compressed disco rhythm section. It adds the requisite whiff of desperation when Ferry concludes “I know I’ll never fall in love again.” I love the ghostly synth patches Ferry offers here. This track has been remixed on a special Tory 12″ single from The Vinyl Factory, and I would be interested in hearing those mixes. Hopefully, they will make it to DL format for the plebes.
Then there’s “One Night Stand.” This is a track where the carefully notated credits list swelled to a head-spinning 21 credits! Yes, it’s another track with nine guitarists. They’ve even got Ronnie Spector in there on backing vocals! Its probably at times like these that Ferry thanks his lucky stars he’s lived long enough to pass from the crude scribblings of 48 track SSL mixing boards to the ProTools era where there are no such limitations. The percussive funk workout somehow managed not to collapse into sonic mush, which, admittedly, is no mean feat, considering.
The two cover versions on this release were in keeping with his salting his last albums of new material with a few covers. “Send In The Clowns” is hardly a song anyone has been clamoring for yet another cover of. While a Ferry cover can be transformative and even a little daring [see: “I Put A Spell On You”] this one is merely quasi-functional. At the end of it one can relax their jaw and assess the damage done with a clear hear, knowing that at least it wasn’t Judy Collins, but don’t we deserve better? On the other hand, the version of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny + Mary” from the [slightly] earlier Todd Terje album closes out the program with a radical recasting of the venerable pop tune that loses the motorik pop foundation on the original that echoed the Johnny character. This was certainly moving in a very different direction’ one which emphasized the heartbreak at the core of the song. With that, the album was done. A tight 44 minutes just like in the old days.
Ferry has certainly developed what I’ll call a nanostyle over the last 30+ years. It’s hardly wide, in fact, it’s as narrow a style as can be, but all of the tiny particles that comprise it are exactly in their correct orbits with nary an angstrom unit left to chance. This of course, is the Ferry Paradox®. After bursting forth with a million dazzling ideas in his first five years of performance, he’s been content to heighten his sonic focus on an increasingly polished glossy surface touched with haiku-like lyrics that speak of pain and longing as his twin muses. This is Ferryangstmusik, and it’s his field alone to plow. It is a coherent body of work but it, more often than not, fails to surprise any longer. The last time I’ve been really wowed by a Ferry album was 2002’s “Frantic,” coming off of a Roxy Music reunion that resulted in a more spontaneous feel to the recordings. I’d love to hear some of that sauce the next time Ferry hits the studio.
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