For me, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music can do no wrong. I discovered the two as an early teenager in the yuppified, but sophisticated, venues of the albums, Avalon and Bete Noire. It was only after discovering their early work over the years that the full context of Ferry’s street-smart cool and effervescent talent fully hit me. And while my tastes may run harder and darker at times today, Ferry remains my beacon of “effortless smooth.”
So when “The Jazz Age” came out I was particularly interested to see how the talent holds up in a style that I’d always thought would fit him well . . . The Gatsby-esque 20’s. Answer: the talent holds up well.
For a listener who knows anything about where Ferry came from (and even those don’t), the album drops his nuanced melodies straight into the “The Jazz Age” itself. This is the place where America learned why it’s sometimes desirable to be European. These are instrumentals that tell stories of decadence and urban naughtiness – and without a hint of hesitation. The tracks not only belong in sophisticated places – they own them. That type of thing works for me. Always. The slickness and suave elegance of the lyrics are missing. And that is sad insofar as I’ve found Ferry’s poetry capable of ushering in a sort of 70’s New York fantasy – or maybe it’s more the 80’s vibe – Whit Stillman, Brett Easton Ellis, and Jay McInerny speaking to a new generation in raw (often chilling) voices of all that is light and dark in America’s aspirational dreams. Ferry’s voice has its own mystical quality. Merely as a thought experiment, I wish those two components had been added to Colin Good’s arrangements. But if you’re at all like me (and, lord knows, you should be), once you’re settled into a quality leather chair, gazing out at Gotham’s beckoning skyline and sipping a glass of small batch bourbon, it’s all upside. Unsurprisingly, my choice of highlights are: “Do the Strand,” “Love is the Drug,” “Don’t Stop the Dance” and “Slave to Love.” Speaking of which, time for refill . . .