Record Review - 3 September 04 2002

While everywhere we’re besieged by ’80s alt-rock heroes reprising their shining moment 20 years after the fact, Bryan Ferry continues to push in new directions on his latest release, Frantic. The album’s terrific first half is emblematic of his gilded ear, bearing only a passing resemblance to the lush, elegant pop of his former band, Roxy Music.

Long fascinated with reinterpretation, Ferry reinvigorates two Dylan classics (“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue,” “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right”), along with blues artist Don Nix’s “Goin’ Down.” He combines these with three originals — including the blues-guitar-driven “Cruel” and “Nobody Loves Me,” on which piano complements supple six-string work — for a stunning opening sequence. Between the Dylan tracks (where Ferry plays a mean harmonica) and the raw, cutting guitar work of no less than a half-dozen different guitarists, the first half of the album simmers with a refined energy.

Frantic’s second half houses the more typical Ferry tracks, including a particularly succulent Eno/Ferry collaboration, “I Thought,” the Drifters’ “One Way Love” (which sounds like an outtake from Avalon) and a surprisingly effective traditional take on Leadbelly’s “Goodnight Irene.” All of it is topped off by the kind of graceful production we’ve come to expect from the English coal miner’s son.