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Bryan Ferry - Dylanesque

2007-06-08 17:58
Ferry's done the unthinkable. He's given Dylan classics (some popular, some sublime), a burlesque (Dylanesque), cocktail-lounge treatment, turning them into piano ballads, singing like he has a rose in his tux pocket, half a bottle of whiskey in his gut, and a hot date sipping a strong drink waiting at the bar, leaking smoke from red lips.

Some voices age badly, becoming thin and quivery. Ferry's has aged too, taken on a papery dry texture like your grandmother's hands. But rather than hiding this, Dylanesque celebrates it's more delicate beauty.

Using all the tricks his old voice has learned, Ferry lounges towards musical paradise on the richly layered "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" - one of Dylan's most covered songs. Everyone from The Grateful Dead to Randy Crawford had a go at some point.

Less successfully, Ferry embellishes "The Times They Are A-Changing" and speeds it up. The old anthem doesn't handle the syrup - or perhaps it's so overplayed and old fashioned that nothing can save it from sounding twee.

Dylan seems to have woken up on his latest album and found a new youth. Bryan Ferry, by contrast, has settled for growing older disgracefully. Sounding like that same dirty bastard, he slouches towards "The Gates of Eden" and finishes by teasing sad anger from a song some bands have the folly to rock out on (shame on U2), "All Along the Watchtower".

There are two ways to listen to Dylanesque. If you're a casual music fan who was never mad about Dylan's style, here's a chance to appreciate what an astoundingly good songwriter he was. It's a "pleasant" experience. Serious Dylan fans may at first struggle to overcome a resistance to hearing Dylan's songs done so differently. But those who warm to Ferry's inspired cheek will fall in love with the bastard.

- Jean Barker
You don't just go covering Dylan. Pub bands may do it, but there's a reason they're still just pub bands… Although Dylan-haters always claim he can't sing, very few people have managed to sing Dylan’s songs successfully. They were written by Dylan, for Dylan. But if anyone was going to try, and have the cheek to make those songs their own, it could only be one man - an old stylishly swaggering, perfector of the chic drunken mumble: Bryan Ferry.

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