Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Bryan Ferry - Mamouna (1994)

Your painted smile....


Released September 1994

Mamouna is absolutely jam-packed full with top notch musicians, including Roxy Music’s Phil Manzanera, and Brian Eno is back working with Ferry for the first time since he left Roxy Music in 1973. All that consideed it would not be unreasonable to expect a corker of an album. Actually, although the sound quality and muscianship on the album is first class, somehow there is a sameiness to it that ensures it never really takes off. Rather like Boys And Girls it continues at the same slick, immaculately-delivered lounge bar pace without ever changing its mood or ambience. In many ways it is too polished for its own good. Which is a bit of a strange thing to say, considering it is Bryan Ferry, who wrote the book on that sort of thing. Listening to it, though, it is remarkably pleasant, assured and classy, but it never hits any highs. You get the impression that Ferry could do stuff like this in his sleep.


1. Don't Want To Know
2. N.Y.C.
3. Your Painted Smile
4. Mamouna
5. The Only Face
6. The 39 Steps
7. Which Way To Turn
8. Wildcat Days
9. Gemini Moon
10. Chain Reaction                                          

A track like Which Way To Turn, for example, is hauntingly beautiful, both grandoise and understated simultaneously, with an infectious rumbling bass underpinning it, some Mark Knopfler-style guitar interjections subtly behind the beat and Ferry’s high-toned vocal floating around over the top of it. It wafts in to your consciousness, then it gently blows away, like dandelion seeds in the gentle summer wind. The problem is, on this album, every track has the same effect, so the overall feel is rather soporific. Don't Want To Know kicks the album off as it means to go on, as described above. N.Y.C. is a mysterious-sounding, beguiling track that brings to mind Paris more than New York City, I have to say.

Your Painted Smile is also mouth-wateringly intoxicating. Ferry’s lush, husky warm voice just washes all over you, as does the subtle keyboard and saxophone backing. You simply can’t argue with the quality of these songs, however homogenous they are. Mamouna has some distant Eastern-sounding backing vocals, but Ferry doesn't change the mood himself.

The Only Face has an intoxicating deep percussion backing and some addictive wah-wah guitar breaks. Ferry’s vocal is again lazily seductive. Deliciously sensual. The 39 Steps comes thumping in with some solid backing, but the vibe is the same shufflingly seductive one.

Wildcat Days is sublimely beautiful but also ups the thump from the drums a bit, with some eerie background noise too. Eno, no doubt. The bits near the end are some of the most obvious Eno bits on the album. It has that vaguely Parisian late-night feel to it that Ferry does so well.

Gemini Moon has a slightly more lively beat, just slightly, and is one of the most appealing tracks on the album. Chain Reaction concludes matters in the same style as it had begun, of course. Yes, I know this album sounds pretty much the same throughout, but once it is playing and you let it seep into you, it becomes rather irresistible.

Below is a clip of Ferry performing Mamouna in 1994.