Sunday, 4 October 2020

Bryan Ferry - Sign Of The Times (1973-1978)


 

These Foolish Things (1973)



A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall/River Of Salt/Don’t Ever Change/Piece Of My Heart/Baby I Don’t Care/It’s My Party/Don’t Worry Baby/Sympathy For The Devil/The Tracks Of My Tears/You Won’t See Me/I Love How You Love Me/Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever/These Foolish Things   

Bryan Ferry was the first, in 1973, to release an album of cover versions of some of his favourite songs, just prior to David Bowie with Pin Ups and a bit longer before John Lennon’s Rock n Roll. While Bowie ploughed the mid-sixties British r’n’b furrow and Lennon looked to the late fifties/early seventies US rock ‘n’ roll that he so loved, Ferry, with impeccable taste, covered MotownThe BeatlesThe Beach BoysJanis JoplinBob Dylan and even The Rolling Stones, among many others on a veritable cornucopia of influences. The results were patchy, to be honest, as some of the covers certainly do not come off, but it was a brave album, and one that I have finally warmed to over time.

One had to question why Ferry did it, though - was it all one big hoot, a raised finger to the cognoscenti that hung on his every lyric after the seismic impact of the first two delightfully avant-garde Roxy Music albums? Was he trying to show that beneath all that classy, sophisticated glam posturing he was just a fun guy underneath that liked a sixties pop tune or two? I can still remember a music paper article from the time that led with “Bryan Ferry - the guy that took the piss out of Bob Dylan and got away with it...”. It was presuming that A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall was done as a joke. I am not so sure, as Ferry’s many Dylan covers since, including one entire album in Dylanesque, would surely prove that he was covering Dylan for more than a throwaway laugh.

You have to remember that at the time, many people laughed and scoffed at Ferry’s voice, claiming “he can’t sing”. Indeed, this album highlighted his quirky, quavering voice even more than on Roxy Music material, because well-known songs were suddenly being sung by a man with an odd up and down, totally unique (at the time) delivery. For many, therefore, in 1973, these covers were seen as a travesty.

So, was this a tongue-in-cheek kiss-off to the music press from an artist already known for his hauteur or was it simply an enjoyable departure from all that arty creativity? When Ferry was asked about the album, he said- 

"It's a very catholic selection, I've given up trying to please all of the people all of the time. Some will like it for one reason, some for another. And some will presumably dislike it for the wrong reasons though I hope the general point of it will be understood. It's amusement value. I think." 

A bit of both, then, it would seem.

Ferry also changed his image considerably during this period, replacing the futuristic/retrospective oddness of Roxy Music 1972-73 with firstly, a t-shirted, gold neck chain and neat hairdo fifties movie star look for this album, which soon morphed into the tuxedo-clad suave sophisticate personification of good taste that we would come to associate with Ferry for many years to come. This look transferred over into his Roxy Music image too, simultaneously.

 
                                    

Regarding the album itself, for many years, despite having owned it since 1973, I liked the opening and closing tracks, and felt the rest was sub-standard. Over recent years, however, I have found that I have come to appreciate some of them a lot more and feel that Ferry was paying due respect to some tracks he has liked for years. Some of them I will never be convinced by, nevertheless, but anyway, here we go.

A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall is a track that I have always loved, from its “fade-in” intro through its pounding backing and Ferry’s hammed-up vocal. I bought the single upon release and it blew me away (I didn’t know the Dylan original as a fourteen year-old). I loved it then and still do. Whatever anyone says, I think it is a great cover, full of vitality. I always thought at the time that it matched the Roxy output for creativity, despite the lyrics being Dylan’s. This was up there with Street Life, for me.

An off-beat choice was Ketty Lester’s River Of Salt, given a brooding, bassy and almost late night soulful backing. It is very short, however, not even making two minutes. Ferry does a nice job vocally and the sound quality overall is excellent. Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s Don’t Ever Change is given a jaunty, slightly camped-up makeover. It all sounds a bit lightweight, though, for the darling of serious art-rock. Once more, it is over very quickly. Some impressive Stax-style horns, a great rumbling bass and piano back Ferry’s take of Janis Joplin’s Piece Of My Heart. While he is no Janis, there is something appealing in this vibrant, soulful cover. Taken in isolation, it is ok.



Another sub-two minute romp is Elvis Presley’s Baby I Don’t Care, which seems to suit Ferry comfortably enough, as he does his best lip-curling Elvis. Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party, sung by Ferry without changing gender, is an odd choice, and is the one that suits the “send-up” theory more than any other. It is lively, poppy and enjoyable, but Ferry’s voice suffers throughout and just doesn’t suit the song.

Then, unfortunately, we get three classic songs that prove to be too much for Ferry. Firstly, Brian Wilson and Roger Christian’s Don’t Worry Baby is one of my favourite songs of all time, and it has been well covered by Ronnie Spector and Billy Joel. Ferry changes the lyrics from being a teenage car racing anthem to a more adult love song. Basically, while it is musically ok, it just doesn’t do it for me. It features some fine guitar, though. Even more unsuccessful is The Rolling Stones’ menacing Sympathy For The Devil. I know some people like this but, no, it is pretty awful, especially vocally. Ferry just tries too hard to sound devilish and just succeeds in sounding diabolical, particularly in his cackling laugh near the end. The sooner it is over the better. Musically, it is acceptably brassy, however, and a stonking live cut of the track has recently appeared from a 1974 concert at The Royal Albert Hall. As for Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks Of My Tears, I’m afraid the same earlier critcisms apply. Ferry’s vocal oddness is ramped up to the max - he did this far more in these early days than later, almost as if it were deliberate. His vocal would never have been so theatrical in the eighties and beyond. Ferry had a genuine, long-held love for Motown, however, and one feels this was a labour of love of a cover, irrespective of whether it came off or not. Soul music was big in Newcastle when Ferry grew up, played at places like the legendary Go-Go Club, so it was not a surprise that some Motown showed up on this album. Ferry's first band, The Gas Board, also played soul/r'n'b covers and may well have played this one. Maybe it is not surprising that Ferry, once freed to do his own solo thing, went back to square one and his Gas Board days and covered several soul numbers. Avant-garde art rocker or simply an old soul boy?

The Beatles’ You Won’t See Me is solid and muscular and actually is quite acceptable in a strange sort of way, with another excellent guitar solo, this time from Roxy mate Phil Mazanera. I have always quite enjoyed this. The Paris Sisters’ I Love How You Love Me, from 1961, is a brassy piece of rock ‘n’ roll balladry with a great saxophone solo. Once more, you can see why it might attract accusations of being tongue-in-cheek, as it is very over-the-top. The Four Tops’ Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever is a far more effective cover of a Motown song than The Tracks Of My Tears. It has a punchy soul power to it. Again, it is probably a song Ferry had covered in his early years.

The album ends with one of my all-time Ferry favourites, a wonderful, atmospheric cover from the thirties in These Foolish Things. It is just sumptuously lovely and provides a first sign of a liking for the sort of material that Ferry would cover on his later album As Time Goes By. He always liked that thirties vibe and this song suits him perfectly - the lounge lizard, classy dinner-jacketed persona is getting its first outing here. The song is packed full of cinematic images and my late mother loved it too (she knew every word) so it has many plus points.

I still can’t get away from the first and last tracks being the best, but I have given those in between a bit more of a chance here. The album hides a bit of a quirky appeal, I have to admit. Amazingly, though, Ferry recorded the Roxy classic Stranded around the same time, maybe this really was just light relief. Its general feeling of playfulness would seem to back that up. What comes across loud and clear all these years later is that actually, as these cover albums go, it is actually one of the best.

Below is The Gas Board with Ferry on the rear far right.




Another Time Another Place (1974)


The "In" Crowd/Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/Walk A Mile In My Shoes/Funny How Time Slips Away/You Are My Sunshine/What A Wonderful World/It Ain't Me Babe/Fingerpoppin'/Help Me Make It Through The Night/Another Time Another Place                    

Released in 1974, I find this, Bryan Ferry's second solo album, to be a better and far more enjoyable effort than his first, These Foolish Things, which contained, in my opinion, a few truly awful, ill-considered covers. I prefer the choice of material on here, more soully and rocking country than some of the sixties pop of the first album. These Ferry solo albums should be taken for what they are though - not Roxy Music albums. Ferry covers stuff he liked. If he liked You Are My Sunshine then that is his prerogative. Obviously, it is then down to how he covers the songs. His Sympathy For The Devil on the first album is a million times worse than anything on here. He covers the material on here well, overall. What is still shining though, brightly, however, is Ferry's love of soul, something that dated back to his mid-sixties Gas Board days.

Starting off with the album's two singles, covers of Dobie Gray's Northern Soul classic The "In" Crowd and The InkspotsSmoke Gets In Your Eyes, the album has a more confident feel about it than the last. The "In" Crowd is the best track on the album, a strong rocker, while the laid-back, melodic Smoke has an excellent saxophone solo from Chris Mercer. Dare I say it, the rumbustious The "In" Crowd puts Dobie Gray's version in the shade somewhat. Listen to the great intro - Ferry's electric piano beginning the song, his cool finger-clicking and then some huge, scratchy guitar bursts into action followed by the brass. It hits you right between the ears.

 

Walk In My Shoes is an excellent throaty, rocking cover of Joe South's 1970 soulful country hit, with nice bass, solid drums and a soulful organ backing. Great backing vocals and horns also with a bit of electric violin in there too. Pretty much everything seems to be played on this track. Good stuff. Funny How Time Slips Away is a soulful cover of another country song but it is marred just a little bit by Ferry's semi-spoken introduction. Things are redeemed, however, when it kicks in with more great guitar and horns backing. The musicianship on this album certainly is top notch.

You Are My Sunshine is given the big backing choir treatment that Ferry used on Psalm, from Roxy Music's Stranded album. Lovely New Orleans-style brass features though, as the song mournfully builds up, like a funeral march. It sort of suits Ferry's melancholy voice and is truly enhanced by those wonderful backing vocals. I like it and always have done.



Ferry's vaguely reggae-ish cover of Sam Cooke's What A Wonderful World is appealing as, actually, is his first effort at being "Dylanesque", a strong mid-pace rock cover of It Ain't Me Babe. The upbeat Fingerpoppin', initially recorded by Ike & Tina Turner, tests Ferry's vocal range and Gladys Knight's Help Me Make It Through The Night sees him back on safer ground.

The final track is his first solo solo composition, if that makes sense, in the beguiling Another Time Another Place, which was a riffy rocker that could have come from Roxy's Country Life. As Ferry's albums progressed, more and more of his own compositions crept in and there were far less covers, which was a good thing. As much as I quite like this album, 1977's vibrant In Your Mind was a much better album, full of his own songs. In between, however, came the odd curio of Let's Stick Together, which I will discuss next (after the live album).



This 1999 remastering is pretty good, except that The "In" Crowd has a few tinny moments. It always has. Maybe it just always will.



Photo © Anwar Hussein.


Live At The Royal Albert Hall (1974)


Sympathy For The Devil/I Love How You Love Me/Baby I Don’t Care/It’s My Party/Don’t Worry Baby/Another Time Another Place/Fingerpoppin’/The Tracks Of My Tears/You Won’t See Me/Smoke Gets In Your Eyes/A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall/A Really Good Time/The “In” Crowd/These Foolish Things  
                                                                        
Bryan Ferry shocked his Roxy Music-devoted audience by running through most of his 1973 album, These Foolish Things, on his first few solo concerts in 1974. This one was from The Royal Albert Hall on 19 December. Quite a lot of the set list were that album's sixties pop covers performed in that somewhat tongue-in-cheek, vaguely camp style by a now tuxedo-ed Ferry. The lounge lizard persona was a full throes now, the avant-garde spacey, fiftires-throwback weirdo of 1972-73 Roxy Music had been left behind. Ferry was now a role model for the classy, affluent, aspirational male. The sound quality is punchy enough, given that it dates from 1974 and has not obviously been available. Despite its muscularity, it has a mono-ish tinge to the sound.

Sympathy For The Devil is delivered enthusiastically, powered along by Paul Thompson’s fine drumming. It is much better in its live form than on the studio album, when it just doesn’t work. This version is vibrant and compelling. Ferry actually sounds suitably diabolical. Then we get a breakneck romp through the shorter poppier numbers from the 1973 album. The slightly gauche I Love How You Me is enhanced by its fine saxophone solo. Baby I Don’t Care is frantic as is the odd choice of It’s My Party. Ferry’s cover of one of my all-time favourites in The Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby is ok, but it can never match the sumptuous original. Phil Manzanera contributes a fine guitar solo.



It is now time for a Ferry original, the riffy rock of Another Time Another Place from that year’s summer’s album of the same name. Also from that album is the lively, brassy Fingerpoppin’. Three other tracks from that album were played but not included on this release. That made nine from the first solo album, seven from the second, and one Roxy Music track.

Smokey Robinson’s The Tracks Of My Tears is as ill-considered and clumsy as it was on the original album. Sorry, Bryan, you made a right mess of this one. The Beatles’ You Won’t See Me is chunky and unsubtle but enjoyable enough. Smoke Gets In Your Eyes was always a favourite of mine and it is done well here, Chris Mercer, I think, nailing the saxophone as he did on the record. Then it’s time for A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall. I have always loved this back to buying the single in 1973. Ferry and the band do justice to what is no doubt a difficult song to play.

The album’s only Roxy song is A Really Good Time from 1974’s Country Life. It is done really well and I can’t help but yearn for a bit more Roxy material after hearing how well it was performed, despite respecting that this was a solo concert. The “In” Crowd is performed rousingly and before you know it, proceedings are over with These Foolish Things. Ferry does this evocative, beautiful song with suitable élan. Great stuff. I love it.

A short show, but a good one. Great to be able to finally experience it after all these years.

Incidentally, the original set list also included Help Me Make It Through The NightLoving You Is Sweeter Than EverYou Are My Sunshine and Funny How Time Slips Away.



Photos © Michael Putland.

Let's Stick Together (1976)


Let's Stick Together/Casanova/Sea Breezes/Shame, Shame, Shame/2HB/The Price Of Love/Chance Meeting/It's Only Love/You Go To My Head/Re-Make/Re-Model/Heart On My Sleeve               

Bryan Ferry trod water to a certain extent on this 1976 album, carrying on the cover versions tradition of his first two solo albums, but also, rather surprisingly, re-recording five of Roxy Music’s earlier songs. Four came from Roxy’s ground-breaking debut album and one from 1974’s Country Life. Quite why Ferry chose to re-do these songs is not known, maybe he was exorcising demons, maybe he wanted to record them as he felt they should have sounded, free of Bryan Eno’s influence. Maybe he just felt like it. He never really said. As it happens, sacrilegious as though it may seem to re-work these classic songs of the avant-garde they all scrub up in their new garb remarkably well. As someone who had revered the originals, I have to say that these do it for me too.
            
Let’s deal with those first. Casanova loses its rock bombast and becomes almost funky, with a deep, infectious, rhythmic drum backing and a moody Ferry vocal. I really like the interpretation of the song, despite loving the original too. I feel this ones really mines the song's nefarious seams. 2HB is more jaunty than previously, with a prominent melodic piano coda, slightly more shuffling drums and a slightly clearer vocal. Otherwise, though, it sticks pretty much to the vibe of the original.

The lengthy Sea Breezes is pretty similar until the staccato pace change in the middle, then it becomes, once again, funky, with a great chunky bass sound and some impressive acoustic guitar. Some blistering guitar riffs come too, together with some really pounding drums. This is a really good re-make, it really enhances the song, giving it a different sheen. Chance Meeting is similar to the original, although Ferry's vocal is more pronounced and the backing a bit more industrial, particularly near the end. It actually still sounds very Roxy-ish. Re-Make, Re-Model is a funked up, sleazy delight. The original is wonderful, but this take is too. It is shorter but it really has something about it - the funky feel works so well.

It has to be said also that featuring heavily on these recordings are Roxy alumni Paul Thompson (on all drums), John Wetton (on all bass), John Gustafson (Bass on Re-Make Re-Model), Phil Manzanera (guitar on the same track), Eddie Jobson (all violin and synthesiser), David O' List (guitar on Chance Meeting) and old mate John Porter (bass on 2HB). So there is a lot of Roxy influence going on all over the album. Other notable players on the album are saxophonists Mel Collins and Chris Mercer, percussionist Morris Pert and guitarist Chris Spedding (who went on to play in Ferry's live band in the 2000s.

 

Now for the covers. Let's Stick Together is now iconic, with its blistering dual saxophone opening riff, and rousing female whooping backing vocals (the vocalist was never named, strangely).  Ferry’s vocal is top notch too. Great stuff. It still had the vivacious trappings of glam even though that era had passed. Shame Shame Shame is a superb, grinding bluesy cover of the Jimmy Reed number and The Everly Brothers’ The Price Of Love is given a similar pounding blues rock makeover. These are both excellent tracks, full of energy and verve and the former is proof that Ferry knew how to interpret the blues more than people may have thought.

The Beatles’ It's Only Love is a lot better a cover than many say it is, with a fetching brassy backing and Gallagher & Lyle’s evocative, catchy Heart On Your Sleeve is suitably laid-back in that typical Ferry style. Then there is the vaguely reggae with accompanying brass/wah-wah revamp of the crooner You Go To My Head - a smoky lounge bar number from the late 1930s, which is the first sign of Ferry covering a sort of song the like of which he would do many more times in subsequent times. He does it very sensually and atmospherically. Lovely. It is a most underrated song in the Ferry canon.

This album rarely gets mentioned in Ferry’s canon, which is a shame as it is a really good one. Some critics have bemoaned the fact that the Roxy re-makes and the rest of the album sort of delineate it into two halves. I disagree, I think they all fit together rather well.

Incidentally, Ferry's image changed slightly in this era, growing a moustache and growing his hair floppy, briefly. The old white tuxedo was still around or if not a white/cream suit was sported.


  

In Your Mind (1977)


This Is Tomorrow/All Night Operator/One Kiss/Love Me Madly Again/Tokyo Joe/Party Doll/Rock Of Ages/In Your Mind    

After two albums of cover versions and one of half covers and half re-workings of older Roxy Music tracks, Bryan Ferry returned, at the height of punk in 1977, with an album entirely made up of his own compositions. While it may have appeared to be a bit culturally irrelevant, it was actually a pretty good album, and was received as such by fans and the music media alike. I remember getting into punk at the time but still buying this with no feelings of shame. I had liked Roxy/Ferry from 1972 anyway. It wouldn’t be long, however, before Ferry entered “guilty secret” territory for me.

Anyway, it was an energetic, lively, rocking, horn-powered album and featured Phil Manzanera and Paul Thompson from Roxy, along with sometime Roxy bassist John Wetton and several other notable sessionists such as Chris Spedding and Mel Collins. Thinking about it, it would actually have done pretty well as a Roxy album, following on, as it did in many ways, from the accessible sound of 1975’s Siren. Indeed, I prefer it in many ways to both Manifesto and Flesh & Blood and it bristles with far more energy and verve than Ferry’s eighties solo output - in these respects it is a bit of a forgotten gem. Although recorded in London there is a slick Transatlantic sound to it that brings to mind Rod Stewart's Atlantic CrossingIan Hunter's All American Alien Boy or even, vaguely, David Bowie's Young Americans. Horns, soul influences and Dylan lyrical acknowledgements were de riguer in 1975-77. It is no coincidence, therefore, that I also find myself thinking of Dylan's Street-Legal, from the following year, when I listen to this. Maybe these artists/or the general sound influenced Dylan? That was more than possible, as Dylan would freely admit.

In early 1977, when it was released, punk was still a bit cult-ish and Ferry was certainly not considered old hat just yet, his persona as the epitome of cool was still intact and generally admired, as opposed to scoffed at. He appeared on the cover suntanned, with neat hair and a bit over-heated looking in a plain white t-shirt and aviator shades - sure, it was hardly full-on punk, but in 1977 anything that was not typical Peter Frampton-esque long rock star hair gained a certain amount of respect from those determined to eschew traditional seventies rock styles. David Bowie also now had shorter hair, Freddie Mercury was getting there and even Marc Bolan’s corkscrew curls had gone. Ferry, actually, had always been his own man, image-wise - think of the-shirt of These Foolish Things or the tuxedo of Another Time, Another Place or the moustache/floppy hair of Let’s Stick Together. That was one of the reasons the punks didn’t turn on Ferry as they did other supposed “dinosaurs”.

 

On to the music. Starting with some tropical insect sound effects, followed by Ferry at the keyboards, This Is Tomorrow soon launches itself powerfully as a convincing, catchy rocker, full of chunky Stonesy riffs, Stax-style horns and a hooky vibe that made it a perfect choice for a single. It was duly a big hit that showed that Ferry still carried enough clout to chart.

All Night Operator is a punchy, brassy number that keeps the tempo at a robust level. It wouldn't have sounded out of place on Roxy's Country Life, or Siren for that matter. One Kiss is a slower paced but dramatic  ballad featuring some fine saxophone and an enthusiastic Ferry vocal combined with some equally excitable female backing ones. Its chorus has an unusually loose singalong feel to it - a sort of semi-drunken carousing led by a Ferry who has let his classy veneer slip briefly. It ends with some instantly recognisable solid Thompson drumming on the fade-out.

Love Me Madly Again is a lengthy, dense, industrial rocker with verses that build continually to a solid but strangely seductive chorus. On first hearing it can seem a bit dull but it has a staying power that ensures you get into it eventually. Ferry has sort of taken the extended indulgence of Roxy tracks like The Bogus Man and For Your Pleasure and rocked it up a bit, adding some brass, resulting in one of his heaviest numbers to date. It stands out notably, as the most Roxy-ish song, from the more poppy feel of the rest of the album and has a hint of The Thrill Of It All from Country Life to it together with a slight bit of The Beatles' Savoy Truffle at one point (in the horns). In retrospect it is probably the album's mature high point.

The album’s other hit was Tokyo Joe, an instantly attractive song somewhat blighted by some “far-East by numbers” musical cliches that are also matched by some of the lyrics. As time has gone by it has tended to be forgotten by fans and Ferry alike (he doesn’t ever seem to play it live) but at the time it was on the radio regularly and was one of his biggest hits thus far.

Party Doll is an organ-driven mid-pace rock number with a bit of a vague Dylanesque feel to it. Ferry gives us a great, swirling organ solo mid-song. Rock Of Ages rises slowly into big, brassy chorus parts - this is as dramatic and vibrant as Ferry has probably ever been or would be. It has a slow, instrumental noise build-up similar to Sentimental Fool on Siren. Verbose, image-laden Dylanisms are back on the closer, the atmospheric slow burner In Your Mind. This could have been a Roxy Music Phase Two song - those Dylanesque lyrics, and a great delivery from Ferry, plus  impressive playing from the musicians involved. It really builds up momentum as it continues on, insistently, then comes down again, while retaining its intrinsic melancholy. I'm not really sure how to express what I mean here but there is a tragic feel to this song, I feel.

Finally - "see the veiled prophet's withered glaze reflect the nouvelle-vague..." sings Ferry, the great Francophile using the French for "new-wave". Coincidence? Surely not.

In summing up, this is just a good late 70s rock album. Nothing more nothing less. Probably getting a little bit dated in 1977 but not incredibly so. Nice one.




The Bride Stripped Bare (1978)


Sign Of The Times/Can't Let Go/Hold On (I'm Coming)/The Same Old Blues/When She Walks In The Room/Take Me To The River/What Goes On/Carrickfergus/That's How Strong My Love Is/This Island Earth                

This is one of Bryan Ferry's solo albums that has sort of slipped under the radar (comparatively). Being really into all things punk and new wave in September 1978, when it was released, it was the first of his solo albums that I didn't buy. In fact at the time I paid it little attention. I subsequently bought it several years later, but don't return to it that often, which is a bit of a shame as it isn't a bad album. It is a healthy mix of Ferry original compositions and covers and it contains probably Ferry's bluesiest material too.

It was a funny thing that in 1977 I was quite happy to listen to Ferry's In Your Mind, yet by 1978 he had no relevance. That's the young for you. Thankfully a few years later I restored the balance. Briefly, in that glorious autumn of 1978, all that mattered was The Jam, The Clash and Elvis Costello.

  
                        
As an album that was a bit unsuited to its times the first track is somewhat aptly titled. Sign Of The Times is a thumping Ferry rocker that wouldn't seemed out of place as a Roxy Music single, to be honest. For some reason, it ends abruptly, just when you are getting into it. Maybe Ferry was trying to re-create that Virginia Plain thing. It didn't quite work here, however. Can't Let Go is a Ferry original that has a feel of the sort of material he would use on Roxy Music's 1982 Avalon album, and indeed on 1979's Manifesto. It is a solid, pumping mid-pace rock-ish number with impressive string, drum and lead guitar backing. Ferry's vocal is excellent too. Sam and Dave's Hold On (I'm Coming) is covered effectively and Ferry does this very well live, many years later, as a show closer.

The best track on the album, for me, is Ferry's treatment of J.J. Cale's The Same Old Blues. It is chock full of brooding atmosphere, a solid backing and Ferry's quirky voice ideally suited to it. Great guitar on it too. When She Walks In The Room is not, as you may imagine, a cover of the Jackie DeShannon number, but an evocative Ferry composition. It is a bitter-sweet romantic, mournful song, possibly written by a heartbroken Ferry at the loss of Jerry Hall to Mick Jagger. It is full of sonorous, sweeping string orchestration and a lovelorn vocal. The bit where the beat goes quiet with two minutes left is sublime.

Ferry's cover of Al Green's Take Me To The River was overshadowed by the contemporaneously fashionable Talking Heads' cover of the same song. While theirs was undoubtedly excellent, in any other era, Ferry's would have garnered praise, as, for me, it is a good one, with impressive vocals, guitar and a great funky drum intro. Actually, though, nothing really compares to Green's original.

The Velvet Underground's What Goes On is dealt with suitable riffage. It rocks, solidly, as indeed it should. A contrast is up next in Ferry's Van Morrison-esque interpretation of the Irish folk song Carrickfergus. It utilises some Astral Weeks-sounding string bass sounds.

The cover of Otis Redding's That's How Strong My Love Is is musically good, but Ferry's voice, although moving, is no Otis Redding. He does his best though, and Mel Collins provides a superb saxophone solo. You do feel, though, that Ferry really means it as he sings it. This Island Earth is a Ferry tune to end with and it is probably the first of the laid-back, rhythmic style that would so dominate his eighties output on albums like Boys And Girls and Bête Noire. Listening to this album now, it strikes me it would have been considered a really good one, had it been released in 1976 or 1985, as opposed to 1978.


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