As lauded as he’s been on his own as a classic, classy crooner and debonair personality, Bryan Ferry has never been able to fully eclipse his work with Roxy Music, the seminal outfit that bridged the worlds of glam and avant-garde with stellar success. Though both an entertainer and innovator, Ferry still labors in Roxy’s shadow, a dilemma that continues to plague him nearly 40 years on.
It’s significant then that Avonmore not only appears to borrow its name from one of Roxy’s greatest triumphs, the 1982 release Avalon (Avonmore… Avalon… note the similarity?), but also replicates the shifting textures and atmospheric environs that distinguished that earlier album and made it an enduring classic. Several of the new songs help affirm that similarity; “Lost” in particular, with its seductive sensuality and recurring refrain, sounds like a reprise of the older album’s title track, which encapsulated the parent album’s allure. “Loop De Li” fits the bill as well, Ferry’s hushed vocals seemingly at odds with the dreamlike setting and underpinnings that constitute a veritable rattle and hum. Ferry and his incredible cast of collaborators – guitarists Nile Rogers, Steve Jones, Johnny Marr and Mark Knopfler, among the many – opt for a cool groove, all alluring and inviting, though still supple and subdued.
Ultimately, the lack of more defined melodies tends to limit the album’s overall appeal. Ferry’s voice often seems buried in the mix, robbing many of the melodies of a more emphatic imprint. Indeed, a daring redo of the classic “Send in the Clowns” is so muted, it’s practically impossible to recognize. A cover of Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary” fares only marginally better.
Still, it’s hard to fault an artist as distinctive and daring as Ferry, especially when it comes to putting a unique spin on otherwise familiar material. As elusive as he often appears, Ferry is still fearless.
– Lee Zimmerman