First Appeared in The Music Box, July 2007, Volume 14, #7
Written by John Metzger
Tue July 24, 2007, 06:00 AM CDT
Although Bryan Ferry and Bob Dylan are both cultural icons, they have completely different (and often conflicting) approaches to recording music. Dylan is known for stepping into the studio on a whim and for keeping his band in the dark until the last possible moment. Ferry, on the other hand, seems to plan everything he does with the utmost care. Nevertheless, time and again throughout his career, Ferry has achieved immense success at applying his suave sophistication and ambient textures to Dylanís freewheeling wordplay. In a sign of things to come, Ferry tucked a bold re-imagination of A Hard Rainís A-Gonna Fall into the midst of his 1973 solo debut These Foolish Things. He continued to waltz through Dylanís canon by tackling It Ainít Me Babe in 1974, and Itís All Over Now, Baby Blue, and Donít Think Twice, Itís Alright in 2002. Although none of these versions were nearly as irreverent as his rendition of A Hard Rainís A-Gonna Fall, they were equally intriguing and engaging.
Viewed in this light, Ferryís latest outing Dylanesque isnít as much of a stretch as it initially might appear to be, though the biggest concession he made to recording the endeavor was to cut the effort live in the studio over the course of a single week. In doing so, the material gained an urgency that it otherwise might not have had. Nevertheless, its biggest triumph likely comes from the fact that Ferry never sounds for a minute like he is trying to be Bob Dylan. On track after track, he polishes the craggy edges of Dylanís work until he uncovers a new perspective from which to sing the material. On Simple Twist of Fate, for example, he swaps the sad-eyed tenderness and yearning of the original rendition for a galloping, arena-ready, rock-oriented framework. The result is that he winds up transforming the song into a tale of survival. In a similar fashion, he uses a chugging, Traveling Wilburys-like groove to recast The Times They Are A-Changiní from a dire warning into a celebration of the possibilities that a new beginning can bring. Elsewhere, he strips away Positively 4th Streetís scathing indictments in order to reveal the heartbroken lament that lies beneath its surface.
Save for Make You Feel My Love ó which was plucked from Time Out of Mind ó all of the material on Dylanesque was culled from the golden era of Dylanís writing, which spanned roughly from 1962 until 1975. Although many of the selections are oft-covered and quite familiar, Ferry doesnít settle for rote regurgitation. It also is quite clear that he did his research. Not only is he intimately familiar with Dylanís versions of the tunes, but Ferry also has absorbed the many other interpretations that have been tossed around by a wide array of artists over the years. From these, he selected the best bits and pieces he could find, and he sent them shooting prismatically through Dylanesqueís 11 tracks. George Harrisonís ebullient rendition of If Not for You and The Byrdsí jingly, jangly, sunshine-imbued arrangement of All I Really Want to Do serve as starting, rather than ending points for Ferry. Likewise, during Knockiní on Heavenís Door, he fuses weary verses to rapturous choruses in a way that overcomes the deficiencies in the Jerry Garcia Bandís reworking of the song. Granted, thereís nothing on Dylanesque that is going to make anyone forget Dylanís original recordings, but Ferryís playful, smart, and inspired handling of its contents keeps the entirety of the affair sounding surprisingly fresh. Ĺ
Of Further Interest...
Dylanesque is available from
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2007 The Music Box