Bryan Ferry – Bitter-Sweet

Bryan Ferry is a pop legend. A true auteur in every sense of the word, he influenced a generation of new-wave, new-romantic pioneers with legendary band Roxy Music, and continued to reinvent himself as a solo artist. From out and out pop bangers in the form of ‘Slave to Love’ and ‘Let’s Stick Together’, to more experimental records and Bob Dylan cover albums, Ferry is a true artiste constantly reinventing the wheel. His latest record Bitter-Sweet, sees him once again team up with his orchestra and explore the jazz genre after 2012’s The Jazz Age. It’s an atmospheric, smoky affair with Ferry’s sumptuous vocals aligning with the jazzy backdrop with aplomb.

It should be no surprise that Ferry has, once again, completely changed his musical output. With arguably his most popular period as an artist in the 21st century, having headlined last year’s Standon Calling and with an upcoming show at London’s Royal Albert Hall, Ferry has delivered something similar to the birth of popular culture. Harking back to the 1920s – a period where Ferry’s voice seamlessly cooperates – it’s a record that showcases Ferry’s love for the period, and music on the whole, as well as exhibiting his artistic flair.

Unsurprisingly, due to the elegance of Ferry, there’s a sense of whimsy and eccentricity to Bitter-Sweet which perfectly conjures scenes of Berlin speakeasies and smoke-filled jazz rooms. Album opener ‘Alphaville’ kickstarts the 1920s vibe completely with its jaunty piano, and soothing brass section and, it must be said, that the orchestra plays just as much, if not more, a part than Ferry. While album closer and best song on the record ‘Boys and Girls’ evokes everyone from David Bowie, David Byrne and krautrock outfit Can with its moody Berlin-era Bowie aesthetic. A beautiful, ambient ending to a wholly original record, it showcases the best of Ferry.

The reimagining of some of Ferry’s finest, and most popular, works was a brave move indeed. Roxy Music’s ‘While My Heart is Still Beating’, from their iconic Avalon album, is given a capricious and stuttering makeover, with a brooding Ferry almost completely changing the meaning of the song. While ‘Zamba’, from Ferry’s solo record Bête Noire, updates the 80s synths for something far more sinister. In a record that could have felt incredibly throwaway, Ferry has given some of his best songs a new lease of life. Dismissing a sense of nostalgia, for something far more modern, the re-imaginings are an utter delight.

Bravely re-working some Roxy Music and solo classics, it captures the freshness of Ferry’s brilliant songwriting, with the sheer modernity of 1920s jazz culture and the artiness that comes with. An artist that is constantly evolving, Bryan Ferry is seemingly a master of all trades. From art-pop and mainstream pop, to jazz and swing, there’s not much that Ferry can’t do.

Liam McMillen