Virgin Records – 2002 – 47 minutes
In the early 1970s, the combined talents of Bryan Ferry and Brian Eno left a two-album legacy which holds its own as some of the most inventive and influential British music of the past three decades. When Eno left Roxy Music in 1973, Ferry and co kept the flag flying until the band petered out in the aftermath of 'Avalon' in 1983. Yet although Roxy Music produced some high-quality material post-Eno, one question has always remained – what if?
'Frantic' continues Ferry's long tradition of releasing solo albums which juxtapose original material with cover versions. His Dylan fascination remains as strong as ever, and this contains two Zimmerman standards – 'It's All Over Now, Baby Blue', and 'Don't Think Twice, It's All Right'. Fine versions they are too, reminding us that Ferry is, among other things, a unique interpreter and arranger. But the original 'Sultan of Suave' is not just a distinctive voice and persona, and he doesn't shy away from taking the writing baton himself.
The analysis of this new material is arguably the most intriguing aspect of 'Frantic'. Of the four new songs co-written with ex-Eurythmic Dave Stewart - 'Goddess Of Love', 'Nobody Loves Me', 'Cruel' and 'San Simeon' – only the latter is worth getting excited about. Ferry fares altogether better sans Stewart, as evinced by the unsettlingly atmospheric 'Hiroshima' – featuring Radiohead's Johnny Greenwood – and the ruptured romance of 'A Fool For Love'.
Ferry saves the best for last, however, and it's almost poetic that it should be his first collaboration with Eno since the days when platform shoes and outlandish costumes and hair were de rigueur. 'I Thought' provides a hauntingly beautiful finale, soaring over a sonic plateau of stellar sounds, and punctuated with some plaintive harmonica from the great man himself (Ferry, not Eno) in the song's climax. Rumour has it that the pair are planning to write more material together in the near future. On this evidence, we needn't worry about the legacy of their Roxy partnership being sullied – but there's just one thing you can't help thinking. What if…?
Tracklisting: It's All Over Now, Baby Blue – Cruel – Goin' Down – Goddess Of Love – Don't Think Twice, It's All Right – Nobody Loves Me – Ja Nun Hons Pris – A Fool For Love – Goodnight Irene – Hiroshima… – San Simeon – One Way Love – I Thought