This latest collection of covers is perhaps Bryan Ferry's most audacious artistic statement since his genre-busting solo debut, 1973's These Foolish Things. The new set concentrates entirely on songs from a Golden Age of songwriting-three are by Cole Porter, including the priceless "Miss otis Regrets"-and Ferry plays them completely straight, singing confidently in front of a small "cocktail" ensemble led by pianist and co-arranger Colin Good. The homogenous song selection-all 15 are from the decade 1928-38-includes several familiar chestnuts, and it is a mark of Ferry's considerable ambition that he tackles sacred cows like "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca and "Falling In Love Again," Marlene Dietrich's signature song from The Blue Angel. But it is the voice that carries the material, rather than the reverse: Ferry's singing is extraordinarily intimate, and the unfussy mix reveals an unvarnished sincerity and emotional presence that seems almost shocking, given Ferry's history of archly deconstructing iconic works such as "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" and "It's My Party." A surprising and very welcome comeback from an original talent whose recent releases have tended to disappoint.
Producers: Rhett Davies and Bryan Ferry. Engineer: Mark Tucker. Additional engineering: Sven Taits and Chris Dibble. Studio: Lansdowne Studios (London). Mastering: Bob Ludwig/Gateway Studios (Portland, ME).