On Monday, Nov. 17, Bryan Ferry released his new record, Avonmore. The new album marks his fourteenth solo release – one that is jam-packed with guest appearances. Mark Knopfler, Ronnie Spector, Flea and Johnny Marr are just a few of the artists that assisted in the writing and production of Avonmore.
At the heart of Avonmore, Ferry’s unique vocal style and remnants of Roxy Music are abundantly apparent. His voice is slick and soulful as it whispers and dances through the tracks. Unfortunately, some of the songs feel overproduced, and Ferry gets lost in the mix. It is always a shame when a vocalist like Ferry gets buried by his production, because he stands as one of the most poignant lead singers and solo artists of the past four decades.
There is a lot of content on Avonmore that is compellingly brilliant or hauntingly beautiful. Loop De Li, the first single for the album, stands strong against the rest of the songs. It is such a complex song – cascading through incredible soundscapes utilizing droning guitars, atmospheric synthesizers and even a slight horn section. Loop De Li is Ferry at his best, doing what he is most beloved for.
It is refreshing for the best tracks on Avonmore to be compositions by Ferry because his recent efforts have had the tendency to either be oddly abstract or full of cover songs. The legendary Roxy Music frontman is often overlooked in the grand scheme of twentieth century songwriters. He was, and is, among the best of them. His original compositions are the best tracks of the record and overshadow the two covers very quickly. His take on Send in the Clowns feels confused and convoluted, and while his Johnny and Mary is quite good, it does not hold a candle to the beauty of tracks like Soldier of Fortune.
On Ferry’s new record, the song Soldier of Fortune, co-written by Johnny Marr, is the most stunning ballad on the record. This track is so exceptional, it forgives the follies of overproduction and misplaced cover songs. In fact, Soldier of Fortune stands tall against Ferry’s previous triumphs like Slave to Love. Lost is also incredibly gratifying, along with Midnight Train, Driving Me Wild and One Night Stand.
Avonmore does have its pitfalls, despite being home to some powerful tracks. As previously mentioned, the Send in the Clowns cover is not anything to preach from the mountaintop about, nor is the listless title track. The sound sometimes feels dated as well, as if Ferry made the artistic decision to not venture too far out of his comfort zone. It feels like a very safe record.
Though it sounds a bit overproduced and sometimes falls victim to collapsing into extreme 1980’s nostalgia, Ferry’s new record is an exciting outing for the Roxy Music legend. The wide array of guest musicians and tracks, like Soldier of Fortune and Lost, make for a mystifying album=listening experience. The album adopts Phil Spector’s wall of sound mentality, and audiences will find themselves listening to the songs a dozen times over to dissect the performances’ intricate nuances.
Review by Brett Stewart