After a brief endeavour into jazz, which led to a significant contribution to Bazz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby last year, art rock legend Bryan Ferry is back with a brand new studio album. His 14th release since he began his solo career in 1973, Avonmore is a modern take on the prolific musician’s distinctive sound. It also features a star studded line-up of contributors – including, Johnny Marr, Nile Rodgers and Marcus Miller who feature throughout, in addition to great talents, Flea, Ronnie Spector, Mark Knopfler and Maceo Parker.
With a twangy atmospheric guitar and odd saxophone trill the opening few bars of this album instantly cast you back through the decades, threatening a dated and overly nostalgic following album. . However, early on the opening track Loop De Li picks up the pace and develops a strong groove that continues throughout the album. Bryan Ferry’s voice is as rich as ever and, teamed with a very cool guitar solo mid-way through, this song sets high expectations for the rest of this album.
These expectations are almost immediately met with the impressive Soldier Of Fortune. Co-written with Johnny Marr, Soldier Of Fortune sounds far more contemporary in comparison to the previous two tracks. Formerly of the Smiths, Johnny Marr brings plenty to the table. His considered guitar layering perfectly suits Ferry’s contemplative vocals, making this track a standout of the album.
Interestingly, the following track Driving Me Wild is very reminiscent of the songs off David Bowie’s most recent release The Next Day. The way these two incredible music industry veterans have transformed together over the years is strangely comforting, however this track doesn’t quite stand up to Bowie. Both it and the subsequent A Special Kind Of Guy seem a little too sentimental, though they don’t detract from the overall quality of the album.
The title track is surprisingly powerful in contrast. With a constant driving tempo and a darker delivery from Ferry, Avonmore feels accomplished as a single and demonstrates how well Ferry’s distinctive style still holds up in a modern context. Unlike the sickly sentimentality of the previous two tracks, this one is effortlessly cool.
With a gentle complexity and abstract instrumentals, Lost tips its hat to Ferry’s beloved art rock genre. Airy and delicate it blends nicely into the slightly more upbeat One Night Stand. Synth-heavy, with a strong tribal beat and vibrant vocal harmonies, this track powers through, raising the pace.
The album concludes with two covers, Stephen Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns, which is almost unrecognisable from the original, and an atmospheric take on Robert Palmer’s Johnny and Mary. In collaboration with Norwegian producer Todd Terje, Bryan Ferry makes this last track his own, slowing it down to produce a sensitive and considered rendition that gently concludes the album.
At times Avonmore does sound old fashioned, but that is understandable given the strong association between Ferry and his 70s and 80s prime. Nevertheless, the album stands strong in its 21st Century context and shows that, at almost 70 years of age, Bryan Ferry is still an impressively apt composer.