Album Review: The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age

After his illustrious career both as a solo artist and the front man of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry CBE returns with a stripped back collection of his favourites done in a 1920’s jazz style. This is not the first time that Ferry has decided to create the unexpected: in 2007 the release of ‘Dylanesque’  saw him take on  some of the most well known songs of Bob Dylan’s repertoire. That album received great reviews, and I was hopeful about this new release.

It kicks off with ‘Do The Strand’, the first song off the era shaping album ‘For Your Pleasure’ released in 1973. The original recording is full of clever lyrics, references to Mona Lisa and the Sphinx; all inspired by Ferry’s Fine Art degree at the University of Newcastle. This song seems to lack that edge, which really makes the song. Without the synth and vocals, the song sounds a little hollow and for one of the best opening songs written, it doesn’t start The Jazz Age well.

Anyway onto the next reinvention, which is ‘Love Is The Drug’ a song more suited for this genre. The chorus sounds like the original without the lyrics, but the verses take on  a new creative element. It’s mellow and yet at the same time is juxtaposed with an almost melancholy feel; it’s very cleverly done, and definitely makes up for the lacklustre start. These songs are little diamonds that sparkle within igneous rocks – they once bubbled and glowed once but is now just a shadow of its former self.

‘Avalon’ and ‘Slave To Love’ are two more examples of really impressive creations. They are upbeat and fun and seem to encapsulate what Roxy Music was really about – they broke down boundaries, and none of that has been lost in this transition.

However, sat in between these songs is ‘The Bogus Man’ which after several listens to the album, I am still unable to comprehend why Ferry decided to even include this. It just doesn’t belong, and although ‘Do The Strand’ did not sit highly in my admiration, this makes it sound like the new ‘If There Is Something’.

Once this abomination is out of the way, the album flows smoothly into its finale, passing on its way ‘Virginia Plain’. The rock epic has been transformed into a song that you would not even recognise. However this new creation is magnificent and it illustrates the real talent Ferry has within this genre of music. He has taken one of his most renowned songs and changed it into something that stands in its own right and that is not an easy task for any musician to do.

The choice to close the album with his solo song ‘This Island Earth’ is a good one. The song is an exploration of emotions, the contrasting brass and wind instruments in the orchestra bring a new lease of life to this song. When I got to the end it felt like this song was made for jazz, as it just works on many levels. For all the hits within The Jazz Age, and all the misses too, this song collates them together and makes them one, providing a sense of closure and a justification for us having to endure ‘The Bogus Man’.

Growing up with either Bryan Ferry or Roxy Music blaring out of speakers in at least one room of the house, the track listing of The Jazz Age was a collection of songs iconic within both the music scene and for myself. This being said, when reviewing this album, I felt a lot of pressure to provide a good review from my family and yet at the same time I wanted this to be an inspiration for future releases due to the extreme approach taken. With an absence of vocals, the songs take on a whole new life; they are classy and with winter creeping up on us, the idea of this album playing whilst there is a roaring fire blazing inside seems rather quaint and an ultimate comfort. However, don’t buy this album if you are hoping for an exact copy of the initial releases, because this would not be for you, even though these are fresh and exciting. With this release Bryan Ferry risked creating an album of polyphonic ringtones for a middle aged person’s mobile phone, but instead has managed to create an album where it is enjoyable in its own right, rather than just being the jazz version of a few previous hits.

Daniel Jones

…Daniel has been listening to Roxy Music – If There Is Something…


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