For those who know Bryan Ferry solely as the frontman of '70s art-rockers Roxy Music, the news this foppish, handsome Englishman is a Bob Dylan acolyte might come as something of a surprise. However, the appearance of Dylanesque - eleven covers of songs by the Freewheelin' one - is not totally unprecedented; Ferry recorded a cover of 'A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall' way back in 1973 on his debut solo album, so really, this is just the latest manifestation of a long-held admiration. Recorded in just a week, backed by his touring band, it's the sound of Ferry happy to get some dirt under his fingernails. All the same, this is sumptuous, richly-orchestrated stuff. 'The Times They Are A-Changin'' is perhaps the highlight, Dylan's bare-bones protest classic reworked as a velvety art-rock anthem, Ferry carrying off the lyric with just enough velvety command; while 'If Not For You' is notable for its strings and "sonic augmentation", courtesy of old Roxy Music friend Brian Eno. Some moments may please neither Dylan nor Ferry fans the rock-out on 'All Along The Watchtower' feels contrived and unsatisfying. But whether it's a gutsy, impulsive experiment, or just a handy way of avoiding writer's block, Dylanesque works more often than not. -Louis Pattison
Some diehard Roxy Music fans may be a mite miffed that the band's long-delayed album has been made even more tardy while Byron Ferrari promotes this, his new solo project. But while it may be a slightly mixed bag of Zimmerman covers, it still sounds better than anything he's done in years. There's life in the old dinner jacket yet, it seems.
It's ironic to note that when Ferry first attempted a Dylan cover way back in 1973 (with ' A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall') he was savaged by a snooty muso press pack who wondered if he was taking the p*ss by translating Bob's words into a quavering-voiced glam romp. On Dylanesque he gives us 11 similar readings and it now sounds like the most mainstream thing in the world.
However, it's pointless to say that Bryan's readings take the raw edge off of the originals. Frankly anyone's cover versions of Dylan (unless they're by Killswitch Engage) are going to be smoother. Even the harmonica, compared to Bob's squawking, sounds like a finely played cor anglais. Well, nearly.
What is surprising is his choice of Zim-hits. While ''Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues'' and ''Positively 4TH Street'' could BE Roxy (Guy Pratt and Chris Spedding both having been associated with the band for years anyway), ''Gates Of Eden and ''The Times They Are A-Changin''' prove to be somewhat odd considering their more political agenda (and let's not mention fox hunting here, eh?). The only piece of sacrilege is an AOR mauling of 'Simple Twist Of Fate' that loses any subtlety to its wailing guitars.
But really, this is a rock-solid collection, far more suited to his fragile croon than the previous collection of covers, As Time Goes By (1999). It all proves that maybe Dylan was at the heart of Ferry's muse, even back in 1972. Let's hope he brings such energy to that Roxy album! --Chris Jones
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