Top critical review
Same Face, Same Name, Same Number
on 1 March 2016
There is a great five-second opening to Bryan Ferry’s 2010 ‘Olympia’ CD, reminiscent of ‘Avalon’, and this opening track – ‘You Can dance’ – is certainly in possession of a good groove. Track two – ‘Alphaville’ – also is solid, incessant, and sultry – and a perfect track to play when making out. But there the praise ends, for the rest of the CD is a disappointing melange of mediocrity with only the occasional spark of brightness.
I’ll cover these later in this review, but really Ferry’s ‘Olympia’ has nothing new to say. He’s said it all before. But it’s worse than that, for with a team of top-notch session musicians the material itself rarely rises above all the talent. And one major flaw is that Ferry’s own voice is often too low in the mix.
And there’s something wrong with Ferry’s personal style. My CD copy comes with a lush booklet featuring Kate Moss amongst its pages, that is Kate Moss as object, dressed up in sexual poses, adorned with jewels, completely out of keeping with the spirit of the twenty-first century. The year 2010 was not the year for this type of ‘glamour’. My CD also included a ‘Making of’ DVD, which I will review later, but first things first: the music!
Taking the remaining tracks in order, I was repelled by the chorus of ‘Heartache by Numbers’; ‘Me Oh My’ goes nowhere; whilst ‘Shameless’ reaches a midpoint where it feels as if Ferry himself doesn’t know what to do or say next. Interest is then saved by ‘Song to the Siren’, a beautiful ballad with a striking six-note descending melodic figure, allied to a solid beat and sustained strings.
But the album fodder returns with ‘No Face, No Name, No Number’, which is ironically No Great Shakes and one wonders why it was on the album at all. ‘BF Bass (Ode to Olympia)’ just annoys and has no saving qualities. A last blast of quality does appear in ‘Reason or Rhyme’ with its romantic piano and heartfelt wailing, but ‘Tender is the Night’ is a poor way to end the set.
My CD contains two bonus tracks, which really should have been on the main album: the Lennon cover ‘Whatever Gets You thru the Night’, and ‘One Night’ where Ferry does a Roy Orbison. Both tracks are far superior to the likes of at least five of the songs that otherwise made it to the final set.
Now for the DVD, directed by Isaac Ferry. Its twenty-eight minutes take us through the album track by track. Interviewees range from Ferry himself to the likes of Rhett Davies, Andy Newmark, and Nile Rodgers, as well as the musicians of the younger generation (and therefore unknown to me) that also feature on the album. The video of ‘You Can Dance’ is an extra.
Overall then, this is a lavish package (in more ways than one), but one that is really not justified by the basic musical material.