Bryan Ferry

Dylanesque

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The greatest -- indeed, only -- irony of Bryan Ferry's 2007 album-long tribute to the Bard is that Dylanesque never sounds "Dylanesque." There are no solo acoustic guitars, no swirling organs, no thin, wild mercury music, nothing that suggests any of the sounds typically associated with Bob Dylan. No, Dylanesque sounds Ferry-esque: careful, precise, elegant, so casually sophisticated it sometimes borders on the drowsy. There are no new wrinkles, then, apart from a small but crucial one -- unlike his other records, this was recorded quickly, over the course of a week with his touring band in tow. This does give Dylanesque a comparatively loose, off-the-cuff feel, which is a bit of a welcome relief after several decades of cautious, deliberate conceptual albums, and gives the album its understated charm. Since Ferry never radically reinvents the songs -- apart from the sleek, sly propulsion of "Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues" and a spare, haunting piano-and-strings version of "Positively Fourth Street" -- this is an album where all the pleasures lay in the subtleties, whether it's how Ferry phrases his delivery, how his road band feels supple yet muscular, how Eno electronically enhances a few tracks or how Robin Trower tears into "All Along the Watchtower." These are the details to savor upon repeated listens, but upon that first spin it's immediately apparent that the Ferry who made Dylanesque is an assured, relaxed vocalist who isn't sweating the specifics, he's simply singing songs with a band that offers sympathetic support. They may not push him, the way that Roxy did in its prime, nor does this have the meticulous ambition of his original work, but again, that's the charm of this album: Ferry has never felt quite so comfortable as he does here, and if that may not be exactly what all listeners are looking for when they listen to his work, this is the quality that will make Dylanesque a small understated gem for certain segments of his die-hard fans.

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