A life-long Dylan devotee, the Roxy Music frontman has wanted to make this album for 30 years and here he finally gives us 11 Dylan songs, recorded live in the studio in a week-long session with his touring band.
Ferry doing Dylan is nothing new – in 1973 he hit the UK charts with an audacious, glam rock rendition of the Zim’s ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall’ – giving him his first solo hit. A life-long Dylan devotee, the Roxy Music frontman has wanted to make this album for 30 years and here he finally gives us 11 Dylan songs, recorded live in the studio in a week-long session with his touring band. And while it does sound fresh and instinctively performed and produced, it’s hardly a jam session.
Opening with a guitar and drums heavy ‘Just Like Thom Thumb’s Blues’, Ferry’s suave delivery and smooth vocals are all present and correct and surprisingly at ease with Dylan’s wordy lines. It takes a while to get used to the driving rhythms of his up-tempo treatment of ‘Simple Twist Of Fate’ one of Dylan’s’ most poignant compositions from Blood On The Tracks. Here Ferry transforms it into something approaching his Avalon-era hit ‘More Than This’. Some might see this approach as sacrilegious but you couldn’t accuse him of playing it safe. More successful is his take on ‘Make You Feel My Love’ – the gorgeous ballad from Time Out Of Mind. With just piano, haunting keyboard washes and meandering guitar lines, it works beautifully, allowing Ferry’s aching vocals to work their magic on one of Dylan’s most engaging melodies.
‘Times They Are A Changing’ chugs along with a production and arrangement that makes it sounds a tad too much like Tina Turner doing ‘Simply The Best’; the same goes for ‘Baby Let Me Follow You Down’, a song Dylan himself has re-invented more than once. He takes the opposite approach on ‘Positively 4th Street’ which is even slower and more subdued than Dylan’s – but which works in its own way, while another oft-covered Dylan song ‘If Not For You’ – a hit for Olivia Newton-John, seems tailor-made for Ferry, making it one of the album highlights. He struggles a bit with ‘Gates Of Eden’, which might have benefited by being sung in a lower key, while the closer ‘All Along The Watchtower’ nods to both Dylan and Hendrix’s version, bringing little new to the party.
Still, this is a surprisingly enjoyable outing as these things go, and judging by the recent BBC concert featuring performances of these songs, his upcoming Vicar St. show should be intriguing
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