It’d be wonderful to report that Bryan Ferry‘s thirteenth solo album marks the beginning of a new chapter in his musical life, but Olympia is but a further refinement of Ferry’s top-shelf, sumptuous white whine, first bottled in 1985’s Boys and Girls. Which is not to imply that Olympia is not an event to commemorate — quite the opposite if you’re a fan or love beautifully atmospheric and seductive pop music.
Ferry is surrounded by a bevy of guest stars, including most of the original members of Roxy Music, the band with which he originally rose to prominence in the early 1970s — even electronics wizard Brian Eno. Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Nile Rodgers (Chic), David Gilmour (Pink Floyd), and jazz-funk bass ace Marcus Miller are among the guest luminaries, but no one individual gets to shine per se. As it was with Frank Sinatra‘s classic 1950s recordings, the singer and especially the song are paramount — anyone purchasing Olympia for the “guest stars” might be disappointed. The album is full of sleek, late-night, soft funk rhythms, coolly ardent singing, and dense, dreamy layers of melodious sound. Ferry’s deep, velvety croon hasn’t been dulled by the years, though his vibrato is a bit less prominent. He still plays the world-weary romantic sophisticate to the hilt — his heart is on his sleeve, and his passport to adventure is always up-to-date. He conveys angst and wistful regret without ever being overbearing or gooey. (Sinatra himself might have approved.) Olympia is nearly all originals, but there is a captivating version of Tim Buckley‘s yearning “Song to the Siren.” Nothing new here, just an old master comfortably at work. (Astralwerks)