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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Bryan Ferry

Orchestra - The Jazz Age

Review by Larry Toering

This is essentially a collection of jazz versions of various tracks between Ferry’s solo and Roxy Music material. But it doesn't fall away from the prog tree by any means in the process, it just serves to lean on jazz for it's overall outcome. Yes, these are jazz versions of the tunes, but that is just another prog application in my opinion, as I find most projects of this sort, especially with orchestras, to be a prog staple applied to whatever with which it might be combined. So, in concept it should still interest prog fans. The particular type of jazz here would be 30s swing. It somehow manages to work in just about every way intened, but might not be everyone's cup of tea. While not for everyone, this leaves an open door to a new audience in jazz lovers, and that might turn them onto the originals, as well. In the task of describing them, there is no way not to make some camparisons to the orginals, especially because one can barely make them out if they didn't know what's going on in that regard. It's a very interesting selection at least in part because I can think of a few that aren't included that seem like they'd be perfect for this. I suppose they would be too obvious, though. I think nothing was wasted in the overall effort to change these cuts into something a little more special.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2013  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Do The Strand
This is somewhat recognizable to the original, and somewhat not. Still, it’s an over done effort to rework the original. One listen and you can probably tell how the whole disc is going to go, but either way it does work very well. It sets the tone for everything that follows, as it almost sounds like an old jazz record being played on a hand crank phonograph. This is very authentic sounding.
Love Is The Drug
One of the most recognizable songs here becomes almost unrecognizable,  as most seems to be lost  but the vocal melody. That melody gets even more complicated in transferring to the horn section.  I prefer the original, but some might disagree. It stands apart on its own as a new version, though.
Don't Stop The Dance
This whole recording resembles that of a 78 RPM, as hinted already, but as it wears on it becomes not only undeniable, but it also takes on massive charm. This is where most of that gets clearly underway and you can actually get used to it. This just sounds like something right out of the era being presented. It has an authenticity that is finally welcomed within its parameters.
Just Like You
I'm reminded of Al Jolson here, and I suppose that is not going to go away, but it seems stronger here than on the previous tunes. It’s pretty cool how it all plays out that way.
Avalon
This is highly progressive compared to the previous cuts, as it dazzles even the most remote jazz ears. The arrangement twists and turns in pure swing fashion. This is rather excellent indeed! Yet it's still practically unrecognizable to the original tune.
The Bogus Man
This gets a fair treatment as well in the jazz structure, sounding yet again like a whole different song that could've actually been recorded in the 30s. This is another very well done rendition. This is also a track that could be about anyone, no matter who it's actually about. Sometimes a song must have that or it's just a story with music to back it.
Slave To Love
Now we get another extremely complex arrangement to contrast the actual song, and it does wonders. This is beautiful, if a little too short, as they all could somehow use another minute or two as far as I'm concerned. Still, it's all a matter of taste, and this is just very tasteful.
This Is Tomorrow
The snappiness really kicks in here and turns this track into what sounds a lot like Benny Goodman. This is probably the most fun track on offer, so far.
The Only Face
On this one we get a more lovely re-arrangement that starts with a nice piano motif, but turns pretty quickly into what sounds more like a show tune. It’s very interesting how it's pulled off as a cover.
I Thought
The swing kicks back up on this one and produces another of the better tracks on the whole disc. This is another song I'm completely new to, so I can't really compare it, just long to hear the original, because this is really good. So, the purpose is served up all the more at this point on the record. I love how this one ends too. It plays out like a nice piece of music, indeed.
Reason Or Rhyme
This might be a little darker than expected concerning the original, and it has a great swagger to it. There is just nothing offensive about anything on this release, though.  It just has a playful vibe all around, and this is no exception.
Virginia Plain
I would have to rate this as overall one of the best re-arrangements on offer. I just love it. It's also one of the more complex deliveries.
This Island Earth
In closing out the set, a great choice was chosen to calm everything down with a reflective approach. This is another darker groove but a welcome contrast to the original, which has never been one of my favorites. This gives it a whole new freshness.
 
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