Sunday, December 16, 2012
JEFFREY MORGANíS MEDIA BLACKOUT #346
Sun, December 16, 2012 | link
EVERYBODY COMES TO JEFFREY
MORGAN’S MEDIA BLACKOUT #346!
OF THE YEAR: The Bryan Ferry Orchestra – The Jazz Age (BMG) :: Bored with the “Beguine”?
The Samba isn’t your scene? Then sit down and brace yourself for what is not only the most superlative album of the
year, but the most superlative album I’ve heard in, literally, over three decades.
Y’see, back in the ’70s, we all had our Art Rock Heroes; those brainy visionaries who
didn’t just make long-playing albums, they made conceptual art statements by which we were encouraged to creatively
live our newly-enriched lives by. Your Art Rock Hero may have dressed like a giant flower; or perhaps he painted
an electro bolt on his face; maybe all he had to do was wear black nail varnish. Mine happened to be a hopeless heart-on-his-sleeve
romantic who wore a tuxedo like Rick Blaine—and this is what I had to say about Our Boy Bry in 1976 upon the
release of his innovative and influential Extended Play:
cosmic ’50s greaser stance to tuxedoed terror to USO entertainer in just four years is no mean feat, and the best part
is that the masquerade has just begun to play itself out for real. Just check out the cover of Extended Play:
the tired, uninterested lover; rejected and moist; eye challenging the camera before turning away, laughing ‘Ha Ha!’
and disappearing into the fog.
“This man has seen battles: dig
the crease-riddled suit he’s wearing under that cheesy moustache while the CASINO sign in the background dimly reaches
out through the darkness after poor Bry was taken for everything he had at the Blackjack table.
“But is Our Boy shattered? Is he licking his wounds like some inferior dog? NO! Bry knows that love is
nothing but sheer human folly and that the best kind of love is a love that has to be fought for. So, the past behind
him, Bry relocates at a favorite old haunt of his and storms into Side A’s ‘The Price Of Love’ and ‘Shame,
Shame, Shame.’ Then, after the crowds have departed and the chairs have been stacked on the table tops, a pensive Bryan
Ferry sits down at the piano in some dark, secluded corner and croons out Extended Play’s B side: melancholy
renditions of ‘Heart On My Sleeve’ and ‘It’s Only Love.’
“With dawn only a few hours away, he picks himself up and goes outside where the next city alluringly winks out at
him from across the harbor. Then, leaning on a railing at the water’s edge, he cinematically flicks his cigarette out
into the darkness before him and slowly walks away—not even waiting to hear the sound of the discarded butt hitting
the water’s surface and extinguishing in a softly muffled sigh.”
I know. But not nearly as impressive as knowing that the lifelong faith you’ve imbued in your Art Rock Hero
has been richly rewarded beyond your or anyone else’s wildest expectations—because that fulfilled expectation
is exactly what Brian Ferry has uncannily achieved with The Jazz Age. It’s an extraordinary accomplishment
imbued with such note-perfect precision that you’ll swear you’re listening to some arcane outtakes from Duke Ellington’s
Brunswick era Jungle Band.
That’s because The Jazz Age is nothing
less than a flapperesque remake/remodel of the Roxy-Ferry canon, evocatively interpreted for a century-spanning earlier era
he never made but nonetheless knows like the back of his band. Even better, the seditious song selection ranges in sage from
the commercially predictable (“Avalon” and “Love Is The Drug”) to the downright subversive (“The
Bogus Man” and “Virginia Plain”).
But rather than dive head
first into the deep end of technology as a lesser man might, Ferry dips his toe into the shallow end of analog pool instead
because he realizes that period music deserves period production, which is why every song is presented in mono, with each
song length suitable in size for a single 78 side; the only thing missing are the shellac scratches.
The will power it took for Ferry to eliminate the two things he’s best known for—his singing and
his lyrics—is not only courageously commendable, it’s aesthetically encouraging.
That’s why I’m gifting a copy of The Jazz Age to everyone I know this Christmas—and
you should too. At the very least, you’ll be giving them a valuable audio education into what modern music can still
be capable of when a brainy visionary puts his mind to it. And, at the very most, you’ll be supporting a vital artist
who remains our own version of battling Humphrey Bogart and suave George Sanders, all rolled into one.
Be seeing you!