Review: Bryan Ferry – Dylanesque

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Label: Virgin

Released: June 26, 2007

One would think that an accomplished artist who dedicates an entire album to covering another single artist must be both enamored and well-versed in his or her subject. An all-Dylan Bryan Ferry release might sound a bit odd considering that Dylan speaks to our hearts in warm, organic imperfections while Ferry speaks in cold, precise formulas. Still, it at least piques some interest. How will someone like Ferry put himself into Dylan’s songs without stripping them of Dylan? How will Ferry show his love and understanding of these songs?

From the opener, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues,” it becomes clear that Ferry isn’t up to the challenge. He fails to capture anything remotely reminiscent of Bob Dylan. Even the short studio time (the album was recorded in a week) doesn’t loosen things up. He largely takes the music as it would appear in a songbook and plays it in his own adult pop style. It has no life, no passion, no point. When Ferry takes on the 60s protest anthem “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” he shows only that the times have indeed changed, but not for the better. There is no sense of anything other than status quo in a song that should, with little effort, drip with revolutionary spirit. But even in these fragile times, Ferry can’t muster anything that would stir anyone’s pot on a social level (although I must say it stirs my pot a bit that he expects anyone to pay money for this album).

Dylanesque also includes two Dylan songs that were successfully covered by others, a bad choice for Ferry when he’s already struggling to create credible covers for himself. “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” is a far cry from Dylan’s original and Guns n Roses 1991 cover. As if that weren’t sad enough, he also chooses “All Along the Watchtower.” While it isn’t as bad as a lot of the album, it strives more for Hendrix’s definitive version than Dylan’s. Even with guitar help from Robin Trower, Ferry’s is an utter failure next to Hendrix.

Only once over the course of 11 tracks does Ferry come anywhere close to pulling off what he’s attempted. “Positively 4th Street” is a fine, though non-essential, track where Ferry hasn’t removed all semblance of Dylan’s soul. It certainly doesn’t make the album worth buying, but instead raises the question as to why the whole album couldn’t have at least hit this mediocre bar.

One would think that Bryan Ferry must be both enamored and well-versed in Bob Dylan’s work to have even attempted Dylanesque, but it doesn’t take long to start wondering why Ferry would bother, because he surely neither loves nor knows Bob Dylan.

Rating: 2/10

About bobvinyl

bobvinyl, writer and co-editor of No Song is an Island, founded its predecessor, Rock and Roll and Meandering Nonsense (whose archives are found here), in 2005 and served as editor and principal contributor until it went on hiatus in 2010. He has also been published in AMP and Loud Fast Rules! (in print) as well as Glide and FensePost on the web. He has been an avid record collector since he was seven years old and enjoys sharing his love of music from the common to the esoteric.

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