Bryan Ferry is elegance in pop

November 25, 1994|By Gary Graff | Gary Graff,Knight-Ridder News Service

He is an elegant man, an embodiment of wealth and good taste.

He keeps a townhouse in London and a spread an hour south in the English countryside. His public appearances are made in the most stylish of evening wear. He carries himself with suave, seductive confidence and casually tosses off tales about visits to Morocco and other exotic locales. A few years ago, there was even talk that he'd be the next James Bond.

So when Bryan Ferry is late to the phone at his Munich hotel, it's perfectly understandable. You can't deny the man his Japanese massage, after all.

"It's interesting how different they [massages] can be, isn't it?" says Mr. Ferry, 49, as if everyone would know. "This was one of those Shiitsu Oriental things, a bit like faith healing, which we all need from time to time."

It's easy to caricature Mr. Ferry's dashing persona and jet-set lifestyle, but the singer is no snob and is in fact rather pleasant and self-effacing. His faith, just like anyone else's, can be shaken and stirred, and his creative life during the past of couple years has shown that he's just as fallible as the rest of us.

After completing a triumphant concert tour in 1988 -- Mr. Ferry's first as a solo artist after leaving the band Roxy Music -- he dived into work on his next album, which was to be titled "Horoscope." His method of music-making remained the same; Mr. Ferry spent weekdays in London working on the album before journeying to the country each weekend to be with his wife, Lucy, and their four sons.

"Horoscope" was long in coming, however. Mr. Ferry developed writer's block and finally put the album on hold while he worked on a record of cover songs, titled "Taxi."

It proved to be the perfect diversion. "When I got back to the 'Horoscope' tapes, I'd gotten my confidence back in many ways," Mr. Ferry says. "I knew how to work quickly again."

He made quick changes, "pulling apart" the tapes, adding some new players, plugging in some new songs. He also changed the name of the album, substituting the title of the new song "Mamouna" for "Horoscope."

"I got fed up with telling everyone the title of the album, which I'd never done before," Mr. Ferry explains. "It's always been my thing in the past to give the album a title when everything was finished, even the artwork. I'd broken my own rule.

"And it seemed to be a completely different album, so I felt as if it needed a different title. 'Mamouna' seemed quite right; it's a girl's name that means 'good luck' in Arabic, which felt like a nice omen."

If "Mamouna" was different from "Horoscope," it certainly fits in Mr. Ferry's established milieu. The music is lush, moody, romantic and layered, with the same air of quiet melancholy you hear on Roxy's "Avalon" or his "Bete Noire."

"I've always been attracted by sad music," says the art-school-educated singer, citing early influences such as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. "There's a certain sadness in all that music, and it's the kind of mood I find best to express myself in."

"Mamouna" also marks the first time Mr. Ferry has reunited with his principal Roxy Music mates, though they play on different songs. He and saxophonist Andy Mackay have remained friends through the years, but Mr. Ferry has been estranged from guitarist Phil Manzanera, who played on one song. "I was curious to see if I could coexist in the same room with him," Mr. Ferry says.

They could, though some tension remained, and the singer was disappointed to find that Mr. Manzanera "was a bit out of practice. I don't think he'd mind me saying that, either. That'll be another Roxy reunion rumor squashed."

Mr. Ferry had a more fruitful get-together with Brian Eno, who quit the band in 1973 and went on to greater fame as a solo artist and collaborator with the likes of David Byrne and Robert Fripp. "We were kind of young men with huge egos," Mr. Ferry says with a laugh.

The two bumped into each other while they were vacationing in (( the Caribbean, and Mr. Ferry invited Mr. Eno to join him in the studio. Their five days together were "very exciting," and Mr. Ferry even dangles the possibility for a full-scale project with him.

"This was like dipping the toe in the water, and it was very successful," Mr. Ferry says. "We got on really well; it's funny how 20 years can disappear in five minutes."

Mr. Ferry has already made a start on his next album. He has about eight unfinished songs, which he anticipates working on after the tour and finishing in shorter order than the "Mamouna" sessions.

"I really like the idea of having works in progress," he explains. "I think a lot of artists work in that way; it's not unusual for some painters to work for five years on one piece . . . and to have several going at the same time.

"For me, it's a better way of working than going back to a completely empty canvas. Then you get into this thing of the masterwork, that this has got to the the big one. And then another five years will go by until the next album, which I don't want to do again."

More "Mamouna"

To hear excerpts from Bryan Ferry's "Mamouna," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6248 after you hear the greeting.

Bryan Ferry with Combustible Edison

When: Monday, Nov. 28, 7 p.m.

Where: D.A.R. Constitution Hall, Washington

Tickets: $27.50

Call: (410) 481-SEAT

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.