Sympathy For The Dandy

With such standards as "I'm In The Mood For Love" and "Falling In Love Again."

The late Anton Szandor LaVey, High Priest of the Church of Satan,

famously contended that the heavy-metal music of groups like AC/DC, Black

Sabbath, Slayer, and all the rest was not, to his mind, "satanic" music

at all. No, in LaVey's world, it was the music of the past — music

that had once been popular but that was now for the most part dormant

and forgotten — that contained "satanic" power. He thought that by

rescuing such songs from their obscure and forlorn fate and resuscitating

them, one could obtain a magical jolt, a pure hit of the emotional power

that had been placed in them by artists and their adoring audiences long

ago.

Does that make Bryan Ferry — who gives just such a breath of life

to 15 numbers from the 1930s on his latest, As Time Goes By

a Satanist? Well, the ex-Roxy Music main man did do a mind-blowingly

fine cover of The Rolling Stones' "Sympathy For The Devil" on his first

solo album, These Foolish Things, back in 1973. Not to mention

the fact that dandies always seem attracted to the dark side (Baudelaire,

anyone?), and Ferry is, after all, along with his labelmate David Bowie

(himself a fan of Aleister Crowley ... hmmm) one of rock and roll's

premier manifestations of that peculiarly aloof, glammy personage.

More than likely, though, our man Bryan, suffering as usual from writer's

block and an addiction to perfectionism, has resorted to covering 1930s

tunes because, well, time does indeed go by — five years

since his last one, the sleek and underrated Mamouna, itself

immediately preceded by a contemporary covers collection, Taxi

— and people need to be reminded that the old boy's still around

before he unveils the new studio album with ex-Roxy cohort Brian Eno,

promised (ahem) for 2000. Yet it is also obvious that, once so embarked,

Ferry took this project to heart.

Ferry's dandified persona, unlike David Bowie's, has always relied upon

nostalgia (think of his gorgeous ode to Humphrey Bogart, "2HB," for

instance), so his retro outing here seems to seamlessly mesh with his

overall artistic oeuvre. On As Time Goes By, Ferry's golden

crooner's throat seems for the first time a little worn by time and

ciggies, but this only adds to the overall atmosphere of the delicious

3 a.m. ennui that wafts from this disc like the clouds of incense Ferry

engulfs himself in onstage. Not that he's Marianne Faithfull yet, but on

tunes like the title track, Cole Porter's murder ballad "Miss Otis

Regrets (She's Unable To Have Lunch Today)" (RealAudio

excerpt) and the weary Marlene Dietrich classic "Falling In Love

Again" (RealAudio

excerpt), Ferry sounds slightly wounded and vulnerable, raspy

and rawer than we've ever heard him before — and the effect is

beguiling.

Unlike on his past all-covers efforts, Ferry resists the urge to bend

these songs into new shapes, sticking mainly to unobtrusive acoustic

backing; only on "I'm In The Mood For Love" (RealAudio

excerpt) does he "Ferryize" the arrangement somewhat with a catchy,

Latin-tinged R&B arrangement. One gets the sense that these songs mean

too much to Ferry for him to risk messing with them.

As Time Goes By is thus the work of a new, more human Bryan Ferry:

Sympathy for the Dandy, indeed.