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3:23 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Bryan Ferry: A Forward-Looking Musician Turns To The Past

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 1:05 am

Throughout his career, English musician Bryan Ferry has been one of popular music's most forward-looking performers. His band Roxy Music remodeled rock into an artsy, cosmopolitan sound in the early '70s and spearheaded the New Romantic style of the '80s.

On his latest album, though, Ferry looks to the past. The Jazz Age features instrumental recordings of some of Ferry's classic songs, performed in the style of 1920s jazz.

"For quite a few years, I've wanted to do an instrumental album of my songs," Ferry says, "something where the spotlight was on me as the songwriter rather than me as the singer."

Ferry's new album came out Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

The English singer, Bryan Ferry, began his career as one of rock's most forward-looking musicians. In the early '70s his band Roxy Music electrified crowds with a look and sound that screamed modern glamour.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THE STRAND")

BRYAN FERRY: There's a new sensation, a fabulous creation...

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

The band mixed urban sophistication with a gender-bending flamboyance, and combined driving rock with a touch of the avant-garde.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DO THE STRAND")

FERRY: (Singing) Do the strand, when you feel love.

WERTHEIMER: Later Ferry's songs took on a lush emotional quality that worked perfectly for the '80s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLAVE TO LOVE")

FERRY: (Singing) Slave to love, slave to love.

WERTHEIMER: That is "Slave to Love" from 1985 and here's what it might've sounded like in 1925.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SLAVE TO LOVE")

WERTHEIMER: On his new record, Bryan Ferry has reworked his classic rock songs in the style of 1920's jazz.

FERRY: For quite a few years, I've wanted to do an instrumental album of my songs, something where the spotlight was on me as the songwriter, rather than me as the singer.

WERTHEIMER: Indeed Ferry is best known as the suave front man, but he also writes a lot of the music sitting at the piano, although he does not play the piano here.

FERRY: I'm not actually a good enough player to play on this.

WERTHEIMER: So with help from an arranger and a cast of top British musicians, Ferry set to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I THOUGHT")

FERRY: (Singing) I thought you'd be my streetcar named Desire.

This one was, kind of, a slow thoughtful kind of moody piece. And we ended up doing it a kind of Dixieland kind of joyful celebration kind of song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I THOUGHT")

WERTHEIMER: And there's this song...

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIRGINIA PLAIN")

FERRY: (Singing) Make me a deal and make it straight.

WERTHEIMER: ...which turned into this.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIRGINIA PLAIN")

FERRY: A lot of the songs seem to fit well in. I guess it's because basically they're quite simple songs. They seem to lend very well to being arranged in this way, you know.

WERTHEIMER: Ferry says he could've done it as a classical album, but there's something about this old jazz.

FERRY: The life it has, you know, it's quite infectious.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIRGINIA PLAIN")

WERTHEIMER: Bryan Ferry's new album is called "The Jazz Age" and is out this week. For a limited time you can hear "The Jazz Age" in its entirety at NPRmusic.org. This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

MONTAGNE: And I'm Renee Montagne.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIRGINIA PLAIN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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