A Bryan Ferry LP featuring 1920s-style jazz, instrumental covers of his own songs? Well, okay. You might think The Jazz Age needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and the trepidation is certainly understandable. However, handlebar moustached Brooklynites and/or fans of “Boardwalk Empire,” rejoice! The ambitious concept not only comes across as fun, but is also quite listenable; no salt required.
What’s the point of The Jazz Age? I don’t really know, nor do I care. I imagine it would be super cool to throw this album on at a party, and have your friends be like, “Wait, I know this song!” You will definitely feel impressive and all-powerful when you respond, “Yes, you do, it’s a cover of Roxy Music’s ‘Avalon,’” with a sneaky grin. Upbeat and inflected with cheeky, brassy sounds, the cover is not exactly as good as the original, but it’s still pretty sharp, interesting, and spunky.
Then again, the original tracks and the new versions aren’t really comparable, which helps the latter feel new and fresh. When you listen to the album’s smooth, moody rendition of “Love Is The Drug,” the slick, super-groovy smash single from 1975 doesn’t even really come to mind. The Jazz Age also gains extra brownie points for fantastic instrumentals and thoroughly modern, spot-on production. Clearly, Ferry knows what he’s doing, and it’s not the first time he’s taken a stab at nouvelle nostalgia; in 1999, he released As Time Goes By, a collection of obscure 1930s jazz and pop songs.
On The Jazz Age, Bryan Ferry becomes the hero of his own timeless Fitzgerald tale, however, the one gaping, inescapable plot hole is that he’s missing from most of the action. Without Ferry’s greatest, most recognizable assett– his voice– his songs lose much of their power and charisma. Regardless, The Jazz Age works not just because it’s a noble experiment on Ferry’s part, but also because– no matter the era– well-done retro pastiche is always in fashion.
3 / 5 bars