5 Intriguing Discoveries from Bryan Ferry’s 30th-Anniversary ‘Mamouna’ Reissue

After the Bête Noire album and tour cycle, Bryan Ferry began work in 1989 on an album that was to be called Horoscope. He delved into rough sketches of songs, but by the following year he put those efforts on hold to focus on a covers album called Taxi that emerged in March 1993. Then the iconic singer went back to finish what he had started, significantly reworking many of those primary tracks and releasing Mamouna in August 1994.

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But what happened to the original versions? Now we can finally hear for ourselves.

The new 30th-anniversary edition of Bryan Ferry’s Mamouna album is a swanky, three-disc affair certainly befitting rock’s King of Cool. There’s the original album, the earlier incarnation known as Horoscope, and a disc of early and alternate versions and outtakes. The Horoscope dive is intriguing because it shows a slightly heavier rendition of Mamouna, which was defined by its dreamy spaces and ethereally funky vibes.

While people often release instrumental versions of album cuts or demos that sound similar to the originals, Horoscope definitely offers a different vision. Half of the eight tracks were reworked for Mamouna. Plus we get three originals—“Raga,” “S&M” (aka “Midnight Train”), and “Loop De Li,” the latter two emerging in revised form on Avonmore from 2014—as well as a nine-minute cover of Roxy Music’s “Mother of Pearl” (from Stranded [1973]).

Mamouna features contributions from an impressive collective of musicians, including former Roxy members Phil Manzanera, Andy Mackay, Andy Newmark, and Brian Eno, along with other music legends like Nile Rodgers, Maceo Parker, and Robin Trower.

1. “The Only Face” (Horoscope Version)

While the Mamouna version of “The Only Face” is a wonderfully airy composition, the prominent presence of straight-on drums enlivens this early rendition. It’s clear from listening to the Horoscope takes of Mamouna songs that the rhythmic pulse of the originals was restrained or subdued on the album that eventually came out. In this particular case, the drum kit was later extracted in favor of simple hand percussion. It’s interesting to hear what the initial sessions were like.

2. “Your Painted Smile” and “The Only Face,” Piano and Vocal ‘93

We’ve grown so accustomed to hearing Ferry’s crooning within a very atmospheric and sculpted setting that to hear a raw recording of him just singing and playing piano is almost jarring. That said, it’s also quite refreshing. His singing being up front, with the piano not even sounding close-miked, makes these intimate early versions of Mamouna songs a treat to listen to. Ferry doing an unplugged set like this would be a delight. He has had some tracks on recent albums with a similar approach, but keyboards and sonic treatments were flown in around them. This is Ferry stripped bare, and beautifully so.

3. “Mother of Pearl”

Nearly two and a half minutes longer than the Roxy Music original, this new take of “Mother of Pearl” is a bit of a remake/remodel. Gone is the boisterous opening, along with Ferry’s quirky vocals and Manzanera’s rambunctious guitar work. Also excised are the dulcet a cappella vocals that close it out. This is a more laid-back version, with female backing vocals that fit in with the smokey, lounge-friendly vibes of much of Ferry’s post-Roxy catalog. There’s more of a trance-like feeling here as the song grooves along steadily for all nine minutes. A five and a half-minute edit of this cut appeared on the Ordinary Decent Criminal film soundtrack back in 2000. It only had a European release then.

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4. “Mamouna” instrumental edit ‘89/’94

The title track is a silky-smooth tune that makes you feel like you’re gliding through clouds. This earlier, wordless version has more jagged edges with a slightly stronger drum presence and bright, cascading synths, with the gentle funk riffing pushed more in the background. It’s not only fun to hear this instrumental variation, but it also shows how Ferry’s songs and ideas get refined in production and the mix.

5. “Raga”

This track first surfaced on Horoscope bootlegs under the title “Blinded By the Life I’m Living.” An Eastern-inflected tune, it easily fits within the dreamy Mamouna continuum: rippling guitar lines, a gently pulsating groove, and sensual brass. It’s actually surprising that this outtake didn’t make it onto the album, but the outliers often make for great listening later.

Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images for Live Nation

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