[Rating: 3.5 stars]
The King of Cool is back. Not since 2002’s Frantic has Ferry released an album with originals, and once again he recruits the talents of Dave Stewart (co-writer on a few tunes), Jonny Greenwood (guitar), Colin Good and Brian Eno (both on keys). Also appearing are David Gilmour, Nile Rodgers, Flea, and Phil Manzanera, with surprising collaborations featuring Scissor Sisters and Groove Armada.
It’s not just the contributors, or the stylized cover art featuring Kate Moss as a modern-day Roxy girl, that hark back to another era. On the first single, “You Can Dance,” Ferry croons, “Jump on the table, slide down the pole/You can wear your sable, you can bare your soul,” over synths eerily similar to those of Avalon’s “True to Life.” Like many songs on Olympia, this European club hit is reminiscent of early 80’s Roxy Music. But the piano-laden “Me Oh My,” a heartbreak ballad with all the depth of Roxy Music’s “My Only Love,” is followed by “Shameless,” a fresh, if unexpected, electro-disco track made with London’s Groove Armada. “Heartache by Numbers,” an anthemic collaboration with the Scissor Sisters, further displays his versatility, and features yet another Roxy member, Andy Mackay, on oboe.
Ferry’s string-laden interpretation of Traffic’s “No Face, No Name, No Number” pales in comparison to his romantic, grandiose cover of the Tim Buckley classic, “Song to the Siren.” Ferry was born to sing the words: “Sail to me, let me enfold you/Here I am, here I am/Waiting to hold you,” and the rich layers of strings, synths and guitars by the likes of Mackay, Eno, Gilmour and Greenwood (along with a dozen others) add to the intensity. The intriguing “Alphaville,” which Ferry named after Godard’s 1965 sci-fi/film noir, is seductive enough to be the next Bond theme—and who better to pen it than a stylish wearer of bespoke suits?