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Bryan Ferry

Frantic (Virgin)

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Bryan Ferry, the paradigm of rock and roll freeze-frame, would never be so disheveled as to be frantic. But he can be urgent and persuasive -- qualities that dominate this album, his best in a good 10 years. Paced by a propulsive, infectious cover of Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue," the public image of Roxy Music has delivered a cohesive, hard-rocking disc. Unlike As Time Goes By, Ferry's appropriately languorous nod to Cole Porter, this one has more dimension. It references blues, cinema, and country icons, and even incorporates the medieval: "Goddess of Love" tips a snapbrim hat to Marilyn Monroe, a Cajun-flavored "Goodnight, Irene" salutes Leadbelly, Don Nix's "Goin' Down" is pretty damn bluesy, and the courtly "Ja Nun Hons Pris" is by Richard the Lionhearted (the king, not the rock group).

As always, there's a rueful undercurrent to Ferry's music. The haunting "Fool for Love," widescreen "San Simeon," and oddly bouncy "Nobody Hurts Me" reveal the self-pity and narcissism that Ferry somehow manages to make appealing. Ultimately, of course, what makes any Ferry project work is its high style, which Frantic has to burn.

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