Bitter-Sweet by Bryan Ferry (England)
Review by Matt Collar
Building upon 2012's The Jazz Age, and his acting turn as a cabaret singer in the 1930s Netflix drama Babylon Berlin, Bryan Ferry returns to his love of urbane classic jazz with 2018's Bitter-Sweet. Recorded with longtime collaborator/pianist Colin Good, Bitter-Sweet finds the Roxy Music frontman once again embracing the vintage 1920s and '30s big-band swing he first explored on 1999's As Time Goes By, and which he and Good brought to fruition with The Jazz Age. However, whereas The Jazz Age featured instrumental reworkings of many of Ferry's best-loved songs, Bitter-Sweet features Ferry singing jazz versions of both Roxy Music songs and songs from his solo career. Featured on the album are the six songs the singer contributed to the Babylon Berlin soundtrack, including "Alphaville," "Reason or Rhyme," "Bitter-Sweet," "Dance Away," "Chance Meeting," and "Bitters End." As arranged by Good and Ferry, these are all wry and romantic productions that evoke the smoky ambiance of Babylon Berlin's Weimar Republic-era setting. Elsewhere, Ferry transforms the new wave sophistication of "While My Heart Is Still Beating" off 1982's Avalon into a slinky, half-lidded crawl, and similarly mutates the pop exotica of his 1985 title track "Boys and Girls" into a slow-burn flamenco fever dream. Particularly compelling is Ferry and his orchestra's snappy rendition of "Sign of the Times" off 1978's The Bride Stripped Bare, in which the original track's driving guitar lines are transposed to a puckered trumpet lead. This is haunting jazz sprinkled with the golden dust of Ferry's glittery rock past.