You would be perfectly justified asking, “What is a review of a Bryan Ferry DVD doing in Guitar Moderne?”
Sometimes modern guitar is a question of context. Bryan Ferry has employed many fine guitarists over the years including Neil Hubbard, Alan Spenner, Chris Spedding, Waddy Wachtel, Oliver Thompson, Leo Abrahams, David Williams, and Phil Manzara, as well as star guest guitarists David Gilmour, Mark Knopfler, Robin Trower (who produced Ferry’s Taxi record), Johnny Marr, Jonny Greenwood, and, long before Daft Punk, Nile Rogers. None of these guitarists would normally be called modern in the sense we use at Guitar Moderne, save for Greenwood, and Abrahams whose work with looping, laptops, and Eno more than qualifies him. But sometimes modernity is a question of context.
Oliver Thompson and Neil Hubbard on the new DVD Bryan Ferry Nuits de Fourvière Live in Lyon
Despite Ferry’s latest recording—Roxy Music and solo career compositions in instrumental big band arrangements, his modernist credentials are impeccable. With Roxy Music he helped haul rock/pop music into the future, and beginning with Boys and Girls, his solo work has exhibited a unique type of aural collage that exists in the timeless ether of all great art.
Starting with that record, Ferry developed a method of taking talented guitarists playing classic blues or funk parts and using their work as dabs of paint and found objects for his compositional bricolage.
Leo Abrahams does some modern-esque string scraping on Ferry’s Dylanesque Live video.
Ferry takes the guitarists clichéd—albeit soulfully played—pentatonic licks and washes them in delay and reverb, while surrounding the work of funk experts like Rogers and the late Williams with atmospheres unheard in their usual milieus. The proof is all over Ferry’s oeuvre: the guitarists listed above don’t sound the same in any other context.
Watching Bryan Ferry Nuits de Fourvière Live in Lyon should elucidate this theory quite clearly. There is much for guitarists of any persuasion here: the annoying, but now standard, quick cutting includes many shots of Thompson and Hubbard plying their trade, while the audio mix distinguishes their contributions vividly (though the stereo mix gets louder and softer throughout, possibly a phase cancellation thing. Hopefully the 5.1 and Surround mixes don’t do this.)
Especially interesting is the included extra, The Making of Olympia. Eight years after 2002’s Frantic, his last record containing originals, Olympia was a return to compositional and producing form for Ferry. In addition to terrific footage of Rodgers, Williams, Gilmour, and Thompson at work (along with some cool pedalboard shots), there is much discussion of the meticulous, obsessive work Ferry puts into exploiting the possibilities of each track, as well as the lengths the guitarists go to find the right sound and the right part.
Left to their own devices these guitarists are great players but most are not exceptionally modern. Under Ferry’s direction and used to realize his vision they can’t be anything else.