In 1982, Roxy Music released Avalon. It would become the group’s studio swan song, but those paying only casual attention could be forgiven for thinking the Avalon moment lasted much longer. Often imitated, rarely equaled, the album established the sound of soft-rock seduction for the rest of the decade by dropping Bryan Ferry’s world-weary vocals against warm synths and the most romantic woodwind work of Andy Mackay’s career. Among the imitators: Ferry himself, whose solo albums, with a few digressions, have felt like attempts to recreate the Avalon sound. The latest, Olympia, is no exception. If anything, it feels like an even deeper retreat, as signaled by opening notes that sound like an Avalon outtake.
That’s not necessarily a complaint, though. As Avalon simulations go, this is one of the finest, and one given added credibility by guest appearances from other Roxy members, even the long-absent Brian Eno. The lush, louche “You Can Dance” opens the album with a pulsing bit of last-call desperation whose spirit spills over into the Eno-guesting “Alphaville.” Those hoping Eno’s appearance would revive the art-rock experimentation of Ferry’s early days will be disappointed. In fact, guests from Scissor Sisters to Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour to Flea to Jonny Greenwood to Nile Rodgers all get absorbed into the after-hours spirit that’s become Ferry’s comfort zone. Still, it’s one he still inhabits better than anyone else, as evidenced here by highlights like a cover of Tim Buckley’s “Song To The Siren” and the album-closing “Tender Is The Night,” which sends out a heartbroken message of love accompanied by a yearning piano and half-tuned radio noise. In moments like these, Olympia makes Avalon sound almost within reach.