3 Out Of 5 Stars
There is still, always, that voice. The seductive, world weary croon that masters sublime mood and the occasional glimmer of funk-pop. The atmosphere of the best of Roxy Music and the various high points of his solo career, which has been maddeningly inconsistent. But at his best ("Avalon" will always be on my desert island list), Ferry has a grace few can equal. As he nears the age of 70, "Avonmore" strives to find those heights. Given his age, that old world weary man just slips into it like a glove.
Calling the CD "Avonmore" is hardly and accident. In much the same way that "Olympia" took a sample from "Avalon" to compose "Olympia's" "You Can Dance," the tempos and atmosphere are meant to evoke memories of that classic Roxy. However, the sound of "Avonmore" harkens more to "Boys and Girls" and "Bete Noire" than anything Roxy has recorded. Musically, I'd say he makes the mark about 50% of the time here. "Loop Di Li," "One Night Stand" and the title track are vintage Ferry, engaging pop with funky undertones, while "Lost" is the enigmatic Ferry (and also the shortest song here) and features Mark Knopfler on guitar. The cast also includes Flea, Nile Rodgers and Johnny Marr, even though you'd never know it because the sonics of "Avonmore" are just that consistent, even if the songs seem mostly to be retreads.
It's that consistency that lays a trap for the disc's final two songs. He covers Stephen Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns" and then Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary." Like his albums of classic cover songs during the Roxy era and his dreadful "Dylanesque," Ferry transforms these into his own. But covering Sondheim is a daunting task for just about everyone, and Ferry misses the target. It's just not a song to be Ferr-iszed. "Johnny and Mary" fares a little better by slowing Palmer's electronic groove down to a misty piano and bubbly synth. It makes the characters something of a middle aged couple who really do "need the world to tell him he ain't lonely." It's an odd way to end an album that, two songs before, had Ferry's position as an elder statesman of ennui secured. Adding these two songs at the end feels almost like an afterthought, like he just wanted to prove that he could take any song in the world and it would just drop into place. It doesn't work, and that is part of the reason I only rated "Avonmore" as an average, three star album.