Mamouna [2023 Deluxe Reissue]
Seductive futurist Bryan Ferry is not a look-back sort of artist, as suggested by his firm pivot to a solo career following Roxy Music’s 1982 swan song Avalon—though his output from 1985 and beyond has benefitted from Roxy’s cooly funk-forward ambience and has proven to be a variation on the same lounge-lizard theme. Fortunately for us Ferry broke his own rule in 2022 by celebrating Roxy’s 50th anniversary with a reunion tour and a reissue project for his solo material kicking off with a deluxe version of 1993’s covers collection Taxi and extending to the present moment with a re-release of 1994’s Mamouna.
Recorded in fits and starts across five years after 1987’s fine Bête Noire, Mamouna’s momentum included work on another new album, Horoscope, that went unreleased and the previously mentioned Taxi collection that arrived one year prior to Mamouna’s final release date. What took so long—even for a sleek, hermetically sealed soul perfectionist such as Ferry—and what happened to Horoscope is detailed here in Mamouna’s deluxe version, featuring both session sketches and Horoscope’s lost tapes all in one place.
Like every Ferry solo album after 1978’s jagged The Bride Stripped Bare, Horoscope is sleekly tasteful and tart beyond compare. While the squiggly, breathy disco of “S&M” and “Where Do We Go From Here” (and the latter’s your-place-or-mine sensuality) allows Ferry’s gorgeous baritone a higher-octave haughtiness, “Desdemona” has an off-kilter industrial feel to its slow-stewing brand of R&B. One thing that’s noticeable from Horoscope’s tracks—“Loop De Li” in particular—is that they do actually feel unfinished, something that’s rectified by several of its Mamouna redos and, most certainly, Ferry’s sketch sessions.
Not one to let audiences see how the saucy sausage is made, a track such as the cowbell-led “Your Painted Smile”—its guide vocals version and its spare piano and voice demo—are boldest for their raw, rare peeks inside Ferry’s song-building process. Hearing an unfettered Ferry alone at the 88s, voice naked and quivering while whispering “Don’t talk to me,” actually makes you yearn for a true solo Ferry record, something stark, dark, but open-ended—something Ferry’s cleanly crepuscular albums are not. It’s also fun hearing a Stax-esque take on Roxy Music’s glam, once-Eurocentric “Mother of Pearl” and the bloopy, faux Bond-thematic “Wildcat Days,” the first and only time that Ferry wrote with long-departed Roxy synth-noodler Brian Eno.
Handsome stuff, this deluxe reissue. Then again, Bryan Ferry would have it no other way.