Scott Woods, rock critic and expert on all things Bryan Ferry and with whom I recorded a nine-hour podcast on Ferry and Roxy Music in 2010, is this week’s contributer to One Week//One Band. From his introduction:
In the fall of 1973, Bryan Ferry, lead singer and Chief Conceptualist of Roxy Music, released These Foolish Things, a solo LP consisting of 13 cover versions of other people’s songs. Coming in right near the tail end of an early ’70s boom in cover albums (the Band, Nilsson, Dylan, even Ferry’s crosstown rival David Bowie jumped on that particular bandwagon), These Foolish Things was rightly hailed at the time as the oddest and the most adventurous (if not in everyone’s opinion, necessarily, “the best”) of this particular trend. Rock critic Lester Bangs, not unfairly, labelled the new mania for cover LPs a “disgusting phenomenon” (though even he made an exception for Ferry’s debut with an over-the-top review in Creem magazine). What gave Ferry’s record an edge over the other cover albums of the period — aside from the quality of its performance, obviously an arguable, subjective point (though certainly one I subscribe to) — was the range, the audaciousness, you might even say the shamelessness of Ferry’s lineup of tunes. The track list included homages to the Holy Trinity of Sixties Rock (Beatles/Stones/Dylan), critically undervalued girl group tunes by Lesley Gore and the Paris Sisters, better-left-untouched solid gold soul classics like Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears,” and an almost six-minutes in length pre-rock lounge standard (the title track), which a good portion of Ferry’s audience might not even have been familiar with. And that covers just over half of the disc. More important still was Ferry’s handling of said tunes, some of which were treated with an almost embarrassingly personal soul-baringness, others of which were radically recast into performances which existed worlds apart from their sources, some of which were camped-up and/or vamped-out, at least one of which might be considered if not a mockery of its source material then certainly a critique of it.
That nine-hour podcast, helpfully divided into chapters and segments, is here.