Bryan Ferry is continuing his ongoing perverse and paradoxical mission of taking credit for the legend of Roxy Music while also distancing himself from the band's most brilliant work. This box set, merely longer than the four other collections available, graphically charts Ferry's decline from otherworldly-brilliant '70s art star through '80s vanilla-soul smoothie to recent concert appearances at Yves Saint Laurent fashion shows wearing not even a stitch of irony.
Also clear from this collection: Ferry's music thrives or ossifies depending on his guitarist. In Phil Manzanera, Ferry found a perfect interpreter equally adept at camp toss-offs (the Dick Dale quotes in "Virginia Plain") and inspired neo-psychedelia ("Both Ends Burning"). Primo Ferry solo tracks, meanwhile, employ legendary Brit oddballs like Davy O'List, whose solo on "The 'In' Crowd" gives Robert Fripp's on Eno's "Baby's On Fire" a run for its deranged money. Chris Spedding's kitsch hard-rockabilly lends "The Price of Love" a knowing metal wink. But by the time of 1985's "Slave to Love," David Gilmour was supplying generic art-rock doodles. Ex-Smithian Johnny Marr plays on "The Right Stuff" to no discernible effect, as Ferry's late-'80s sound had become a gossamer blur supporting an increasingly hermetic brand of upscale angst.
Most frustrating are the tracks from 1994's intermittently brilliant, Eno-produced Mamouna. With Manzanera and Roxy reed player Andy Mackay also back on board, Ferry showed he could still make music that exemplified his brilliant knack for making misery sound both apocalyptic and catchy. He just no longer chooses to do so.