There are few artists who can command a cover quite like Roxy Music frontman and all-round suave son of a gun, Bryan Ferry. Arguably the smoothest man in music, Ferry’s ability to expertly express the sentiments of another has seen the singer routinely include cover sin his output, often picking some of the most terrifying songs around.
Perhaps his most notable moment for covers came in 1973 when the singer released his seminal album These Foolish Things. On the record, it’s almost as if Ferry has cracked open a half-decent bottle of Brandy and is gently serenading you with some of his favourite tunes. There are not many places to be that are better than that. It’s a sentiment the singer has taken into his entire discography.
Ferry has something that many artists in the music industry today crave: a timelessness. It’s a value which is rightly held up in high esteem and is proven when the singer takes on a song of somebody else’s with the same swagger and smoothness he does all of his work. Naturally stylish and effortlessly cool, what Ferry can’t do with a song should never be done.
Below we’re bringing you seven of the singer’s best covers and redefining the art of singing someone else’s song.
Bryan Ferry’s best covers:
‘Back to Black’ – Amy Winehouse
Recorded alongside the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, this cover version of Amy Winehouse’s seminal track ‘Back to Black’ given a fresh new spin under the guidance of the Roxy Music man.
A naturally slick performance, Ferry is perfectly placed in the film The Great Gatsby with this cover. Stylish and skilful, it is everything that makes Ferry an icon and make sus all huge fans of his.
‘Don’t Worry Baby’ – The Beach Boys
Featuring on Bryan Ferry’s These Foolish Things, taking on The Beach Boys is always a scary thing to do. The band’s vocal range is so impressive that not many people can come near to matching them bar for bar. Instead, Ferry does his own take on the track.
Swinging as one might when you’re Bryan Ferry, the song is imbued with a casual calmness that makes you feel comfortable and entranced at the same time. There’s an intensity to this track and a charm that makes it unmissable.
‘Like A Hurricane’ – Neil Young
Ferry’s album These Foolish Things may well be the finest covers album of all time, but even they may have felt Young’s classic was a little out of reach. Young has always maintained his legend as having one of the keenest ears in the business and the thought of him pawing over any cover is enough to worry any singer or musician.
Yet, as you might imagine, Ferry, along with the special support of Andy Mackay on saxophone and Phil Nazanara on guitar, deliver a quite sumptuous rendition of the song. Ripping the bulb of the song from its roots they use a fuller sound and a pumped-up rhythm to turn the track into something any band would be proud of.
‘I Put A Spell On You’ – Screamin’ Jay Hawkins
Bryan Ferry covered this enduring Screamin’ Jay Hawkins anthem for his 1993 album Taxi, which true to form, was largely made out of cover versions. Bryan’s sultry version reached number 18 in the UK chart, and it remains one of the greatest adaptations of the haunting track we’ve ever heard.
We love it because it puts Ferry in a whole new space. While we’re used to hearing the crooner do his best hip-swaying over an orchestral sonic landscape, on this song, though backed amply, he is dark and meaning, tinged with the authenticity of the original. It’s a cracker.
‘Let’s Stick Together’ – Canned Heat
While the original song was written by Wilbert Harrison, the real version of this song, AKA the version that everyone points to, is the tune from Canned Heat, the rock legends. Ferry, however, took this song in a whole new direction in 1976.
Picking up the track and taking it down a funkier more new wave style, Ferry’s iconic vocal elevates the song into a brand new plain. Ferry later remixed the song for a top 20 hit in 1988. But for our money, the best version of the song is featured on Ferry’s album of the same name. It has punch and panache and is a guaranteed party starter whenever you put it on.
‘Sympathy For the Devil’ – The Rolling Stones
In 1974, the singer’s set was littered with the classic covers from These Foolish Things, all of which was delivered in his incredible style. While many knew Ferry as the lead singer of the glam outfit, in these shows the suave man with the mic showed that he was so much more. He was a showman, through and through, and he didn’t need anyone on stage to help him with that.
His bravado would see him not only take to the stage without his band (though he was backed by a 15-piece orchestra), at the mammoth venue but also come out to perform a polished and slinky version of one of the most successful songs in recent memory. True, his solo record was full of covers of different artists and bands but it was the approach taken on The Rolling Stones’ smash that really caught our eye.
This is the beginning of Ferry transcending from the enigmatic frontman to the only name on the bill. He was moving away from the band that spawned him and was beginning to find the value in his voice. Charismatic and cultured, Bryan Ferry is the thinking man’s crooner and, some decades later, he still is. Listen below to Bryan Ferry’s live cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Sympathy For The Devil’ from the Albert Hall in 1974.
‘Jealous Guy’ – John Lennon
There are few people who can come within a mile radius of John Lennon when one thinks of musical icons. But while Lennon’s real talent lay in songwriting, for Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music it was all about the performance. Here we see the combination of the two as Ferry and the band perform Lennon’s song ‘Jealous Guy’ just two years after his death.
Following Lennon’s death in 1980, Roxy Music began adding a version of the track to their live set during a tour of Germany. It was such a welcomed moment of mutual appreciation that they soon released the song on Polydor. With its B-side ‘To Turn You On’ the song became the band’s only UK number one. It has since featured in most of Ferry and Roxy Music’s compilation albums and is a key moment in the live set too.
When Ferry takes the track on he provides a moment of rock and roll bliss. Below is the perfect example. Shot during their performance Frejus, France on the 27th August 1982 Ferry is the embodiment of suave as he delivers an impassioned performance of the iconic Lennon number.