Roxy Music's swan song, 1982's Avalon, broke with nearly everything the band had done up to that point. A slow, lush, mournful, synth-laden collection of make-out music, it served as an ideal setting for the teardrops-and-cocktails persona frontman Bryan Ferry had been honing for years. So much so, in fact, that Ferry has spent the years since making solo albums that re-create the feel of Avalon with varying degrees of success. Taxi, Ferry's 1993 covers collection, even applied the Avalon treatment to songs unsuited for it. A lifeless take on "Amazing Grace" served as a particular low point, but few of those tracks suggested that the interpretive skills displayed on previous cover albums, particularly the 1973 classic These Foolish Things, had survived into the '90s. As Time Goes By, a collection of standards from the '20s and '30s, suggests otherwise. In many ways the opposite of These Foolish Things, which propelled itself with cheek and irreverence, Time's approach remains respectful throughout. Largely discarding synths and 21st-century production sheen for the sound of a small jazz combo, Ferry sings his heart out, working through some of the greatest hits of the era between the two world wars. (These include the title track, "I'm In The Mood For Love," "Easy Living," three Cole Porter favorites, and an unearthly take on Kurt Weill's ode to aging, "September Song.") Of course, even in Ferry's weakest moments, he's able to skate by thanks to his inimitable voice, an asset that sounds healthier on As Time Goes By than it has in years. Vocal tics he seemed to discard years ago (check out that tremolo!) show up again, making the album one of his liveliest since Roxy Music's dissolution. Ferry clearly owes a lot to the material here: Always more indebted to the cabaret than the arena, his connection with the songs can't be faked. Like Paul McCartney's new Run Devil Run, Time sounds like the work of an artist facing the future by getting in touch with the most important elements of his past, and the results are both predictable and thrilling, musically tasteful but as emotionally raw as good manners will allow.

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