Bryan Ferry – The Bride Stripped Bare – Our Shootout Winner from 2013

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock Hall of Fame.

It’s been years since I last played this album, and I’m happy, ecstatic even, to report that it sounds far better than I remember it sounding. In the old days I recall it as somewhat dry, flat and transistory. Now it’s BIG and BOLD, revealing a band that’s on fire in the studio. 

This White Hot side two had by far the most energy of any side we played, showing us just what a monster rocker this album can be when it’s mastered and pressed right. The reviews were mixed when the album was released in 1978 but time has been kind to it — after hearing the killer copies I would rank it up at the top with the best of Ferry’s and Roxy’s work.

The first three tracks are uptempo barn burners sure to get you out of any funk you may find yourself in, day or night.

With a sonic grade of A++ side one was nearly as good! The Tubey Magic on this side is much more pronounced than it is on side two, which has more of a clean, spacious sound, a better mix to be sure.

We were a bit surprised to find that the domestic copies we played were clearly better sounding than the UK imports. It may be counterintuitive but these are the kinds of things you find out when doing shootouts. We have little use for intuitions (UK recording, UK pressing) and rules of thumb (original equals better). Hard data — the kind you get from actually playing the records — trumps them all.

AGAIG Side Two

This side two has it all: the kind of transparency that allows you to hear into the soundfield like never before; presence and immediacy in Ferry’s breathy, emotional vocals; air and ambience around all the instruments; and especially Rick Marotta’s super-punchy drums, so high up in the mix. That front and center snare is the sound we love here at Better Records!

This side one also had REAL ENERGY and dynamics not found on other pressings. With dynamics AND the warmth and richness found here, we’re pretty sure this copy can’t be beat.

Master Tape Sound

This is some of the best sound we have ever heard on any Roxy or Bryan Ferry album. We have an expression that we reserve for this kind of high quality recording — Master Tape Sound. When you drop the needle on a record this good, you feel like you’ve just wandered into the control room, spotted the master tape threaded up and punched play. As the first song starts up you quickly become so totally IMMERSED in the musical experience that you forget completely that you’re listening to a record.

Somehow you get the feeling that you’re hearing the music exactly the way the musicians intended it to sound. You can’t ask for more than that.

Side One

A++, Tubey Magical rich. A bit smooth and maybe fatter than it should be, this thicker, lusher sound works on some cuts and hurts others. This is what the best of the Brit copies we played tended to sound like, and if I remember correctly none actually sounded this good.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus to Mint Minus Minus is about as quiet a copy as we can find. Please click on the Sonic Grade tab above to read more about this copy’s surfaces.

Top Bryan Ferry / Roxy Sound

Let’s face it, we love many of Roxy Music’s and Bryan Ferry’s records, but most of them have their share of problems. Perhaps at a later date we will break them down in more detail, but for now let’s just say that this is one of the strongest sounding of Ferry’s solo output. This and the first three albums are all very well-recorded. The first three are clearly better on import, but the next two, In Your Mind and this one, both recorded by Steve Nye, are best on domestic vinyl.

In Your Mind is another personal favorite, but the sound is not quite up to Hot Stamper standards. As good as the music is, we were forced to abandon our attempt at a shootout years ago and haven’t heard a good enough sounding copy since to change our minds. It doesn’t happen very often — today’s modern cleaning technologies have made many shootouts possible that had previously failed badly — but in some cases even a dozen carefully cleaned LPs can’t get even a single pressing over the finish line.


TRACK LISTING

Side One

Sign of the Times 
Can’t Let Go 
Hold On (I’m Coming)
The Same Old Blues 
When She Walks in the Room

Side Two

Take Me to the River 
What Goes On 
Carrickfergus 
That’s How Strong My Love Is 
This Island Earth

Moon in the Gutter Review

Dust Off Those Grooves (Chapter 13) — Bryan Ferry The Bride Stripped Bare

Bryan Ferry’s furious 1978 release THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE was a relative failure upon initial release and is now mostly remembered in the context of Jerry Hall leaving him for Mick Jagger. Rolling Stone exclaimed in the headline of their original negative review that the album was “more Edith Piaf than Muddy Waters” and I always wondered why that was considered a bad thing.

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE is one of the great break-up albums of all time as it is an album that had Ferry responding to punk and the criticism he had fell under after his first solo albums.

No band had been more progressive or acclaimed than Roxy Music in the early seventies but by the time of the brilliantly subversive MANIFESTO and FLESH AND BLOOD they were becoming more and more disdained by groups and critics who had forgotten what the word irony meant. So THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE is an incredibly ambitious album, one that sees Ferry trying to answer his critics with a reminder that he could indeed rock while still maintaining the cool and slightly sinister air that he had developed for himself with Roxy Music.

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE is an album obviously made by a man in distress. It is one of the most authentically paranoid albums ever recorded and it is a startling cohesive album considering it is a mixture of original songs and cover versions.

Ferry is one of the great underrated singers of the rock era. He is an extremely talented song stylist who has the unique ability (like one of his idols Elvis Presley) to take seemingly any kind of song and make it uniquely his own. He is also an incredibly important songwriter and when he is at the top of his game (FOR YOUR PLEASURE, COUNTRY LIFE, FRANTIC) he is pretty unmatchable.

Ferry had been unhappy with 1977’s IN YOUR MIND, even though it contained several astonishing tracks and the brutally good guitar work of Chris Spedding, and he wanted THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE to signal a new beginning for him.

The album opens with the surprisingly volcanic SIGN OF THE TIMES, one of the shortest and most potent songs Ferry has ever recorded. It’s crunching twin guitar attack of Waddy Watchel and Neil Hubbard combined with some of Ferry’s most biting lyrics proved a thrilling starting point. The single famously failed at the height of the punk movement but it holds up just as good as say anything off The Clash’s second album that was released around the same time. When Ferry spits out, “Here is a rainbow for your hair” we know that glam is truly over and that we are in the midst of something far more desperate and real.

The album’s second track, CAN’T LET GO, is its most famous as Ferry and Roxy Music have revisited it live many times throughout the years since THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE original. Again the dual guitar work by Watchel and Hubbard is incredible and Ferry delivers one of his most pained and impassioned performances. Never has anyone so known for being so cool, that they are almost cold, sounded so vulnerable. The song has been looked at as an obvious message to Jerry Hall but there is the sense that Ferry is singing also to the time period that he came from that was obviously disappearing.

The albums next two tracks were two of the most surprising choices of Ferry’s career up to that point. The famous soul track HOLD ON I’M COMING had been a major hit for Sam and Dave in the sixties and Ferry’s crunchy version is a fine cover with again his impassioned vocals carrying the track. Even more surprising was the tough version of J.J. Cale’s SAME OLD BLUES. Ferry sounds absolutely possessed with anger on this track with Alan Spenner’s impressive bass playing standing out.

The gorgeous ballad WHEN SHE WALKS IN THE ROOM marks the albums halfway point and it’s a lovely track with Ferry singing lines like, “And your fair-weathered friends fail to speak, they’re so afraid still waters run deep”. The song’s final few moments with Ferry and Waddy Watchel harmonizing the title is incredibly haunting and absolutely devastating sounding when you consider what Ferry was going through at this point in his life and career.

Al Green’s TAKE ME TO THE RIVER shows just how much bad luck Ferry was having at this point. Originally ridiculed for his version, it would soon become a monster hit for the Eno produced Talking Heads with David Byrne obviously more inspired by Ferry’s version than Green’s original.

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE’S masterpiece follows with Ferry’s thunderous stab at The Velvet Underground’s WHAT GOES ON. Ferry transforms Lou Reed’s original into a frustrated and impassioned plea and when he suddenly starts incorporating lyrics from The Velvets BEGINNING TO SEE THE LIGHT into the mix we are caught in one of Ferry’s great moments. The accompanying video featuring a bearded and weary looking Ferry is one the indelible images in a career full of them.

Another beautiful ballad follows in CARRICKFERGUS and like CAN’T LET GO we have Ferry admitting his inability or need to move on. It’s a lovely version of a much often performed traditional Irish song.

One last cover is THAT’S HOW STRONG MY LOVE IS and Ferry’s version hearkens back to not only Otis Reddings version but ironically Mick Jagger’s vocal take on The Rolling Stones cover. All is fair in love and war it seems.

The eerie THIS ISLAND EARTH closes the album and it would have been right at home on one of Roxy Music’s early albums. It is worth noting that Ferry’s excellent keyboard work here resembles some of Eno’s solo albums from this period which gives a good example that these two have always been in a way connected.

Ferry has recently returned to THIS ISLAND EARTH with some remarkable live performances and a BBC session which saw this great lost track getting an amazing response. It is one of Ferry’s loneliest numbers and one of his best.

THE BRIDE STRIPPED BARE was Bryan Ferry’s biggest gamble and biggest failure in the decade which he owns as much as David Bowie or any other iconic figure you can think up. It was troubled from the beginning as it was originally planned as a double album (the scrapped songs showed up later as b-sides) and an odd, half-hearted marketing campaign sealed its fate.

The album is not often mentioned among Ferry’s best and while it doesn’t have the majestic draw of his greatest albums it does give us a rare glimpse of one of our coolest and most important artists at his most open and vulnerable.

Jeremy Richey