Bryan Ferry - As Time Goes By Bryan Ferry
As Time Goes By

As "Starlight Orchestra" style records go, this one probably isn't too bad. If it had been recorded in mono instead of stereo, it would sound like a lost recording from the 1920s-'30s. Ferry rarely overemotes, but plays these classic Cole Porter, Rodgers & Hart and Youmans tunes soft and silky, as behind him an ensemble of trumpet, sax, trombone, piano and rhythm section swing along sedately.

Do any of Ferry's fans really want to hear his once menacing vibrato now crooning the oldies? That remains to be seen at the sales register. But the chameleon performer offers a good selection of the standards, ranging from "As Time Goes By" and "I'm in the Mood for Love" to "Miss Otis Regrets," "Lover Come Back to Me"and "September Song." The one complaint is that he brings nothing new or innovative to these songs — "As Time Goes By" is a straight reading of these songs sung exactly the way you've heard them sung by other performers all your life. So why do it again?

Ultimately, it's a quiet nostalgic album, one that Ferry's fans' parents and grandparents are more likely to appreciate than those who grew up with his Roxy Music.


Bif Naked - I Bificus Bif Naked
I Bificus

On the opposite spectrum from Ferry is Bif Naked, a twentysomething Lilith Fair performer who sings of escaping abusive relationships, testing the waters of bisexuality and of the guilt and pain of an aborted/adopted child ("I'm so sorry, Chotee, but I couldn't keep you/I hope you can forgive baby, Chotee, forgive me").

Some heady themes, but Bif's band keeps the guitars revved up most of the time and she's no whiny wallower as a singer — she electrifies these songs. This is crunch rock a la Chick and Joan Jett, and the best songs bookend the disc — the rock anthem "I Died" and the new wave angular crunch tease of "Twitch" ("I got a boyfriend/"danger boy"/he's got a girlfriend/she's my toy").

Between are 10 other tracks, ranging from the crackly sample backdrop of the languorous "Any Day Now" to the Madonna-esque balladry of "Lucky" to the Garbage-like big vocals of the science fiction anthem "Spaceman" to the Green Day/Muffs-worthy punk-pop power of the single "Moment of Weakness."

Filled with immediacy, humor, sadness and lots of sing-along hooks, I Bificus is worth a spin.


New on the Shelves:

The MTV and Rhino Records have teamed up to create an end-of-the-millennium series of discs titled MTV The First 1000 Years. The four-CD series is divided by music type into R&B, Rock, New Wave and Hip-Hop and includes MTV staples from the station's early days until the present. The R&B disc includes Bobby Brown's "My Prerogative," Deborah Cox's "Sentimental," Tina Turner's "What's Love Got to Do With It" and Boyz II Men's "End of the Road." The Rock disc offers Beck's "Devil's Haircut," Garbage's "Stupid Girl,"The Breeders' "Cannonball," Counting Crows' "Round Here" and R.E.M.'s "Orange Crush." The New Wave disc reads like a track listing for the first couple years of MTV's steady rotation Duran Duran's "Rio," A-Ha's"Take on Me," Spandau Ballet's "True," the Fixx's "One Thing Leads To Another," A Flock of Seagulls' "I Ran (So Far Away)" and Thompson Twins' "Hold Me Now." The Hip-Hop disc offers Run D.M.C.'s "Walk This Way," Digital Underground's "Humpty Dance," House of Pain's "Jump Around," Arrested Development's "Tennessee," and Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five's "The Message."

Looking for the heydays of your misspent youth? CMC Records has a live disc from .38 Special to take some of you back to the days of big vocal rock. Live At Sturgis includes "Rockin' Into the Night," "Wild-Eyed Southern Boys," "Fantasy Girl," "Caught Up in You," "Hold on Loosely" and a new studio track.

If the stale grind of Q101 has got you down, but you want some hard-hitting modern punk rock, check out the releases on the Fat Wreck Chords label. Earlier this year they released the first non-major label Muffs LP, and among their latest issues is Hit for Six by Consumed, a fast-paced slam rock fest with the speed of Green Day and the delivery of Bad Religion.

If you'd rather hear B96-FM dance fluff, check out the new bass-driven disc from The Boomtang Boys, Greatest Hits Vol. 1 on Virgin. The disc, programmed by a trio of guys who pull in a handful of girls to sing lead vocals on various tracks, puts a modern spin on '80s hits like Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself," T. Rex/Power Station's "Bang a Gong," Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time" and Yaz's "Only You," and also offers some new bubblegum fodder, like the teasing "Squeeze Toy" ("Now I'm ready for something new/if you're lucky then it could be you/you could be my squeeze toy").

It all gets to sound pretty samey, but it's undeniably upbeat.