With Roxy Music on indefinite sabbatical, Bryan Ferry had no other outlet for his songwriting. His fourth album, 1977's In Your Mind is his first and only '70s solo album comprised solely of self-composed material, and it's his finest from that decade. Like its predecessors, it's got Roxy drum dynamo Paul Thompson, plus cameos from For Your Pleasure bassist John Porter, Roxy guitarist Phil Manzanera, and other top players like Chris Spedding. The ample background vocals, larger horn section, occasional orchestration, and continuous R&B bent distinguish it from a Roxy album, but this is the closest solo Ferry gets to replicating his band's sound: If not for the absent synths and diminished rhythm guitars, this would essentially be the Roxy disc between '75's Siren and '79's Manifesto.
That's not to slight the interpretive skills Ferry exhibited on '73's pioneering covers album These Foolish Things; '74's similar sequel Another Time, Another Place, '75's Let's Stick Together, a U.S.-label assembled but nevertheless coherent collection of stray R&B covers and solo interpretations of Roxy tracks; or '78's The Bride Stripped Bare, a somber blend of remakes and original material recorded in the wake of his split from Jerry Hall. The Roxy frontman is like few others when singing his favorite songs; he's a personal yet stagy showman who never fails to bring the drama. But when he's on as a songwriter, as he was throughout the '70s and '80s, Ferry's a consummate artist. Unlike so many art school vets who became musicians in the '60s and '70s, he never simply rocks out. The art concepts don't ever leave him.
Yet the quotation marks are implied more gently this time: In Your Mind offers more soul than "soul." It's got the catchiest tunes of all his solo discs with no duds, and it swings like his inspirations. Revered by the leaders of Chic, who clearly knew a thing or two about grooves, Thompson here definitively proves he's the '70s' most dynamic rock drummer: Check his rapid-fire syncopations on "All Night Operator," or the way he drives "Love Me Madly Again" past the seven-minute mark without tiring. "Don't talk about it, show me," Ferry implores on the later while doing the same. He's truly engaged here. The rhythms are unrelenting, and Ferry submits.