Sunday, 16 October 2016
October #5 - Dexys
5. Dexys - Grazing In The Grass
One Day I'm Going To Soar, Kevin Rowland's comeback album, was one of my favourite discs of 2012. So I was very excited to hear of a new release from the band who no longer Run at Midnight, even though the idea of a covers album focussing on "Irish and Country Soul" (whatever that means) set alarm bells ringing for many.
Covers have long been a part of Rowland's act: from forgotten soul acts like Chuck Wood and Johnny Johnson to Van Morrison's big Jackie Wilson tribute... or was that Jockey?
However, the real reason some might have feared a Dexys' covers album goes back to Rowland's infamous 1999 solo album, My Beauty (his second: sadly, I've never been able to track down an affordable copy of his 1988 solo record, The Wanderer). Here, Rowland abandoned his usual sartorial elegance in favour of this little ensemble...
...a move which led to the critics ripping him a new one and the pissed-up revellers at Reading Festival sharing the contents of their beer bottles with him (i.e. after they'd drunk the beer and then refilled them).
The thing is - and I've never been ashamed to admit this - I like My Beauty. It's a cracking set of interpretations: defiant, personal and wilfully anti-muso (the covers include Mama Cass, The Monkees and Whitney Houston... or George Benson, if you remember the original). So I was actually very excited by a similar project from the rejuvenated Dexys... perhaps a little too much.
Dexys Do Irish & Country Soul is a curious record, and though the critics have been far kinder to it, I haven't warmed to it as I did My Beauty 17 years ago. The title's a little misleading, for a start: yes, you'd expect I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen and Curragh of Kildare... but how Irish are Jerome Kern, Barry Gibb, Diane Warren, Joni Mitchell or Red Stewart? The selection of songs is even more wilfully obtuse than on My Beauty, but though the arrangements are gorgeous and Rowland's voice rarely better, there are times it still feels a little karaoke for me: particularly on You Wear It Well and Warren's How Do I Live? (made famous by LeAnn Rimes). There's less re-interpretation than I'd expected, less of Rowland's usual originality. I don't now, maybe it'll grow on me.
All that said, this one track's an absolute belter. Originally by 60s soulsters The Friends of Distinction... but Rowland makes it a true Dexys classic. Can you dig it, baby?