Nick Triani finds much to enjoy on the new Dexys covers album, Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish & Country Soul.
Dexys Midnight Runners – way before the abbreviated Dexys arrived– used to deal in the impossible. In 1983 Dexys’ single Come on Eileen kept Michael Jackson from having back-to-back #1 singles on the US hit parade (a feat that seems as improbable as a certain Leicester City winning the Premier League). Over three albums, DMR not only changed musical direction as often as they put down their instruments, but gave the image of the band a radical workover with each subsequent release. Arriving in our lives sporting a Mean Streets inspired street look, transforming into raggle taggle gypsies on their very popular second album Too-Rye-Ay. Dexys saw out their first phase looking more like bankers in Ivy League knitwear. Tellingly, the public didn’t buy it, though the album Don’t Stand Me Down is widely considered the band’s masterpiece. Dexys frontman and ever present inspiration Kevin Rowland wouldn’t have it any other way.
It’s the pink trousers with turn ups. The subtle yet confident step forward. His light blue pastel hat and shirt compliment the pink tone. Only Kevin Rowland can pull this off. At over 60 Rowland still understands the concept of presentation. For most of us, first impressions can afford us a premeditated idea of what we’re going to get. Yet Rowland has constantly defied this. With the new Dexys album, I haven’t quite experienced that feeling of the unexpected. Staring out at us is Rowland coiffured in a manner I’d expect of him now. There’s no real disappointment in that fact, the style here is gorgeous and importantly afforded its own space. There’s a heavy 1940’s/50’s vibe going on in that look. An Irish docker of the time or a New York cabbie going out on the tiles perhaps. It’s stylish and Rowland lives and breathes these clothes. But it’s also dignified. As is the album, Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish & Country Soul.
There’s a heavy 1940’s/50’s vibe going on in that look. An Irish docker of the time or a New York cabbie going out on the tiles perhaps. It’s stylish and Rowland lives and breathes these clothes. But it’s also dignified.
I’ve enjoyed this record much, but it has left me with a feeling of this being a stop gap before we return to the personal thoughts of Rowland. Being such an arch lyricist means that even though some of these choices have great melodies they’re not as interesting as they would be if Rowland had penned the words himself. So in this respect, Let The Record Show misplaces some of Dexys personal vision and energy – which has been the difference between the band merely offering us a passionate soul review or infusing that sound with an original lyrical voice.
All the same, some of these cuts are pure bliss. The leading Women Of Ireland is possibly the most beautiful piece of music bearing the Dexys name (and simultaneously giving a nod to John Barry‘s cínematic grace). The sweeter moments offer the best insight to Rowland’s reasons for revisiting some of these songs and delivering a tribute to his own ancestral roots. On the other hand, Rod Stewart‘s You Wear It Well and The Bee Gees To Love Somebody have the whiff of pub-rock about them, both sounding at times clumsy and plodding. I was expecting something more.. deft…more soul perhaps than the rather straight run throughs presented here.
On Joni Mitchell‘s Both Sides Now Rowland strikes the right sentiment and manages to infuse Dexys into the song’s veins to make this version stand proud. Let The Record Show perhaps lacks the bat-shit-crazy song selection of the very underrated My Beauty solo covers venture Rowland released many years ago. But crucially, Kevin is still here, the voice remains magnificent. There’s enough on Let The Record Show to make the exercise worthwhile. This just about keeps me fulfilled till the proper follow up to 2012’s mighty One Day I’m Going To Soar finally arrives. Let’s hope Kevin finds that light to express himself once more.
Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish & Country Soul is out now on 100%.