Release Date: Jun 4, 2012
Genre(s): Soul, Pop/Rock
Record label: BMG
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Ok, let me put this straight out there. Dexys, Dexys Midnight Runners and even Dexy’s Midnight Runners as the early handmade band posters named them, are one of the greatest groups to emerge from the United Kingdom and in Kevin Rowland they have one of the most intelligent songwriters and charismatic frontmen that ever graced a stage. Whilst know as a perfectionist, and a hard task master, Rowland has always surrounded himself with the tightest, hardest and most skilful musicians, ensuring his lyrical (and aesthetic) aspirations have always been matched from Big Jim Patterson to Kevin Archer to Pete Williams to Helen O’Hara to Mick Talbot; these are no mere stooges to Rowland’s genius and it’s good to say a number feature on the new album.
Kevin Rowland hasn't written mere songs for his Dexys comeback; rather a West End musical. To call it a concept album underestimates its high-camp, red-velvet theatricality. The plot: man reflects on youth, and how he was "always dreaming of some way that I could be"; man pants over a beautiful woman; she reciprocates; their love implodes; man concludes, "I can't be what anybody wants me to be." Even if it isn't autobiography, the man's heart-on-sleeve individualism and resistance of any attempt to "overpigeonary" him are pure Rowland.
It’s fair to say that people of a certain age have been waiting for this album for a long time. In the 27 years since the band’s last LP (1985’s ‘Don’t Stand Me Down’) frontman Kevin Rowland has faced depression, drug addiction and, after appearing on the sleeve of his 1999 covers album ‘My Beauty’ in drag and heavy make-up, downright ridicule. Now he’s back on familiar territory, it’s hard to tell whether he’s in a better place or not, as this collection of songs veers from horn-heavy upbeat stompers (opener ‘Now’) to lacerating, string-drenched self-analysis (‘Lost’).
In the 27 years since Dexy's Midnight Runners' last studio album, frontman Kevin Rowland has become more renowned for his financial problems, drug addiction, and of course, his bizarre drag makeover on 1999's career-suicide My Beauty than the wondrous blend of blue-eyed soul, post-punk, and folk-pop that he conquered the charts with in the early '80s. One Day I'm Going to Soar, the band's first release since 1985's poorly received Don't Stand Me Down, doesn't reach anywhere near the heights of "Come On Eileen" or "Geno," but it's far from the embarrassment of his solo effort. Opening track "Now" sets the eccentric tone immediately, as its stately piano riffs and mournful violins make way for a contrasting folksy stomp featuring a typically rousing chant of "Attack! Attack!" while elsewhere, there are solid forays into '70s string-soaked disco ("I'm Always Going to Love You"), lounge bar jazz-soul ("Me"), and best of all, seductive Al Green-esque funk ("She Got a Wiggle").
One Day I'm Going to Soar is a concept album with an unreliable narrator, a comeback LP about being stuck in a self-defeating cycle, and a soul record dedicated partly to exposing its singer as an untrustworthy shit. For devotees of bandleader Kevin Rowland-- and there are many, despite the last Dexys album having come out 27 years ago-- this is exactly what they've been hoping to hear. For anyone else, an hour in Rowland's company will be more of an effort, though probably one worth making.
Fans heavily invested in the ways of Dexys' singer Kevin Rowland will thrill to hear him in such fine voice, 27 years and many travails since the former Midnight Runners' last album. Songs such as Me and It's OK John Joe find him offering up trademark asides in between elegant examinations of the male psyche. Those who only know Come On Eileen will find a fascinating portrait of an outfit decades on, still trying to get into a girl's pants but much more aware of where that lust leads.
Now whittled down from the original Dexys Midnight Runners to plain Dexys, Kevin Rowland has returned with One Day I’m Going To Soar. It may have been 27 years since the last Dexys record, but it’s like Rowland has never really been away. Much of this beguiling album continues where 1985’s Don’t Stand Me Down left off, but now it’s an older, wiser bandleader toying with emotional insecurity and still digging old-school soul music.
In an age where the comeback is now king it's as though we have established rules where these situations can either work brilliantly, re-conjuring old magic; or fall very, very flat. Obviously, demand is the first of these determiners, the second is whether the ideas - musical and ideological - are still appropriate. Or, more tenuously still, whether they can be effectively twisted to seem appropriate and translate to a different time where the artist is at least fifteen years older and supposedly wiser.
Dexys are back with wisdom and wings. Some of us never doubted. Chris Roberts 2012 A quarter-century on from the last Dexys Midnight Runners album Don’t Stand Me Down (mocked upon release, now recognised as a work of genius), Dexys (so named because, says Kevin Rowland, “It’s the same, but also not the same”) return. Recent live shows induced collective rapture in audiences.
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