There has been never been a more scintillating marriage of punk, soul and Irish showband.
Daryl Easlea 2003-09-24
He looks like my dad in early 70s holiday photos. He has one of the greatest voices in British popular music. As mavericks go, he's one of pop's finest; magpie-ing his influences; a true reinterpreter of the records that moulded him. The fact that he always wandered a fine line between madness and passion allowed his moon-barking a deep resonance and, at times, painful authenticity. And he knew how to walk the talk and sport the cloth. His wilderness years, cocaine habit and comeback cross-dressing have become rich myths in pop's repetitious folklore, dwarfing his recorded body of work, which although spanning 25 years, comprises of roughly 70 songs. He really loved emotional rock; Bryan Ferry, Roxy Music, Van Morrison and made a soul music that was his own; he is Kevin Rowland. His outfit is called Dexys Midnight Runners.
There has been never been a more scintillating marriage of punk, soul and Irish showband. There was no Q-Tips-like good time nature to their densely packed horn symphonies. They would have been most unwelcome at a wedding reception; they would have terrorised the family and made off not only with the bridesmaids but very possibly the bride too. And remarkably, for such a bunch of wild-hearted outsiders, they managed to notch up two UK (and, of course, one US) No.1 singles.
So, the fifth Dexys compilation to date wanders down the overview route, packing in all the hits, but not all the singles. Compiled by Rowland himself, the collection begins with the big hitters, so as not to put off the garage forecourt transients with ''This Is What She's Like'' at the top of the tracklist. Given his continual reappraisal of the group's work, at the moment, ''Dance Stance'', one of the most confrontational debut singles of all time is out, as is the nervous-breakdown-in-sound ''Keep It Part Two'', ''Liars A To E'', ''Old and One Way Love'', replaced with half of the ever-flowering Don't Stand Me Down album.
''There There My Dear'' is even more salient today as it was in 1980, with its weary eye being cast across the chancers and poseurs (what an 80s rock paper word) that populate pops nether regions. ''Plan B'' is still one of the most economical singles ever there is not an ounce of flab in its two-and-a-half-minutes, and the BBC session versions of ''Let's Make This Precious'' and ''Until I Believe in My Soul'' brings the beauty of the 81 pre-fiddle funky monks to the widest audience yet.
After the big punch of the first three albums -even the much maligned Too Rye Aye kicks ass here -Kevin seemed to take The Bluebells' ''Young At Heart'' as a template and created these Aero-lite country 'n' Irish vignettes (which reached their apogee on The Wanderer). The two new songs, ''Manhood'' and ''My Life In England'' suffer somewhat from this lightness in execution but the subject matter and the beauty of the melodies show there is much more life in the old dog yet. Let's trust the Reinvention tour is the success that everyone is hoping for and more new material follows. Soon.
And on top of all this, the big hits are on here, too. A truly precious collection.