Anyone with any interest in soul music would be able to pick out at will the finest moments from the genre with ease. Otis Redding, Al Green, Geno Washington… all legends, all immortal.
But in the realm of soul from these isles, there would appear to be a very short roll of classic names that spring to mind.
Taking the influences of his youth – his Irish roots, his love of soul and northern soul and a burning passion to express himself musically – Kevin Rowland helped to create one of the most recognisable and influential bands of the eighties, Dexy’s Midnight Runners.
The Irish connection has always been present in Dexy’s music, and Rowland’s search for national identity – Dance Stance’s rebellious stomp, on almost all of Too-Rye-Ay, and most obviously on Knowledge of Beauty from Don’t Stand Me Down – should put Dexys on a considerable pedestal in Ireland, their output an expression of exiled Irishness to rank alongside The Pogues as one of the finest musical products of the British diaspora.
But the misapprehension of their Celtic soul brothers-look, the caricature that the immense success of Come On Eileen created, and the criminal undermining of their 1985 release, Don’t Stand Me Down, led to Dexy’s falling off the cultural radar, and their potential was eroded, leading to the break-up of the band and a number of lost years for Rowland.
The band were reinvigorated by their 2003 tour – an unforgettable night at Vicar Street included – but it has taken until now for Rowland to reunite integral members from throughout the band’s classic line-ups – Big Jimmy Paterson on trombone, Mick Talbot on keys, Pete Williams on joint vocal duties – as well as a roll call of other fine musicians to record One Day I’m Going To Soar.
Rowland has seldom been in better voice, effortlessly adding his unique croon to the silky layered and smooth instrumental backing that accompanies each track.
The musical motifs and progressions that appear on opening track, Now, reappear elsewhere throughout the record. Which, combined with the lyric book for the record – the complex life and love of Mr Rowland – make this as close to a concept album as Dexys have ever come.
As ever, there is a sense of the confessional, and a rare streak of humour and theatricality that many people utterly missed about their past incarnations. It’s as honest an expression as you’re likely to find in music today.
The romanticism and dynamism that the backing – from cafe jazz to Celtic soul – provides Rowland’s lyrics and singing with a perfect underpinning for what is aimed for in this endeavour, and make One Day I’m Going To Soar as good as anything the Midnight Runners ever committed to record.
It doesn’t surpass Don’t Stand Me Down – nothing ever could – but it comes very close in its spirit and execution, in a very much more than welcome return.