AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #119 : DEACON BLUE

A GUEST POSTING FROM DAVID ASHLEY

JC writes:-

Dave has been contributing to the blog for many years, mostly through comments but with the occasional guest posting.

It turns out that BACK in June 2016 he fired over an e-mail with a guest ICA but for whatever reason I never received it.  Or if I did, I accidentally deleted it.  Honest!

Luckily, he had a copy of his e-mail and a recent posting as part of the Saturday series saw him get in touch and resubmit his ICA.  As I’ve said before, I never refuse an ICA submission (and would only do so if I thought that he band/singer’s music or viewpoints were offensive) and so I’m more than happy to have this appear today.  So over to Dave….

Hi Jim

Just read your Deacon Blue post and it struck a chord. I loved Raintown (and still do) and when they toured with it thought they were fantastic live (I remember seeing them play Leeds Poly and the crowd refusing to leave with the house lights on and the band eventually coming back again for the 3rd or 4th encore and sheepishly admitting that they had run out of songs to play). I despaired at the follow-up ,with its awful 80s production all big gated drums and stabbing synths. Luckily I missed the more political Ricky Ross ( think even he realised preaching independence to an English audience wasn’t the best career move) , I just sensed he was a bit worthy, and well a bit boring , both of which were forgivable. As a result I stuck with them. I realise that they might well be one of those bands you love to hate for a lot of regular readers, but there have been diamonds in the dirt. Here therefore is a post-Raintown compilation.

Side 1

Rae (from Homesick)

Deacon Blue have a tendency to start an LP with something understated and as a result some of their best songs are tracks 1. This is from Homesick (one of the “comeback “LPs) . When you strip away the bombast they can hook you in with a simple tune and this has a chorus melody to die for.

Love and Regret (from When the World Knows Your Name)

The 2nd LP was a bit of a car crash from the title onwards. There were a couple of shining lights and this is one of them . When he gets it right Ricky Ross can write a fine lyric and this is one of my favourites . It chugs a long a bit but is one of the few tracks that isn’t drowned out in over production and is allowed to breathe a bit. Reading the notes from the recent re released box sets there is a sense of a band not fully in control of their own destiny.

The Hipsters (from The Hipsters)

After a 10 year break they suddenly reappeared in 2012 with their best LP since Raintown. A radio friendly song that didn’t really get any radio play.

A New House (from A New House)

A couple of years after the Hipsters came A New House. A major disappointment , mainly down to the production which swamped the songs. This is one of the best things on it.

Back Here in Beanoland (from Viva Las Vegas)

The band always put a bit of effort into their b sides and Viva Las Vegas pulls together a lot of the post Raintown b-sides and various other bits and bobs. This I think is a “love” letter to Dundee where old ladies wrote letters to the local press complaining about a busking Danny Wilson.

Side 2

James Joyce Soles (from Fellow Hoodlums)

The 3rd LP felt like a conscious attempt to return to the feel of Raintown, helped by the fact they returned to Jon Kelly for production . However it all felt like they were trying too hard ( every song seemed to have to have a Glasgow street mentioned in it) However Twist and Shout is a great pop song and this is an ache of a song.

Laura From Memory (from The Hipsters)

Could have been any number of songs from the Hipsters LP but I like the way the words tumble over each other and the abba-esque piano

Your Town (from Whatever you Say , Say Nothing)

By the 4th LP (with yet another awful title) there was a whiff of desperation as Steve Osborne was drafted in to produce. The lead off single was a blast of fresh air but the LP didn’t really herald a brave new direction but instead often lapsed into stodgy rock. This is still a great track though.

The Outsiders (from The Hipsters)

Another big radio friendly song that was about 20 years too late.

Sad Loved Girl – long version (from When the World Knows Your Name )

The short version appears on the LP as a kind of not quite as good Born in a Storm. However in its full version on the re-release brings things to a low-key end.

Bonus – the piano songs

I recently saw Ricky Ross tour playing various songs across his career using only a piano a backing and met him afterwards for a quick chat. He was still a bit worthy , but whether age or comfortableness with life he was also full of self depreciating humour. It was good to hear one of their worst offending songs come alive in the stripped down version

Wages Day piano version
Circus Lights piano version
Bethlehem’s Gate piano version

I am pretty sure the above isn’t going to convert anyone and it isn’t really a case for the defence, more of a recognition that post-Raintown they could produce some stuff I love.

DAVID

11 thoughts on “AN IMAGINARY COMPILATION ALBUM : #119 : DEACON BLUE

  1. Me too. And this was a strong selection. Particularly liked the piano only tracks, especially Wages Day.

  2. For those that love DB and particularly Raintown, the author and Raith Rovers fan, Ian Rankin, is presenting a programme celebrating its thirty year anniversary on our very own Radio Scotland (Monday 1 May).

    Link here for after the event: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nrxbt

    There was also a programme – In Search of the Blue Nile – a couple of weeks back, which may be of interest to some -http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08nj4bs

    Yours, unusually helpfully…

  3. Dave, you got this pretty much on the money. Raintown were big (rain) boots to fill for a follow up – and while When The World Knows Your Name has a certain air of confidence, the songs aren’t as “decades later” memorable. Having said that, I do have an affection for Queen Of The New Year and Wages Day.
    The Hipsters is a brilliant album, and quite possibly my favorite to listen to straight through.
    I give A New House a bit more time that most might, but I agree it’s a horrible production affair. The title track and single Bethlehem Begins are great tracks.
    I saw them on the Fellow Hoodlums Tour of the US at NYC’s Bottom Line Club – intimate setting and a big, big sound. Still a very memorable show.

  4. Think they have corrected the production issues with the believers which if had come out before wrote post would have had a couple of tracks on and is up there with the hipsters

  5. I really didn’t give Deacon Lue a chance due to the sockless, rolled up jacketed knobs that liked them and then seeing them at Motherwell Civic covering Trampoline and totally fucking it up didn’t help. Ross’s Independence pish and dropping Maynard Keynes into a song was just pretentious wank. But Real Gone Kid, Wages Day and Dignity are absolutely brilliant songs. This YouTube clip of the New Year sound check does things to me on a par with Just Loving You but I will never admit that.

    Btw Ross does the Sunday morning show on Radio Scotland for. A bit of the time and he comes across as a genuine, unpretentious but quite religious guy.

  6. Dave – you are so right about The Believers – Paul Savage being back in the producer’s chair has a lot to do with that. It is a very strong album and builds on the sound they have found in their return. The title track tick all the right boxes and is simply a really strong song and This Is A Love Song is a favorite.

  7. Only have the first two albums. Thanks for the opportunity to try out some of the band’s later work. From the look of these comments, you nailed it.

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