DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS - SEARCHING FOR THE YOUNG SOUL REBELS 30th Anniversary Edition
Pretty much a one-hit wonder in this neck of the world with Come On Eileen, Dexys had been a big deal bunch in Britain an album before that, in 1980. Formed by a couple of Kevins, Rowland and Archer, they were a more artistic and no less romantic version of the fictional Commitments story from the hit movie a few years later. They were the real deal, young soul rebels, in search of a new big sound based on Stax, horns and something new, instead of looking for a retro sound. Rowland in particular saw punk and New Wave as a spark but a dead end, and had a Van Morrison-type commitment to the keening sound he felt deep inside.
After a rowdy group of eight came together, Dexys developed a sound no-one had heard before. The horns were huge, the rhythms even bigger, and the guitar solos non-existant. It was vocals and heart and pulse first. For a glorious couple of years, starting here, the band created a hole in the middle of the charts, between New Wave on one side and Ska on the other, bringing the sound and the fury together for all. The album did well, but it was the momentous single Geno, a chart topper, that said it all. It was about Geno Washington, a transplanted American who had long worked the soul mines of England, and about the concept of the huge fan (Rowland) surpassing his idol (which indeed happened with the song). Plus, those horns!
This deluxe edition is chockfull of great bonuses on its second disc, including all the odd singles and b-sides, a full batch of early demos and cover versions such as Hold On I'm Coming, and two grand BBC sessions. The BBC cuts in particular show the first version of the band at its best, able to do even better versions than the studio efforts. The group was a solid live bunch. But Rowland turned out to be a troubled artist, refusing to do interviews, and then refusing normal communication with the band. The original eight imploded, with only three going on to make the 1982 Too-Rye-Ay disc, with Come On Eileen, and only Rowland left at the end, with only three albums released, but a whopping 23 members passing through the group. Meanwhile, the Dexys soul sound was hugely influential on everyone from Paul Weller of The Jam to Elvis Costello, who stole the horns for Every Day I Write The Book.