The Northern Shuffle of Deacon Blue
Band: Deacon Blue.
Personnel: Ricky Ross, vo cals; Lorraine McIntosh, vocals; Ewen Vernal, bass; Graeme Kelling, guitar; James Prime, keyboards; Douglas Vipond, drums.
History: While teaching English in Glasgow, Scotland, in the early-'80s, Ross began performing both as a solo act and with the band Woza. He formed the first version of Deacon Blue (which included Vipond) in 1984, primarily as a vehicle for songs he was showcasing in hopes of a publishing deal. After he got a deal in 1985, Ross set his sights on a recording contract for the band. Kelling soon joined, followed by Prime, who had recorded with folk/jazz performer John Martyn and pop group Altered Images. The band signed to CBS Records in 1986 and, with Vernal and McIntosh on board, recorded the 1987 debut album, “Raintown.” The record initially met with only limited success in England. But in early 1988 a new recording the band did of its song “Dignity” with producer Bob Clearmountain cracked the U.K. Top 40, followed there by “When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring),” carrying the album to U.K. gold (100,000 sales) status. A second album, “When the World Knows Your Name,” was released last month to instant chart success throughout Europe. The group is now on its first U.S. tour.
Sound: Despite taking its name from a Steely Dan song, Deacon Blue reflects only a little of the Danophilia evident in such other North Britain groups as China Crisis and Meet Danny Wilson. Instead, the band goes in for the kind of Northern shuffle associated with Aztec Camera and the Dream Academy. While Deacon Blue has yet to establish a trademark sound, the records are characterized by a pleasing no-muss, no-fuss approach centered on Prime’s acoustic, sometimes gospel-rockish piano and especially the interplay of Ross’ understated voice and McIntosh’s purer tones. The music matches the range of emotions in Ross’ writing, from seething and simmering (“Real Gone Kid,” “Love and Regret”) to wistfully elegiac (“Orphans”).
Show: Thursday at the Roxy.