March 2, 2020 Deacon Blue – City of Love (Album Review)
One of the gems of the Sophistipop realms, Deacon Blue is best loved for its ’80s single “Real Gone Kid.” Released in 1988, it is a song which will surely launch many New Wave aficionados to nostalgic tears of delight… or sadness, depending on one’s memories associated with the song’s words or melodies. In any case, there is more to Deacon Blue than that lone track, especially in its members’ native hometown, where many of their songs have been regular chart toppers – such as “When Will You (Make My Telephone Ring),” “Fergus Sings the Blues,” “Cover from the Sky,” “Your Town,” “Every Time You Sleep” “Bethlehem Begins,” and “This Is a Love Song.”
Looking back further, Deacon Blue was formed in 1985, in Glasgow, Scotland, releasing its debut album, Raintown, two years after. However, what put the band on not only the map of Scottish Pop music but also the overseas at large was the followup, 1989’s When the World Knows Your Name, which contained the aforementioned “Real Gone Kid” – Deacon Blue’s most well-known song.
Currently consisting of founders Ricky Ross (vocals, piano), James Prime (keyboards), Lorraine McKintosh (vocals, percussion), and Dougie Vipond (drums, percussion) with Gregor Philp (guitar) and Lewis Gordon (bass), Deacon Blue has an eight-album discography, which includes 1993’s Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, 1999’s Walking Back Home, 2014’s A New Home, and 2016’s Believers. Now the Scottish veterans are slated to release their ninth offering, titled City of Love.
Due out on March 6th, 2020, via earMusic Records, City of Love is composed of 11 tracks whose lyrical theme is “the prevalence of hope even in the corners of a little town where no light falls.” It opens with the melodramatic piano hush of the title-track, which then bursts into a sunlight of upbeat mood and heartrending string orchestration. This is then followed by the initially slightly slower, piano-led “Hit Me where It Hurts.” The ensuing “Weight of the World” is another future Sophistipop classic in the making–delicate with its guitar plucks and Neo-Acoustic sensibilities behind verses that include “Sometimes I want to go gliding / High enough not to care about sliding down.”
Deacon Blue continues City of Love’s acoustic predisposition with “Take Me,” then picks up pace again with “In Our Room,” which will fit well onto a playlist that includes Fra Lippo Lippi’s “Stitches and Burn,” Johnny Hates Jazz’s “Me and My Foolish Heart,” PM’s “Piece of Paradise,” Danny Wilson’s “Mary’s Prayer,” and Robert Palmer’s “Johnny and Mary.” The reinvigorated band then swiftly reverts to something slow and melodic with “Intervals.”
Something desert-dry, bluesy, and Gospel-glazed then plays next in the form of “Keeping My Faith Alive,” radiating faint glows of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky.” A sure future favorite, “A Walk in the Woods” is another album highlight, enough to guide the listener calmly back to Deacon Blue’s classic balladry.
The trademark piano takes center-stage again with “Come On In,” in which the vocal interplay of the couple Ross and McIntosh soars serenely atop the summery, subtle instrumentation in the countryside. The following “Wonderful” is then a further trek to the sonic prairies of early-’70s Folk Pop.
Finally, Ross, Prime, McIntosh, Vipond, Philp, and Gordon wrap up City of Love with the scenic, picturesque, and filmic “On Love” – a perfect storytelling closer for an album that describes the hidden beauty of a city steeped with love, hope, and dreams.
Deacon Blue may have started small thirty-five years ago in a little town in Scotland, but it eventually captured the hearts and ears of countless sophisticated music lovers all over the world with their blue-bright songs of love and hope. In the last seven years since its resurgence, Deacon Blue’s prolificacy and newfound energy have inevitably emanated through its new songs. The forthcoming City of Love is just another testament of that. The rainy days in small towns are long over. Greet the world at large with the sunny, shimmering songs of City of Love which exude new rays of hope. Cryptic Rock gives Deacon Blue’s latest record 4 out of 5 stars.