Poor old Johnnie Ray....
Released August 1982
After the surprise success of their debut album in 1980, which hung on to the coat-tails of the Two Tone movement, the unpredictable Kevin Rowland sacked all but one of his previous band, added some new musicians to his entourage, dressed them up like Irish travellers and merged the group's previous Northern Soul-influenced brassy stomp with Celtic influences. Violinist Helen O'Hara provides the album's dominant sound, along with the new Dexy's horn section. It was slightly more successful than its predecessor, but I have never been convinced by much of the material. Despite its good intentions, it doesn't quite get there for me. Although I own both the albums and the group's music is nostalgic for me for those years of 1980-82, I was never fully a paid-up Dexy's aficionado, so bear that in mind when reading this.
1. The Celtic Soul Brothers
2. Let's Make This Precious
3. All In All (This One Last Wild Waltz)
4. Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)
6. Plan B
7. I'll Show You
8. Liars A To E
9. Until I Believe My Soul
10. Come On Eileen
"The Celtic Soul Brothers" opens the album with a suitably fiddle-driven piece of stomping soul. The title, of course, owes a debt to Van Morrison's 1974 era music. The Morrison influences are all over this one. "Let's Make This Precious" is a punchy, horn-driven very Northern Soul track, although Rowlands' reedy, strangely weak voice doesn't really do the song justice. "All In All (This One Last Wild Waltz)" is an almost 1930s-style Germanic bar-room slow swirl with Rowlands sounding like a cross between Steve Harley and Leo Sayer.
The clear Van Morrison influence was cemented by a credible, enjoyable cover of "Jackie Wilson Said (I'm In Heaven When You Smile)". "Old" is a mournful, sombre ballad, lifted by its excellent brass backing, and "Plan B" continues in the same vein until about a minute and a half when the horns kick it into orbit and the last three minutes are a glorious throwback to the energy and sheer joie de vivre of the first album. It merges straight into the similarly upbeat "I'll Show You". Rowland sounds like Billy Bragg in the final spoken fade-out.
"Liars A To E" is vaguely Beatles-esque and is also quite soulful in places. These last three tracks have probably formed the best passage of the album. "Until I Believe My Soul" is a horn-powered ballad with a lot of potential that is somehow let down by Rowlands' voice. Fair play to him for inserting a completely incongruous jazz passage right in the middle of the song though, he always was inventive, if nothing else. Poor old Kevin just can't do the Morrison-style scat vocal improvisations, as far as I'm concerned and it all ends up as a bit of a mess, which is a bit of a shame as the song had something, somewhere. For some, though, it is the best track on the album, so what do I know.
Then there is "Come On Eileen". Yes, everyone knows it as a drunken end of student disco song, wedding song, stag night song, hen night song, whatever. So what, it will last forever. It is the odd, temperamental, quirky Kevin Rowlands' finest few minutes. "You in that dress, my thoughts I confess, verge on dirty....". Priceless.