DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS – ” Searching For The Young Soul Rebels ” Released 11th July 1980 Classic Albums

Posted: July 12, 2020 in ALBUMS, MUSIC
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Dexys Midnight Runners ‎– “Searching For The Young Soul Rebels” is the debut studio album by Dexys Midnight Runners, released on this day (11th July) in 1980.

Led by Kevin Rowland, the group formed in 1978 in Birmingham, England, and formed a strong live reputation before recording their first material. Recorded during April 1980, the album combines the aggressiveness of punk rock with soul music, particularly influenced by the Northern soul movement.

Searching for the Young Soul Rebels has been widely acclaimed by critics. AllMusic critic Ned Raggett remarked that on the album, Rowland “takes a role that Morrissey would have in 1985 and Jarvis Cocker in 1995 – the unexpected but perfect voice to capture a time and moment in the U.K – the return of ‘soul’ to English rock music at the dawn of Thatcherism.” The album cover features a photograph of a 13-year-old Irish Catholic boy carrying his belongings after being forced from his home in Belfast, Northern Ireland because of civil unrest in 1971. The photo was included in the Evening Standard the next day and was picked up by the band nine years later. The boy later identified himself as Anthony O’Shaughnessy.

When “Come On Eileen” first became a hit in the U.K. In retrospect, it fits with what I now know to be Dexys’ R&B roots. But at the time, you just saw these people dressed in Dickensian street-Dockers clothes, doing this kind of fiddle song that had a number of catchy hooks, with a singer, you know, yelping. “Searching for the Young Soul Rebels”, released on 11th July 1980, through EMI Records.

That particular record, “Too-Rye-Ay”, was a bit of an apotheosis of where the band had been moving. Kevin Rowland is a singer of Irish descent from Birmingham my home city, and they had this whole Celtic-soul kind of thing from the punk era, with a little bit of that energy and edge. And I think the pinnacle of this earlier incarnation of Dexys is the song “Geno.”

It was a huge hit in the U.K.  It’s just a really great, horn section-driven song; I think it’s in this song that I started to realize what Kevin Rowland was doing with his warbly, emotive soul yelp — this Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett kind of shout-singing. In many ways, Rowland’s voice was the embodiment of that straddled position but you would be hard pressed to find a voice more emotive. It conveys alternately and simultaneously determination and desperation and, through all of the changes Dexys would go through (in both line-up and music), gives continuity to an otherwise schizophrenic catalogue. The sobbing style was conceived specifically by Rowland to set him apart, and though it may have put him up for parody to a degree, it is a small price to pay for the instant recall and nostalgia now evoked by his timbres in whatever setting they appear.

Released to numerous glowing reviews, the album went on to become a staple in the Top 100 British Albums of all time and has rightfully earnt a place in the ‘1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die’ series.

The record opens with ‘Burn It Down’, the reworking of original Dexys single ‘Dance Stance’, which kicks off with squealing radio frequencies after which Kevin shouts at Jimmy (Paterson, trombone) and Al (Archer, also called Kevin, but alas there could only be one!) to “burn it down” before launching into a soul-inflected ode to the Irish victims of ignorance – dropping names like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Laurence Sterne.

Instrumental ‘The Teams That Meet in Caffs’ goes on a bit, but is worth enduring as the following ‘I’m Just Looking’ proves itself an absolute jewel in Kev’s madcap crown. Never are his sobs more shoulder shifting or the brass interjections more dramatically staccato. Icy organ sends chills as Rowland moves from eerie whispers to rolling Rs and exasperated bellows, giving the warning “Don’t come any closer”

The only track coming close to being this moving is album closer ‘There There My Dear’, an open letter to what Rowland perceives to be a dishonest music scene. “Perhaps I’d listen to your records but your logic’s far too lame,” Rowland laments. “And I’d only waste three valuable minutes of my life with your insincerity”. Although the track begins akin to a Bar Kays jam sesh, horns build melodrama amongst another dabbing of literary name dropping until it culminates in a breakdown of rising action where Rowland bewails the vanishing of the young soul rebels.

The influences showcase continues with a cover of Northern Soul classic Chuck Wood’s ‘Seven Days Too Long’ that would not have been out of place spinning at the Wigan Casino, chugging along at speeds allowed by the Dexys’ namesake amphetamine.

‘Thankfully Not Living in Yorkshire It Doesn’t Apply’ is another beast entirely from the rest of the album. It’s completely incomprehensible, but irresistibly fun with playful organ, daft falsetto and a lovably silly “ooh ooh, aah aah” chorus.

“Young Soul Rebels – fierce, raging and passionate – remains one of the greatest debut albums of all time,” wrote Daryl Eslea for BBC Music.

“Ultimately, the myth-making around Kevin Rowland tends to obscure the fact that he’s been responsible for some truly soul-scorching music,” wrote Graeme Thomson of Uncut.

Mojo called ‘Searching for the Young Soul Rebels’ “the most incandescent and refreshing record” of 1980.

A rousing anthem delivered with passion – Rowland’s paean to the ‘greatest soul singer that every lived’ – “Geno” had such dance-drive that it was easy to overlook the sentiment: concealed within was a song about a kid bunking into a gig and experiencing his first musical epiphany.

This romantic vision was vibrant, deep and begat one of the greatest modern soul records of its day – and one that continues to deliver on the dancefloor.

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