Singing The Blues Edinburgh Evening News 1st April 1993
Ricky Ross roped in the rave merchants for Deacon Blue’s new album. But when his wife Lorraine McIntosh said she wanted a love song to sing, she got one! AIDAN SMITH reports.
WHEN, in the words of one of his songs, will Ricky Ross make my telephone ring? Not today, as it turns out, because Deacon Blue’s heid bummer is still suffering from the aftershock of a blaze which forced Ross, his wife and singing sidekick Lorraine McIntosh, together with their six- month-old daughter Finer, to flee their home in their goonies.
The kitchen was destroyed, the Pop Tarts were frizzled to a frazzle and, much more problematically, the receiver was reduced to a puddle of plastic goo. There must be a joke which juxtaposes Bruce Springsteen’s obsession with fires and Ricky Ross’s obsession with Bruce Springsteen, but I am not going to be the one who cracks it. Ricky can be touchy about his heroes, and with good reason. He has taken more than his fair share of flak about them. But the truth of the matter is that when Deacon Blue started out eight years ago, they were unashamedly upfront about the performers who inspired them. Named after a Steely Dan song, they didn’t just declare their favourite influences, they dedicated ditties to them. (Both Real Gone Kid and Love’s Great Fears were written about US singer/songwriter Maria McKee). Now, with the Scots rockers embarking on the most crucial phase of their career, comparisons with Springsteen are giving way to comparisons with U2.
Image-wise, the reinvented Ross does seem to owe a debt to Bono. The silver suit and sinister shades — part of the stylists’ attempts to “bring out the rock god in him" — are hand-me-downs the Irish band’s last tour. And sneering cynics
might suggest that Lorraine’s sexy new look— in a skimpy top with isn’t so much push-up as sit-up-and- beg, is a calculated move on the part of a band with a “difficult” fourth album to sell. Ironically, Whatever You Say, Say Nothing is good enough to stand on its own without recourse to soaring hype and plunging necklines. It is their most interesting release to date and, despite the title, says a lot about the group in terms of self-belief. “This band are at their best when the cards are stacked against them and now is definitely one of those times,” says keyboard player Jim Prime, pressed into service as their spokesman. The album’s funky chunky sound is the handiwork of rave merchants Paul Oakenfold and Steve Osbourne and if you are to believe everything you read in the rock weeklies, the alliance is an unholy one between Britain’s most fashionable producers and Britain’s least fashionable group.
Admits Jim: “I cant deny that U2’s crossing over had a certain amount to do with this record. But we didn’t lie down and let Paul and Steve dictate to us. All the way through the sessions there was this kind of feeling: ‘Should we really be working with each other? That made the end result all the more satisfying.” He likes Whatever.. . for its “succinctness” and accepts that on past outings the band have been prone to “ramble”. “The last album, Fellow Hoodlums, was very difficult to work. America couldn’t sell it and neither could Europe, because no-one in Germany really knows or wants to know about some bloke walking up Buchanan Street in Glasgow with two bottles of Tizer and a box of fireworks.
Both markets asked us for a record which was just ‘one thing’.” Jim believes the new album is that thing, but stresses that songwriter Ricky has still managed to find room for his social and political concerns. “One number, Cut Lip, refers to warrant sales, while Hang Your Head reflects his feelings after the loss of the last election —so he is still drawing on his own surroundings and experiences for subject matter. “But the song which probably best sums up Whatever.., is Will We Be Lovers, which Lorraine specifically asked Ricky to write. She told him, ‘You’ve come up with all these great tunes which mean something to you, but I can’t identify with them. I want a love song which is easy to understand’. ‘And she got it!”. Aidan Smith