Sunday, June 21, 2009

THE BLUE OX BABES/Apples And Oranges review

When DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS' 1980 album Searching For The Young Soul Rebels was a huge success, long-brewing tensions amongst band members and leader Kevin Rowland caused a major rift and the band split.

Rowland was left with the Dexys name while most of the band formed a similar sounding Soul-influenced outfit called The Bureau.

Kevin 'Al' Archer, who was Rowland's main musical partner in Dexys, left to form a new band that would head in a slightly different direction: The Blue Ox Babes. Archer's idea was to blend the Soul influences of Dexys with a Gaelic Folk sound, complete with fiddles and other traditional instruments. He even adapted a new look for his band: a less than fashionable raggle taggle gypsy fashion that was completely out of step with the early '80s. After a few demos were laid down and Archer felt the band was ready to make their debut, his former Dexys sparring partner Rowland caught wind of this new look and sound and fell in love with it. Before Archer even had the chance to make a name for his band, Rowland and the 'new' Dexys Midnight Runners released "Come On Eileen" and the rest is history. Rowland even had the nerve to 'borrow' Helen O'Hara, the fiddle player from The Blue Ox Babes demos, and add her to his new line-up (eventually marrying her!). Needless to say, this was a crushing blow to Archer and his musical vision and he decided to pack it in before the Babes even released a note. (To his credit, Rowland eventually fessed up in the '90s and gave Archer all the credit he was due... but a decade too late!)

Dexys released the Too Rye Aye album in 1982 to great success, but Rowland eventually lost all credibility when he changed musical direction again and released the truly awful Don't Stand Me Down album in 1985 (The album was reissued in the '90s to great acclaim, with many critics falling over themselves, praising it a decade after they panned it. But to be honest, the album was and still is a total piece of shit!)

Archer reactivated The Blue Ox Babes in the late '80s, bringing in some former Dexys members and giving the music business another shot. After a few semi-successful singles, The Babes were set to release their debut album, Apples And Oranges, in 1988 when fate stepped in yet again: their label, Go-Discs, decided not to release the album at all and dropped the band from their roster!

Now, 21 years later, the album FINALLY gets an official release on Cherry Red complete with NINE bonus tracks and what a release it is! Apples And Oranges is everything you would expect a Dexys-related album to sound like... only better! Archer's voice recalls both Rowland and Liverpool legend Pete Wylie (with a little Marc Bolan quiver thrown in), while the band are accomplished and energetic. The production is top notch and the songs are FANTASTIC! I hate to compare them, but this would have been a great follow-up to Too Rye Aye! It makes you wonder why a label would choose not to release an album this strong, but it must not have fit into the then-current musical climate.

Stand out tracks include "It Could Have Been Love", "Walking On This Line", the instrumental bonus track "The Last Detail" and "There's No Deceiving You". The cover of "Take Me To The River" is a bit awkward, but the rest of the album more than makes up for it.

If you are a Dexys fan or just dig great timeless music, then this is a treat worth investing in.

Oh, and you are more than welcome to throw away your copy of Don't Stand Me Down! I did!

There's no deceiving ME!
Stephen SPAZ Schnee

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