AT last! Dexys will play York for the first time in their 45-year career on the opening night of September’s The Feminine Divine Live! tour.
Kevin Rowland’s revived soul band had been booked to play York Barbican on last autumn’s 40th anniversary Too-Rye-Ay As It Should Have Sounded Tour, but his need to recuperate from a motorbike accident and “some health issues that will take some time to recover from” forced the September 30 2022 gig’s cancellation as early as March last year.
The healing process took longer than expected, but Rowland was able to lead Dexys in their Commonwealth Games closing ceremony rendition of 1982 chart topper Come On Eileen in the their home city of Birmingham last August.
Now Rowland, who will turn 70 on August 17, will front Dexys as they “dramatically perform the new album from beginning to finale, followed by a selection of classics and hits (including plenty from Too-Rye-Ay) at York Barbican on Tuesday, September 5: the only Yorkshire show on their 13-date British and Irish tour. Tickets go on fan pre-sale from April 12 at dexysofficial.com and general sale from April 14 at dexysofficial.com and yorkbarbican.co.uk.
The Feminine Divine, Dexys’ fifth album of original material, will be released on July 28, 11 years since their last studio set, 2012’s One Day I’m Going To Soar. Lead single I’m Going To Get Free is up and midnight-running already.
Produced once again by Pete Schwier, along with session musician and producer Toby Chapman, The Femine Divine is billed as “a personal, if not strictly autobiographical, record portraying a man whose views have evolved over time”.
After taking time out to refocus his energy, Rowland has come back to music with a fresh perspective and new-found positivity, leading to an album that reflects his thoughts “not just on women, but the whole concept of masculinity he had been raised with: an education and an un-learning that is traced across the arc of The Feminine Divine.
The first side is full of music-hall swagger, much of it written with original Dexys’ trombonist Big Jim Paterson, now a non-touring band member. The second side is “like nothing Dexys have done before”: a saucy, synth-heavy cabaret, written in collaboration with Sean Read and Mike Timothy. In a nutshell, steamy, fizzing and sultry; at times doom-laden and heavy, at other times raunchy and funky.
Behind them, Dexys (or Dexys Midnight Runners until the name shearing in 2011) have chalked up one billion worldwide streams, three British top ten albums, two number one singles (Geno, Come On Eileen), a Brit Award and multi-platinum sales of sophomore release Too-Rye-Ay.
When Too-Rye-Ay’s 40th anniversary shows were called off, Dexys’ official announcement read: “We had tried to keep the tour on track, but now it is clear that that there won’t be sufficient time to do the work needed to deliver the show as we had envisaged. Dexys feel awful about cancelling and are immensely sorry for the inconvenience caused.”
Reorganising the dates was ruled out. “We did consider postponing the tour until next year, but we already have plans for 2023, and we promise that when we next tour, and, it won’t be long, we will do plenty of material from ‘Too Rye Ay, As It Should Have Sounded’,” said Dexys at the time. True to their word, here come The Feminine Divine album and tour.
Their reworking of Too-Rye-Ay, As It Should Have Sounded went ahead with a 40th anniversary album release last October on single CD, triple CD and vinyl formats on Universal.
Released in July 1982, Too-Rye-Ay was the one with strings, brass and dungarees attached that reached number two, Dexys’ highest ever album chart position, buoyed by the top-spot success of ubiquitous wedding-party staple Come On Eileen.
The Van Morrison cover, Jackie Wilson Said (I’m In Heaven When You Smile), went top five too and Let’s Get This Straight (From The Start) peaked at number 17, but the notoriously perfectionist, restless Rowland later said: “For many years, I’ve struggled with Too-Rye-Ay.
“I was never happy with many of the mixes on the record. Tracks like ‘Eileen’ and one or two others were really good, but with most others, while I felt the performances were really good, that didn’t come over properly in the mixes.”
He went on: “I even felt fraudulent promoting the album, because I knew it didn’t sound as good as it should have.
“And of course, the irony was, it was by far our most successful Dexys album, because of the worldwide success of Come On Eileen. I knew there were other songs on there just as good as ‘Eileen’, but they hadn’t been realised properly.
“So, I was absolutely delighted to get this opportunity to remix the album with the masterful Pete Schwier, who has worked with Dexys since 1985, and Helen O’Hara [violinist on the original album] is also helping.”
Rowland concluded: “This is like a new album for me. It is an absolute labour of love. I want people to hear the album as it was meant to sound.”
Words of reflective satisfaction that now make way for a focus on the new Dexys of The Feminine Divine, whose track listing will be: The One That Loves You; It’s Alright Kevin (Manhood 2023); I’m Going To Get Free; Coming Home; The Feminine Divine; My Goddess Is; Goddess Rules; My Submission and Dance With Me.
First single I’m Going To Get Free sets the tone by dint of its central character responding to mental-health struggles by striving to “optimistically break free from internalised trauma, depression and guilt”. New-found positivity indeed.