City of Love (earMUSIC)
The last thing in the world we thought would happen this week is that a new album from Deacon Blue would absolutely wow us, but such is life. It feels like they’ve been away for a long time but, in fact, their split in 1994 only last five years. Since 1999 they’ve been marching on, despite the 2004 death of original guitarist Graeme Kelling from pancreatic cancer.
The two key voices — Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh — remain with the Glaswegian pop-rockers. Those are the voices behind “Real Gone Kid” and “Fergus Sings the Blues” from the 1989 masterpiece When the World Knows Your Name, their second album.
City of Love is their ninth full-length, and it would be shocking to learn that it’s as good as it is, if people hadn’t been listening to the previous eight, and particularly the three that they released in the last decade. This might be a band that generates warm feelings of nostalgia in many, but they’ve far from given up the artistic ghost.
Everything that made their past work so special shines here too. The harmonies created by Ross and McIntosh are sublime; each is a wonderfully gifted vocalist individually, but put them together and spark fly (much like a Scottish male/female Simon & Garfunkel).
That’s great, but it wouldn’t count for much if the songs weren’t spectacularly god, which they are. The opening title track kicks off with an orchestral intro and delicate piano, then the strings pick up pace and the drums kick in, pulsing bass, and we’re left with an anthemic, instant pop-rock classic.
It only gets better. The bass leads off “Hit Me Where it Hurts,” then a verse that builds like Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” before the chorus explodes. Magnificent.
There’s no filler here. As is Deacon Blue’s way, the songs balance on a pop-rock-soul beam, voices and instruments combining seamlessly. It all sounds so effortless, nothing is forced, and yet it’s clear that they worked hard on this slab of work.
Does a decent Billboard showing beckon? You know what — don’t count Deacon Blue out.