In 1981, Dexys’ frustration with EMI’s lack of support came to a head following the under-publicised Plan B single and they left the label. Without a major’s money behind them, however, most of the dates on the Projected Passion Revue had to be cancelled. A three-night residency at London’s Old Vic survived the cull and it’s one of those gigs that’s been released this week.
We should be glad. From the first bar, the first blast of horns and Kevin Rowland’s first passionate vocal this gig catches fire and burns brightly right to the close.
"Something happened and the sound of this group became spiritual, much more than the previous line-up,” Rowland writes in the introduction. It’s true that the deeper, purer soul elements that came to fruition on Too-Rye-Ay are evident, but there’s no escaping that the final words on Searching For The Young Soul Rebels prove an accurate prediction: “everything I do will be funky from now on.”
This gig is a passionate, scorching affair from the hard-hitting Tell Me When My Light Turns Green, to the blind passion and naked emotion of Burn It Down, and to the strutting, bile-laden There, There My Dear.
The only false move in the whole show is the cover of Respect, a song they never got right and one which the writer and performer of the original version, Otis Redding, was present at during its recording by Aretha Franklin: “I just lost my song,” Otis opined. A few songs can never be covered; Respect is that rare beast, a cover version that owns the original and is now the definitive reading.
Dexys did a fair few covers in their time, including the bristling soul stew of Cliff Nobles & Co’s The Horse, Chuck Wood’s quick and powerful Seven Days Too Long, and Johnny Johnson and the Bandwagon’s Northern classic, Breakin’ Down The Walls Of Heartache, with which they close the Projected Passion Revue.
Incidentally, it’s always struck me as a little odd that they never chose to cover anything by Chairman of the Board, whose singer, General Johnson, was the start and finishing point for Kevin Rowland’s fiery wail and bursting, rhotacistic style.
The reformed Dexys almost blew the roof off the Royal Festival Hall just over three years ago. The Projected Passion Revue has that same power, that same blistering intensity - it’s a reminder that, on a good night, Dexys’ vibrant mix of punk anger and soul vitriol is so strong and so seductive that every other band might as well pack up and go home.
Many new songs have been demo’ed, one of which is up at their myspace site.