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Deacon Blue

Taking their name from a Steely Dan song, Scotland's multi-platinum pop/rockers Deacon Blue emerged from the aftermath of the post-punk era to hit the mainstream during the mid-'80s, and after five years away during the '90s, they returned in the 21st century. Their clean, euphoric sound winds the lead vocals of husband-and-wife team Ricky Ross and Lorraine McIntosh across infectious hooks and sweeping melodies in a sophisticated meld of rock, pop, jazz, blues, Celtic soul, and folk music. Their debut album, 1987's Raintown, attained platinum status and spent a year-and-a-half on the charts. Their second, When the World Knows Your Name, topped the U.K. album charts and went multi-platinum inside of a month. Subsequent outings, including 1991's Fellow Hoodlums, and 1993's Whatever You Say, Say Nothing were also certified best-sellers and registered longstanding Top Five chart entries. The group split in 1994 but returned to touring in 1999. 2001's Homesick marked their part-time return to recording, and the band continued to exist for a few years on a part-time basis as Ross cut solo outings and wrote for other artists. In 2012 Deacon Blue issued The Hipsters. It rocketed to number two and signaled their full-time return to recording and touring. While 2014's A New House and 2016's Believers both went Top Five, 2020's City of Love topped the charts. In November of that year, Deacon Blue's 1987 single "Dignity" was voted "Scotland's Greatest Song" by a landslide. Deacon Blue formed in 1985 after former educator, songwriter, and lead vocalist Ricky Ross relocated from Dundee to Glasgow. The band's original lineup consisted of Lorraine McIntosh (backing and lead vocals), James Prime (piano and keyboards), Dougie Vipond (drums), Ewen Vernal (bass), and Graeme Kelling (guitar). They performed their first concert opening for the Waterboys' premier show in England. With the expressive baritone vocals of singer/songwriter Ricky Ross and McIntosh's resonant alto, fronting pop-jazz and soul-inspired melodies, Deacon Blue's debut single, 1987's "Dignity," entered the U.K. Top Ten. Their Jon Kelly-produced full-length Raintown peaked at 14 on the charts and stayed inside the Top 100 for more than 18 months, going on to sell over a million copies. After a year of touring the U.K. and Europe, Deacon Blue re-entered the studio and emerged with When the World Knows Your Name. It went straight to number one in Scotland and the U.K., thanks to five Top 30 singles, including "Real Gone Kid," "Wages Day," and "Fergus Sings the Blues." The set was certified multi-platinum and remains their best-selling album to date. The following year, Deacon Blue played to 250,000 fans at The Big Day, a free concert held to celebrate Glasgow being named that year's European City of Culture. The same year, "Real Gone Kid" was nominated for British Single of the Year. While on tour in 1989, the band issued the compilation Ooh Las Vegas which collected B-sides, demos, and soundtrack selections. It peaked at three on the U.K. albums chart. In 1990, McIntosh and Ross married. In 1991, Deacon Blue released Fellow Hoodlums. Again enlisting Kelly as producer, the set peaked at number two on the U.K. albums chart and was certified platinum. They toured Europe and the States that year. While Deacon Blue became one of the biggest pop bands in the U.K., they made only a small industry impression in the U.S., but they couldn't have cared less. With 1993's Whatever You Say, Say Nothing, the band changed producers and musical direction. They enlisted the team of Steve Osborne and Paul Oakenfold and deliberately moved toward a guitar-heavy alternative rock sound. Certified gold, the album peaked at number four on the U.K. album charts. After a pair of sold-out tours, the band returned to the studio to cut new songs for their greatest-hits compilation, Our Town. The chart-topping set contained three new tracks. First single "I Was Right and You Were Wrong" entered the Top 20 of the U.K. singles charts, as did a re-release of "Dignity." The other new songs were "Bound to Love" and "Still in the Mood," and the album was certified double-platinum. In 1994, drummer Dougie Vipond announced he was leaving the band to pursue a career in television. After some discussion, the band decided to split. Ross, who had recorded a solo album before joining Deacon Blue, resumed his solo career. He issued What You Are in 1996. A radical departure from his former band's music, this set's session players included a who's-who of American studio aces including Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, Patrick Warren, and Joey Waronker. Ross shifted gears for 1997's New Album and pulled the plug on the edgy electric guitars of his previous outing. Produced by Love and Money keyboardist Paul McGeechan, the record wove acoustic guitars and pianos through 11 ambient soundscapes with vocals. In 1999, Deacon Blue re-formed for a sold-out reunion gig with Vipond back in the fold. The gig went so well, they performed others and hit the studio to record Walking Back Home. It collected nine hits alongside eight new songs and a couple of covers. It sold quite respectably and landed inside the Top 40. Deacon Blue toured behind it and decided to re-form part-time. They returned to proper studio recording with 2001's Homesick on Chrysalis' short-lived Papillon label. It peaked at 13 on the U.K.'s Indie albums chart and at 59 on the U.K. albums list. Ross signed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell in 2001, the same year that guitarist Graeme Kelling was diagnosed with the pancreatic cancer that would claim his life three years later. Ross issued the solo This Is the Life in 2002, and in 2005 followed with Pale Rider. As part of his publishing deal, Ross has penned a wealth of material for other artists including James Blunt, KT Tunstall, and Jamie Cullum. In 2009, Ross and McIntosh released the co-billed Americana album The Great Lake on Cooking Vinyl. It was inspired, in part by the Roman Catholic couple making a faith retreat of the SpiritualExercises of St. Ignatius. That same year, Ross began a broadcast career with the BBC Scotland; his program, Another Country with Ricky Ross, continues to showcase modern and vintage country and Americana. Deacon Blue continued to make intermittent festival appearances and release compilations. They played Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium as the pre-match entertainment for the Rugby league Super League Grand Final in October 2006, and did a full U.K. tour in November. They toured again in November 2007 and provided support for a Simple Minds tour in 2008. In 2009 they appeared at The Homecoming Live Final Fling Show at Glasgow's SECC, and headlined Glasgow's Hogmanay on New Year's Eve. After playing the Glastonbury Festival and Liverpool Echo, they re-entered the recording studio. In 2012, they celebrated their 25th anniversary and released the Paul Savage-produced The Hipsters in September with Del Amtiri's Mick Slaven guesting on guitar. It peaked at 19 on the U.K. albums chart. They toured the U.K. and Europe. As part of the band's anniversary, their previous studio albums were remastered and reissued in deluxe editions by Edsel, along with the compilation The Rest. In 2013, Ross released the solo outing Trouble Came Looking, and undertook an acoustic tour. Deacon Blue hit the studio almost immediately after he returned. Their seventh studio album, A New House, arrived in 2014. Produced by Savage, the album reached 19 on the U.K. albums chart and peaked at two on the indie albums list. It was the band's first album to feature guitarist Gregor Phillip. The band re-teamed with Savage for the politically charged Believers. Issued in September 2016, it received universal critical acclaim and peaked at four on Scotland's album charts while hitting 13 on the U.K. albums survey. A European promotional tour culminated in a triumphant return to the Glasgow Barrowlands, the venue where they had played in 1994. The event was filmed and recorded for 2017's Live at the Glasgow Barrowlands. Ross followed with the solo Short Stories, Vol. 1 later that year. Among its new songs were covers of Deacon Blue's "Raintown" and "Wages Day." The band issued City of Love in 2020. The anthemic collection was produced by Ross and mixed by Savage. Greeted with glowing reviews on both sides of the Atlantic, it topped Scotland's albums list and went to number four on the U.K. album charts. During a promotional tour that November, the band's 1987 debut single "Dignity" was voted "Scotland's Greatest Song." With more touring planned for early 2021, the global COVID-19 pandemic put Deacon Blue's plans on hold. Undaunted, they took four leftover tracks from City of Love and cut four more Ross-penned songs while separated from one another in quarantine. The end result was the companion album Riding on the Tide of Love. It was released in February 2021.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo
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