Up there with the very best 60’s and 70’s bands when it came to harmonies, stood one band head and shoulders above all the others. Leading them from the front vocally, and hailing from Coatbridge, a town in the industrial heartlands of Lanarkshire, Scotland, was Dean Ford. After his name change from Thomas McAleese, Dean Ford and the Gaylords soon morphed into The Marmalade.
It didn’t take long for the hits to start coming. After his departure from the original band, he left behind behind dozens of classic songs, mostly penned by himself and Junior Campbell, nearly all with Dean at the forefront vocally. Dean released his eponymous first solo album in 1975. A critical success, even if it didn’t hit platinum sales, it’s been a long wait for the follow up.
A world away from the grey skies of Lanarkshire, the sunny climes of Los Angeles has been home to Dean for many years now. A renewed interest in recording and writing once again, found him paired up with Miami born producer, and multi-instrumentalist Fernando Perdomo. The results are really quite dazzling.
There are no tonsil tearing vocals reminiscent of songs like Marmalade’s "Empty Bottles” (an underappreciated gem). What you get here is a classic, laid back album that wouldn’t have seemed out of place in Laurel Canyon’s heyday. That’s not to suggest the songs sound dated. Far from it. The songs are written from the perspective of someone who’s now really enjoying life. The most perceptible Muse here would be Dean’s grandson.
No more so than on the delightful opener “Heaven In His Eyes”. Not only lyrically beautiful, but includes a perfectly realised guitar solo from Dean himself. There’s an understandable, but palpable nervousness in the opening vocals on this track, almost as if Dean is worried about opening his heart to the world for the first time in so many years. There really was no need to worry. There’s an honesty that shines through, and you soon realise he still has that great voice.
“Hello Bright Eyes” opens with an accordion, very reminiscent of the time back home when every family had someone who played it at parties back in day. It feels like there's some kind of melancholy connection between the past and the present going on here.
There’s a really clever device Brian Wilson used on the Pet Sounds track, “Don’t Talk (Put Your Head On My Shoulder), where he used an imaginary heartbeat on the recording, setting the tempo of the song. The album's’ title track, “Feel My Heartbeat” has employed that same technique, probably sub-consciously, but to very great effect. This is a song that genuinely does come from the heart. It works splendidly.
There’s a lot of acoustic guitar throughout this album, with “Room In My Heart” having the added bonus of Fernando dropping in with a gorgeous, relaxed, jazzy electric lead solo.
Other tracks on the album touch on family, and that search for inner peace we all crave. Thankfully for us, Dean seems to have found that now. One thing that does comes across quite evidently, is Dean's delight at being amongst musicians he feels comfortable with, people he can really trust. This seems to have worked not only to his advantage, but has added to the listeners greater enjoyment as well . We have a lot to thank Fernando and Dan Matovina for.
This “Dean Team,” including constant support from some of Dean's Uber-fans, has made for a quite beautiful album. Dean should be very proud of what he's achieved with this album. The 40 year wait has been well worth it.