A word and a sound to see or even feel the ground: one of the most talented Sixties warblers returns to his roots.
“Take me back to my own home,” sang Dean Ford, then the front man of THE MARMALADE, in 1969, on “Reflections Of My Life” – a perennial the Airdrie-born artist revisits acoustically on his second, and last, solo album: a 30-pieces-strong double-CD effort which does exactly that, transporting the veteran, who passed away shortly after its issue, to Caledonia. Recorded for the most part in Dean’s kitchenette in California where he moved to one decade down the road from the aforementioned hit, to pursue the dream the catchy country of “Cowboy Joe” is depicting in melodious detail, “This Scottish Heart” couldn’t be less American, though, as Ford has captured the essence of the place he came from.
Still, numbers such as “Made In Scotland” don’t seem to be statements, what with their occasional slightly garagey sound the artist deliberately achieved by playing all instruments and having an occasional guest to flesh them out; rather, here’s a gallery of snapshots to line up and relive the precious moments in life – like settling in love, as “I Got You” posits in delicate tones, or watching your boy grow, as “Little Man” describes so tenderly – and that’s why they feel so special. The tick-tocking beat and Ford’s rough voice – again, a deliberate aural setting for creating an optimistic outlook and a sense of expectancy – fill “A New Day” with simple joy, while the dewy-eyed timelessness of “Restless Heart” will prepare the listener for the sight of the sweet patina covering “When Will It End” getting peeled off to reveal the beginning of it all with a fresh take on “Glasgow Road” – as effervescent as the original version, but with decades of experience projected onto the classic.
There’s also a sense of urgency in “Running Out Of Time” – the only song on display to plug into the catchy vintage crunch and have a field day with it as if to prove that “the show goes on” before the majestic intimacy behind “Butterflies In June” links this cut to the a cappella harmonies in “God Is” – a chorale-for-one, an epitome of Dean’s faith. Elsewhere, the Appalachian air infusing “The Blue Angel” bares the song’s connection to traditional motifs which carry “Bonnie Mary” and to the album’s spiritual title track, yet “Nineteen Fifty Three” has a nostalgic and at the same time modern, trip-hop-esque aroma to it. The second disc sounding more austere – but, thanks to “Blue Horizon” and other soulful paeans to the past, emotionally rich – is somewhat more rewarding, although the record should be taken in as a whole for the maximum effect.
“Makes no difference what I say; it’s what I do that matters,” intones Dean in “Until The Day I Die”: unfortunately, that day came much sooner than Ford hoped for – his “I don’t want to die” line made the singer immortal in artistic terms – yet what the veteran had done on this album makes the world less terrible place to live.