Dean Ford “Feel My Heartbeat” Album Review

 

Dean Ford Releases New Solo Album “Feel My Heartbeat”

By Dale Nickey

Los Angeles, CA (The Hollywood Times) 5/30/16 – In 1969 a Scottish group named The Marmalade hit the charts in a big way with their Top Three ballad, “Reflections of My Life”. It was a melancholic look back at life, sung by a young singer/songwriter who had not yet lived it. The singer was Dean Ford (Born Thomas McAleese). The Marmalade made their splash and suffered the fate of many entrants into the 60’s sweepstakes. They had a couple of hits and faded into history, only to return sporadically on oldies radio, the odd soundtrack or the occasional K-Tel compilation.

dale3Ford has now released a new solo album, “Feel My Heartbeat”. It’s a no-nonsense, filler free affair containing twelve songs with a strong narrative flow. The subjects are love, searching, mortality, progeny and acceptance of what is and what might have been.

The first cut on the album is a 2014 remake of the aforementioned “Reflections of My Life”. Dean has returned to the music business after a long sabbatical and possibly felt the need to reintroduce himself to fans he left behind decades ago.  The irony is, “Reflections of My Life” is far more relevant and poignant a statement now than it was for Dean Ford in the year 1969. The man has aged but the voice retains its youthful aspect on all twelve cuts that comprise “Feel My Heartbeat”.

Music writers wax rhapsodic about Irish Soul when describing the depth and nuance of music by artists such as Van Morrison, Rory Gallagher, Gary Moore and U2. However, musicians with roots in Scotland can boast the same working class authenticity as well as the same history of oppression by the British. Scotsman Dean Ford has roots that run deep and strong. You can hear it in his arrangements and in his lyrics.

The sound on “Feel My Heartbeat” is big, woody and warm. Absent is any sonic tomfoolery or fussy production. The instrumentation used is purposely designed to stand the test of time and fashion. Guitars, drums, fiddle, accordions, banjos and bass. “Feel My Heartbeat” is a record that will age gracefully.

What follows is a song by song overview of “Feel My Heartbeat”:

  1. Reflections Of My Life – Originally a #3 hit for Dean Ford and The Marmalade in 1969; Ford’s perspective is now of a man truly reflecting on a life well-lived but who still offers the caveat, “The world is a terrible place to live, but I don’t want to die.“ The perfect opener that reintroduces Ford to his audience and sagely conveys the melancholic aspects of mortality. Nearly 50 years on, the lyrics now ring up-close and personal, whereas in 1969 it was all theoretical. This version closes the circle. (Produced by Joe Tansin).
  1. Glasgow Road – Ford’s bio states that this song was inspired by the discovery of a long lost cousin. “Glasgow Road” is Scottish Soul pure and simple in its invocation of movement and the search for some sort of earthly connection or salvation. As soulful and poignant as any song from the Van Morrison songbook, Glasgow Road really should be an AOR hit.
  1. He’s Got Heaven In His Eyes – A song about the contagious optimism and innocence one feels when looking into the eyes of a child. Ford is a smart songwriter who offsets overt sentimentality with a danceable beat, catchy chorus and some scruffy lead guitar reminiscent of Steelers Wheel.
  1. Hello Bright Eyes – A simple ditty describing the simple pleasures of fatherhood.
  1. Feel My Heartbeat – Lighter than air ballad gently cradled by acoustic guitar and piano. Dean casually tosses off some lyrical gems, Example: “and when the day is done, we’ll say goodnight to the sun.”
  1. Crazy About a Girl – Ford gives us some blue-eyed soul with a spoken intro in a manner reminiscent of Barry White. Easy floating groove with some nice space needle guitar.
  1. Under Your Wing – An optimistic dreamscape about idealized love. The bedrock of this tune is Ford’s own ragged (but right) acoustic guitar and a fragile (but heartfelt) vocal. Gentle string textures and a rootsy lead guitar suggest a great Country crossover potential.
  1. Cosmos – A lilting mid-tempo cruise describing an existential journey that ends in celestial reunion with those departed. The middle section sports a grungy, underwater guitar solo that is composed and tasteful.
  1. Room In My Heart – Great change of pace tune. Brushed snare, cool jazz chords and fretless bass support a rangy and intimate vocal that effortlessly croons classic lines like; “There’s room in my heart for two. There’s a vacancy sign and I won’t take it down till’ you say that you’re mine and true” A song that begs for a Tony Bennett cover.
  1. Stay Awhile – Perhaps the album’s best candidate for a hit single. Soft, syncopated funk. Dean mines his lower vocal register in a manner vaguely reminiscent of Mark Knopfler channeling J.J. Cale.
  1. Over Yesterday – Ford turns his hand to a breakup song. One of Ford’s songwriting strengths is the simple turn of phrase that is relatable but oddly profound, Example: “Who’s gonna rub my feet, straighten my tie?”
  1. Dance a Little Dance – Wispy Folk ballad wisely stripped bare save for an acoustic guitar and some lush background vocals.

Dean Ford is an artist I’ve spoken to many times throughout the decades. However, several encounters passed before his artistic pedigree was revealed to me. Such is his humility as an artist and a person; a humility that sits comfortably in the grooves of “Feel My Heartbeat”.

In a cultural landscape strewn with departed, damaged and forgotten 60’s icons. Dean Ford enters his seventh decade clear and present, artistically vital, and ripe for rediscovery.

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Dean Ford (right) with your author (1991)

 

 

dale3

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