Ricky Ross: Annotated Discography

Tuesday 5th July 2005

Dougie Adam reviews the 20 years of recordings by Scotland's DEACON BLUE and their lead singer RICKY ROSS.

Ricky Ross: Annotated Discography

Ricky Ross
So Long Ago
Sticky Music, 1984
Despite being well below the standard reached on later solo albums and with Deacon Blue there are still some interesting songs here. 'Don't Look Back' hints at Ricky's ear for a catchy anthem while several of the stripped down solo piano tracks stand up well today. Many of the themes which would crop up on future releases are all present and correct here and faith issues get a larger than usual mention. 'Checkout Girls' insists there is 'something beyond dying' and adds 'the eyes and ears of the God in the sky are on the ground. He can be found' while the narrator in 'Don't Look Back' finds his reflection beneath the cross. The CS Lewis inspired "Surprised By Joy" tells a tale of conversion and concludes by appealing to the listener "trust him with your life". "Vision On" deals with a desire to listen to and follow the voice within and the story of his father's conversion during the war in an RAF bunkhouse is relived on "The Germans Are Out Today". Ewen Vernal and Carol Moore would work again with Ricky in Deacon Blue while Steve Butler and Graeme Duffin who also play on the sessions would record with Talking Drums, Lies Damned Lies and Wet Wet Wet respectively. Ricky's lack on enthusiasm for this record seems partly based on the fact this was an old collection of songs by the time it was recorded and released. Over the next few years he would write and perform briefly with DB McGlynn in Wozaland several radio sessions with Radio Clyde and record over 20 demos before 'Raintown' was cut.
5 squares

Deacon Blue
CBS, 1987
The landmark debut album which eventually steadily sold around a million copies. Had this collection been released later in the band's career then singles like "Dignity", "Loaded", "When Will You Make My Telephone Ring" and "Chocolate Girl" would have been much bigger hits than they were at the time. With album tracks of the calibre "Ragman", "Raintown", "He Looks Like Spencer Tracy Now" and "Love's Great Fears" sitting alongside the singles its easy to see why the record went down as a classic since there isn't a weak song or performance from start to finish. This is the album by which all future Ricky Ross endeavours would be measured. Just as the church steeple on the front cover competes for the eye's attention alongside shipbuilding cranes on the rain soaked Glasgow skyline, so faith is one of the background issues on an album of songs where relationships are fraught and work is either scarce or soul-breaking in its drudgery. Over 20 other tracks were also released as B-sides and extra tracks on the various 7", 10", 12" EPs and CD singles while the band's live reputation was enhanced as concerts from Manchester and Glasgow were broadcast on Radio 1 and Radio Clyde respectively with the 1988 Barrowlands gig also being syndicated throughout the States through Westwood One.
10 squares

Deacon Blue
When The World Knows Your Name
CBS, 1989
Before the album was released the group had a taste of what was about to come as "Real Gone Kid" became their first Top 10 single and "Wages Day" also went Top 20. This album entered the album charts at number one and stayed well placed for most of the year helped by three other Top 40 singles in the shape of "Fergus Sings The Blues", "Love And Regret" and "Queen Of The New Year". Most of the album was recorded with radio airplay in mind but the downside is this album has dated more than any other offering by the band and live favourite "Circus Lights" despite being one of the best songs in the entire catalogue fails to ignite here. The second half of the album also seems to lose its way a bit but is saved by the gem of a closer "Orphans". Two UK tours in 1989 saw the band sell out arenas in record time while the Radio 1 broadcast from Hammersmith Odeon and Radio Clyde's broadcasts from the SECC and Barrowlands kept the bootleggers busy.
7 squares

Deacon Blue
Ooh Las Vegas
CBS, 1990
A double LP and collection of most but not all those extra tracks which appeared on the "When The World Knows Your Name" and the "Raintown" singles which were issued after the 'Riches' LP was given its original limited edition release. It's a funny thing that when you put a lot of good sounding B-sides together in a double album format it suddenly sounds like a collection of 20 plus songs which didn't quite set the heather on fire. Following on from the success of the 'Four Bacharach And David Songs' EP reaching number two in the singles chart and the band headlining Glasgow's Big Day, despite being a collection of B-sides this one still peaked at number three in the album charts. A number of previously unreleased demos were remixed and overdubbed while new songs from a BBC TV production "Dreaming" also acted as a carrot to entice fans who had all the singles already to part with their cash once again. That said, CD player's remote controls ensure there is still plenty of unusual or good tracks here to make it enjoyable if you programme out the tracks which fail to make the grade! The band's performance from Glastonbury was broadcast live on Radio 1 before this collection was released and afterwards they undertook a short tour where they played the arenas for the last time accompanied by the Kick Horns. Years later Ricky looked back on this release as the band's "worst career move. it was just a junk collection of songs that might be interesting for fans."
6 squares

Deacon Blue
Fellow Hoodlums
Columbia, 1991
A welcome return to form as Ross offered another collection of love songs once again set in Glasgow. Whereas 'Raintown' was written and recorded in the context of many of the city's heavy industries being eroded and peak unemployment, Hoodlums was part of a time and mood where Glasgow was finding a new confidence and identity having been European City Of Culture the previous year. The album was notable for its earthy acoustic sound which deliberately sailed far away from the radio friendly stadium filling chart fodder of its predecessor. Spiritual themes were back in the mix too. Before the album was written and recorded Lorraine's father died and this seems to have inspired "Goodnight Jamsie" and "I Will See You Tomorrow". Elsewhere "Cover From The Sky" finishes amid the ruins of the temple praying to God for cover from the sky and "Your Swaying Arms" finds Ross longing for a new world waiting and hoping to be sent there. The closing track also features an encounter with a bruised and dirty Saviour on the search to find the way. If faith and questioning whether everything is vanity and asking eternal questions is one side of his album's coin there were also references to being lovely and drunk now and tales of jumping jail which seem distanced from a conventional Christian rock worldview. Nevertheless 'Hoodlums' finds the band playing effortlessly at their best (take a bow Ewen Vernal on bass), and album tracks like "The Wildness" and "A Brighter Star" are quintessential Deacon Blue while the top 40 singles kept coming, albeit more modestly with "Your Swaying Arms", "Cover From The Sky" and "Twist And Shout". The short UK tour found the band deliberately choosing to play more intimate theatres and steadfastly avoiding most of their hits in a setlist which found them concentrating on the new album and covering Robert Burns, John Lennon and Dylan's masterpiece "Every Grain Of Sand". On Hogmanay of 1991 the band's one hour long concert from Glasgow Royal Concert Hall was transmitted live on Radio 1.
8 squares

Deacon Blue
Whatever You Say, Say Nothing
Columbia, 1993
No sooner did it seem like old time fans finally had the band back again after their fling with being the next big thing than they turned turtle once again and went dance or techno teaming up with the Perfecto team! No sooner had Ricky said he had found a way to make records without doing the whole pop star thing than he reappeared a year or so later decked out in gold lame shirts and big shades singing through a megaphone! On the "In Your Town" tour the band took to the stage after "Last Night A DJ Saved My Life" finished playing through the PA and the night ended with the band covering Kylie's "Better The Devil You Know"! It was all too much for a section of the fan base, and er, I have to admit that even though I was still buying the albums and singles and attending the gigs this was the start of me losing interest in Ricky's music for a few years. which is a pity because when I listened to this album years later I concluded that "Your Town" and "Will Be Lovers" were among the band's best sounding singles ("Only Tender Love" and "Hang Your Head" weren't bad either) and "Bethlehem's Gate", "Peace And Jobs And Freedom" and "Last Night I Dreamed Of Henry Thomas" were all great album tracks. These days this is most likely to be the Deacon Blue album I stick in my CD player. how times have changed!
9 squares

Deacon Blue
Our Town: The Greatest Hits
Columbia, 1994
By now I was tired of being a fan of the band. I never even bought this till years later. At the time it seemed odd to include "Loaded" on a greatest hits album when it hadn't charted while overlooking other minor hits like "Closing Time" and "Hang Your Head" which had been as commercially "successful" as "Chocolate Girl" which was also included. So, as had been the pattern with Sony compilations to date it was a mix of not-quite-completeness with three new tracks you really should buy the whole thing for! Part way through the tour to promote the package it was announced the band were splitting. One final Radio 1 in concert special from the Edinburgh Playhouse followed and the band brought the curtain down with some sell out shows at the Barrowlands. (In hindsight the new recordings were rather good after all!) Things end on a commercial high as the album tops the charts and sells by the truckload although fans and Ricky himself appear to have been upset that 'Bound To Love' was axed as the final single as Sony favoured releasing "Dignity" as a single for the third time instead!
8 squares

Ricky Ross
What You Are
Epic, 1996
The first solo album proper. Following the pattern established with Deacon Blue releases this album once again marked another musical change of direction as Ricky set out to make an album which sounded un-Deacon-Blue-like. There's hardly a piano, keyboard or organ to be heard across the grooves as Mick Slaven's gloriously frenzied and joyously unpredictable lead guitar takes centre stage. The album was written and recorded after his father died and the impact of burying his father seemed to call into question some long held beliefs. "Rosie Gordon Lies So Still" states, "There's only earth and grass and sky," during "Jack Singer" it emerges "The worst thing ever is to sing to the gods/Discover nothing coming back and that's all there is" while "Cold Easter" portrays death as being the last word, "You put a rock around my heart/And you know the killing part/Is Sunday morning when nothing rolled away." "When Sinners Fall" deals with the subject of divorce. Coupled with the sound on the album B-sides such as "Death Work Song" and "Joe" suggested Ricky's new revved up rock (backed by the wonderful Sinners) had what it took to cut it in the post Definitely Maybe Britpop world of the time while acoustic cuts of "In The Pines", "The River Is Wide" and "Radio On" found on the CD singles had much to recommend them to the average Deacon Blue fan. In the end fans of his former band stayed away and few new converts were made. When the raucous debut single "Radio On" only peaked at number 31 and follow-up "Good Evening Philadelphia" missed the Top 40 and album sales failed to match Sony's expectations Ricky was dropped from the label on his 38th birthday. Pity since the album and accompanying singles boast some great songs and uncompromising playing.
7 squares

Ricky Ross: Annotated Discography

Ricky Ross
New Recordings
Internazionale, 1997
Readers should spot a familiar pattern by now; new album completely different from its predecessor, and so it is with 'New Recordings'. This time round Ricky accompanies himself on a lone guitar or solo piano with former Love And Money bass player Paul McGeechan adding loops and sound effects. Ex-Big Dish bass man Brian Docherty plays an infectious bass riff which lights up "I Love You". Lorraine McIntosh also guests on "The Further North You Go" and Ricky re-records an old Deacon Blue B-side "The Undeveloped Heart"! A late night acoustic record which closes with "Ash Wednesday" posing a string of questions about faith and belief. This is probably the kind of intimate album on a small label Ricky had wanted to make after Deacon Blue split. some stuff is a bit obscure in hindsight though.
7 squares

Deacon Blue
Riches And More
Sony, 1997
One of the things which endeared the band to its following was that in an era when it was customary for bands to remove the vocal tracks and put an 'instrumental mix' out as a B-side or use an album track for that purpose Deacon Blue gave value for money and used B-sides and extra tracks as an avenue for showcasing a lot of additional original material, cover versions and songs which showed a more diverse side than was apparent from their album and A-side releases. It has to be said Sony made a pig's ear of 'Riches' when they issued the B-sides compilation first time round in 1988. The only way to get hold of it was by purchasing it along with 'Raintown' which had been on sale for a year by that time. Then it could be bought through the fan club for a short time only. After that the 'Riches' collection was a set of CD singles accompanying 'Whatever You Say, Say Nothing' except the wonderful live cover of Van Morrison's "Angelou" was missing. When they put this compilation out in 1997 they added 1990's hit EP 'Four Bacharach And David Songs' (which has nothing to do with the rest of the collection) and forgot to include what was arguably the outstanding recording of the original collection, namely the piano vocal version of 'Raintown' from an early Radio 1 session! And despite having the space to include them, none of the B-sides and extra tracks from the 'Raintown' era which missed out on the original 'Riches' collection and 'Ooh Las Vegas' were included! The artwork was also basic and horrible! Unnecessary botched job.
5 squares

Ricky Ross
The Undeveloped Heart EP
Internazionale, 1998
Brian Docherty remixes "Undeveloped Heart" from 'New Recordings' and this gem sits alongside four more songs which sound like outtakes from the 'New Recordings' sessions. The title track sounds excellent and is in a different league from the rest of the EP.
5 squares

Deacon Blue
Walking Back Home: A Collection Of Love Songs
Sony, 1999
After the Deacon Blue reunion gigs in Glasgow sold out at the kind of speed associated with the 1989-91 era a nationwide tour in the autumn was announced. The band recorded three new tracks, "Love Hurts" was a much better cover version than the gigantic hit "I'll Never Fall In Love Again" but Sony pulled it as a single and issued it as a radio promo only. Remarkably Sony actually undersold this collection to the public at large. It actually had three new recordings, three good previously unreleased recordings from the vaults, three deleted rarities and a host of the band's best album tracks and transpired to be pretty good value for money as well as hanging together well as a compilation. Radio 2 broadcast highlights of May's reunion concert at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and November's acoustic performance at BBC Radio Theatre in London.
8 squares

Deacon Blue
Papillion, 2001
Surprisingly this was and still is, against the odds, one of the best Deacon Blue albums to listen to. I didn't hold out high hopes of a new album being anywhere as good as the ones made before the split. After DB had alienated fans with 'Whatever You Say, Say Nothing' and Ricky had rocked out on 'What You Are' and gone all acoustic minimalist on 'New Recordings' here was an album which brimmed with instantly likeable melodies and went on to grow on you to boot. It didn't sound like any of its predecessors in particular yet seemed to blend most of the sounds from the band's back catalogue into a cohesive whole. A cracker from start to finish and "Out There" and "I Am Born" once again celebrated faith while 'Even Higher Ground' appeared to critique organised religion. Most of the tracks happily stand comparison with anything the band had achieved in the past. A great set of songs, well played and nicely produced. Papillion struggled to properly promote the two singles and both bomb and the album failed to make much of an impression in the charts despite two sold out and well-received UK tours which saw the group back in the kind of venues they had played on the 'Fellow Hoodlums' tour. Best album since 'Raintown'? Maybe not quite. but not far off!
8 squares

Deacon Blue
The Very Best Of Deacon Blue
Sony, 2001
This 2 CD set is basically an expanded version of 'Our Town' with some good album tracks, top notch B-sides and newer material from 1991 and 2001 thrown in. Fans got to vote for their favourite rare tracks and album tracks on the new official website. However. given the amount of duplication from 'Our Town' and the number of extended mixes, radio edits which had never been issued on CD it was a shame Sony never used either of the two studio versions of "Dignity" which had yet to be released on CD. Another of those compilations from Sony which appeared to do little except annoy the fans one more time! In an age of CD burners where people can compile their own compilation CDs this nice enough collection is fairly pointless except to the most casual of fans of the band.
7 squares

Ricky Ross
This Is The Life
Papillion, 2002
The first couple of songs start slowly and subdued and build to a climax. "Rodeo Boy" takes thing up a gear with its dirty sounding piano sounding like its walked out of a White album session. From there on in the album takes a number of musical directions as "Angel And Mercedes", "Starring Love" and "Hippy Girl" all find Ricky back at his infectious pop best while "Nothing Cures That" and "Threatening Rain" return to his soul roots and there are great ballads aplenty. Once again Mick Slaven's biting guitar solos kick home throughout the proceedings but these are wonderfully augmented by Davie Scott's melodic pop contributions on glockenspiel, synthesiser, 12 string and harmonies. "My Girl Going To Town" is perhaps the best track on the album but most of the tracks stand favourable comparison with the back catalogue. 13 great songs well produced and with great performance after performance of songs written for friends, fans, and family members. Shortly before the album eventually came out Ricky explained, "The songs come from the last five years of writing and the title is not meant to be smug but the calm dawning on those of us who are ancient as hell - that life is not a dream far off but present reality. I've spent a long time thinking about this album. I honestly believe it to be my life's work as I seem to have invested so much time and energy writing, recording and haggling to get it released." Definitely one of Ricky's best ever records solo or with Deacon Blue.
9 squares

Ricky Ross
Pale Rider
P3 Music, 2005
Arguably Ricky's finest and most poignant and personal album to date. "Here's a hymn to the Maker/Maybe the rest are all display." So begins this bitter sweet and weathered celebration of life with some of Ross's finest ever love songs ("In This World" and "Kichijoji" - on both recordings Ricky lets the Van Morrison influence shine through as never before), a celebration (that word again) of the joys of ordinary family with rainy Saturdays and mess left by children waiting to be cleared up ("I Know It's Only Sunday"). "Boys Break The Things They Love The Most" wryly observes male tendencies from birth to death for searching for treasure, making secret plans and "taking love to bits again/Trying to get it fixed/Then failing to be a man." In 'She Gets Me Inside' and 'Soundtrack To The Summer' we have the kind of instantly likeable pop songs that would have sent these songs Top 20 had they dated from a previous era in his musical career. And while Ricky has never sounded so content or so at peace a number of songs touch on mortality ("Pale Rider") and illness and death and yet even where this is the case those songs still come out sounding like a celebration. "In The End" recalls Deacon Blue guitarist Graeme Kelling's last night on earth in a hospice and begins with a picture of Ricky and Graeme looking at old photos and sharing laughs of their time together in the band before Graeme fell asleep for the last time. The chorus "Sun goes down/And the stars come out/And the world keeps on turning/In the end" could be fatalistic if not for the observations in verses two, "I know you couldn't see/But I was there to watch you sleep/And I figured out Jesus was wanting you more" which could go down as one of the sharpest observations in a pop song of what is happening when a person dies and passes from one life to the next. No review would be complete without saying that there are times when the way a song is played and sung give as much pleasure and ring out as much meaning as the quality of the songwriting - "In The End" with its simple piano arrangement is a case in point. The emotional ante is upped considerably as modern bleepy sounds which sound out of place at first simulate a life support machine doing its desperate work as drums quietly shuffle in and suggest a pulsing heartbeat fighting for life as high synth sounds soar heavenward as the first chorus closes. Heartbreaking and strangely uplifting stuff at one and the same time. Davie Scott's production is first rate as some songs are left with a lone guitar and some harmony vocals where it is deemed a full band sound might get intrusive while elsewhere shimmering guitars, glockenspiels, mandolins, brass, strings and summery harmonies come in at just the right time to take a song forward. On "Pale Rider" Ricky Ross continues a rich vein of form and writes succinctly and powerfully about a wide range of issues to do with ordinary life. In "Calvary" where Ricky is partly protesting about a tendency to celebrate Christmas by saying Jesus was born simply to be a sacrificial offering on a cross at Easter we find these great words, "The baby comes/Folks don't sleep/Those shepherds keep you up later than you meant to be/One child grows and people notice/He's breaking chains/And making poor folks' lives so heavenly/(The way it's meant to be)." Whether he's singing about his love for his wife and family, looking back at friendships and people drifting apart over the passing years, or facing his mortality and grieving the loss of a friend or meditating on what Christmas means to him the whole shooting match seems to come under the umbrella of those opening lines. "Here's a song to the Maker/Maybe the rest are all display."
10 out of 10 squares CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Reader Comments

Posted by David Robinson in UK @ 22:27 on Aug 10 2010

I am looking for the original 12" versions of

Telephone Ring
Chocolate Girl

If anyone has these to sell on CD or can point me to an MP3 download then it would be greatly appreciated.

David Robinson

Posted by ian ramsay in Spain now but from Perth @ 17:16 on Dec 29 2008

Found this whilst searching for something else. Great background info to some of my all time fav albums.
For this and the interview many thanks.

Posted by ana claudia de sousa in ceara @ 15:50 on Apr 1 2008

as musicas do deacon blue são bastante inspiradoras e de otima qualidade da gosto de ouvir e viajar nos sons de guitarras estilo beatles e o classico violino usado com maestria em suas musicas fora as vozes dos doisvocalistas!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!eles são otimos vale a pena ouvir e curtir

Posted by Farid in Beckenham-Kent @ 16:26 on Feb 28 2008

I have been a mad fan of Ricky and Deacon Blue since I was 17 year old, I remember Rain Town album
Back in 1989 and I still listen to it and enjoy it.
I'll definitely buy Pale Rider

Thanks for all the lovely song you have made.

Posted by Tracy Andrews in Cambridge @ 11:29 on Aug 3 2005

Have just 'rediscovered' Ricky, having been a huge fan of DB back in the 80s. Recently acquired 'Pale Rider' and think it is a beautiful album and is a real shame that it has not beem promoted in such a way as to open it up to a wider market. Am slowly buying up previous releases too, to complete my back catalogue, and am finding them all unique but individually appealing.

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

Add your comment

We welcome your opinions but libellous and abusive comments are not allowed.

We are committed to protecting your privacy. By clicking 'Send comment' you consent to Cross Rhythms storing and processing your personal data. For more information about how we care for your data please see our privacy policy.