By the time Delegation came to record their fourth album, 1982s Deuces High, which BBR Records will released on 25th February 2013, the group’s lineup had changed several times. It seemed Delegation’s lineup was constantly evolving. Members joined, then left. When Delegation came to record their fourth album, Deuces High, Ricky Bailey was the last man standing. Ricky was the last of the original lineup of Delegation. The lineup of Delegation that would record Deuces High, were just Ricky Bailey and Ray Patterson, who’d joined the group for the recording of Delegation’s sophomore album Eau De Vie. Deuces High would prove to be Delegation’s last album, until fourteen years later, when they reformed to release Encore. For Delegation, Deuces High was the end of an era. Would Delegation end this era on a high, with Deuces High?
Having formed in 1975, Delegation had released three previous albums. The Promise of Love, released in 1978, had been Delegation’s most successful album, reaching number eighty-four in the US Billboard 200 and number eight in the US R&B Charts. With a different lineup, including new member Ray Patterson, Delegation released their sophomore Eau De Vie, in 1979. It failed to chart and neither did 1981s Delegation II. In Europe, Delegation’s albums were successful, but success eluded them in the UK and US. Delegation did enjoy minor chart success in the UK and US R&B single’s charts. That was a small crumb of comfort. Maybe Deuces High would prove see Delegation’s fortunes improve?
For Deuces High Ricky Bailey and Ray Patterson cowrote three tracks, If You Were A Song, Gonna Bring The House Down, Dance Like Fred Astaire and Would You Like To Start A Thang With Me? Ken Gold, Delegation’s producer cowrote the other five tracks. With Michael Denne they penned What Took You So Long, I Figure I’m Out Of Your Life, Tell Her and No Words To Say. Dance Time-USA was a track Ken Gold and Nigel Hanson cowrote. These nine tracks became Deuces High.
Recording of Deuces High took place at London’s Sound Suite Studios. Many of the same personnel that played on Delegation’s three previous albums played on Deuces High.The band accompanying Delegation bassists Paul Westwood, Lenny Willis, Les Hurdle and Mark King and guitarists Robert J. Ahwai and Ray Patterson. Rather than a drummer, a Linn Drum machine was used. Lynton Naiff played synths and keyboards, plus arranged the horns. Ken Gold added percussion and produced Deuces High. Once Deuces High was recorded, it was released in 1982.
The release of Deuces High in 1982, didn’t see Delegation’s fortunes improve, when it failed to chart. Neither Gonna Bring The House Down, nor If You Were A Song charted when released as a single in 1982. Deuces High was a case of deja vu for Delegation. However, why did Deuces High not fare better commercially?
Opening Deuces High What Took You So Long. Straight away, you hear a very different side of Delegation. The poppy soul of previous albums is replaced by synths and drum machines. One thing stays the same, the soulful vocal, which is Delegation at their best. With synths, chiming guitars and drum machines providing the backdrop for Delegation, the vocal is heartfelt, emotive and deeply soulful. Harmonies sweep in. They glide elegantly above the arrangement, as a hooky slice dance-floor friendly poppy soul shows another side to Delegation’s music.
I Figure I’m Out Of sees a drop in tempo and the drama increase. Like the previous track, the new Delegation sound unfolds. A buzzing bass weaves across the arrangement with keyboards, synths and hissing hi-hats for company. It’s when the vocal enters, that Delegation grab your attention. Filled with emotion and tinged with sadness, it brings to life the lyrics. Heartfelt harmonies, percussion and stabs of keyboards add to the sadness and emotion. A rasping horn is added at the perfect moment, reinforcing the heartbreak and hurt in Ray’s vocal, as one of the saddest songs on Deuces High unfolds.
Pensive keyboards open If You Were A Song, before Ray’s melancholy vocal enters. His vocal is slow, deliberate and accompanied by a slow, wistful and understated arrangement. Just drums, washes of synths and percussion combine as his vocal wells up with emotion and hurt. Later, a searing, riffing guitar adds to the drama. It replaces the vocal as the drama grows and builds. From there, Ray delivers another emotive, hurt-filled vocal.
Gonna Bring The House Down has a James Brown influence when it explodes into life. Thunderous drums, chiming guitars and driving, blazing horns combine. They set the scene for powerful, urgent harmonies, with subtle synths and handclaps. Soon, Delegation have gotten into a funky groove, with the bass and guitars propelling the arrangement along, in a direction marked funk. This allows Delegation to demonstrate their versatility, marring funky, hooks an eighties electronica.
Tell Her is another of the slow songs on Deuces High. This is what Delegation do so well. Just a slow combination of synths, keyboards, guitars and funky bass accompany Ray’s impassioned vocal. He delivers the lyrics with feeling, tenderness and sincerity. It’s his vocal that’s the focus of your attention. You’re captivated by its beauty, tenderness and sheer soulfulness, Delegation prove to be masters of heartfelt ballads.
Blazing horns, pounding drums and synths open Dance Like Fred Astaire. Then an uber funky, slap bass weaves its way across the arrangement. When the joyous, soaring vocal enters, funk and dance music are combining seamlessly. With the growling horns helping drive the arrangement along, cascading harmonies sweep in. Lynton Naiff’s horn arrangement is crucial to the arrangement. Then during the breakdown, the band showcase their talents, with percussion, bass and guitars combining. Meanwhile, Delegation are almost desperate to deliver the rest of the lyrics on this infectiously catchy fusion of funk, dance and poppy soul.
No Words To Say has an early eighties sound, when the synths, bass and the drum machine combine. While synths and the drum machines add an electronic sound, the bass adds a funky heartbeat. Then when Ray’s impassioned vocal enters, he adds the necessary soul. His delivery is deliberate and sensuous, while harmonies soulfully sweep in. Later, a rasping horns is added, adding to the beauty and soulfulness of this ballad. Again, Delegation demonstrate that when it comes to ballads, they’re peerless in terms of British early eighties British soul.
Would You Like To Start A Thang With Me is a much more uptempo track. It’s funky and soulful, swinging along. Chic style chiming guitars, growling horns and a pounding bass help propel the arrangement along, helped by the drum machine and synths. This track is proof that the use of synths and drum machines don’t always lessen the soulfulness of a track. Granted often, this is the case. Not here. Used well, which they are by producer Ken Gold, they help, not hinder an arrangement. What also helps the track are Ricky Bailey and Ray Patterson partnership. Ray’s sassy, teasing vocal helps the song swing. Urgent harmonies reply to his call, as Ray and Ricky prove a potent and soulful partnership.
Dance-Time U.S.A. closes Delegation’s fourth album, Deuces High. There’s a tougher, funkier sound, that has a real American influence. The tempo drops, with just synths, dramatic, blazing horns and a pedestrian, deliberate rhythm section providing the heartbeat. Ray’s vocal is deliberate and sassy. When Ray and Ricky add harmonies, they’re tight, sweet and soulful, gliding elegantly above the arrangement. Later, the vocal becomes a rap, as soul, funk, eighties electronica and hip hop combine, as Delegation close Deuces High. It would be another fourteen years until their next and final album Encore. At least they closed Deuces High on a high.
Why Delegation’s fourth album, Deuces High wasn’t a commercial success wasn’t do with the quality of music. Instead, it was a case that other musical genres were much more fashionable. In the UK, during 1982, when Deuces High was released, British soul and funk wasn’t particularly popular. Instead, the dreaded New Romantic movement was blighting the musical landscape. Indie music, eighties electronica and hip hop were all popular. So too, was rock music, despite the propaganda spread by those who overstate punk’s importance and lasting effect. So for groups like Delegation, their only hope was breaking through in America. That didn’t happen for Delegation. Granted they were popular in mainland Europe, but in Britain and America, the only minor success they enjoyed was with singles. After their fourth albums, Deuces High, Delegation didn’t record another album, until 1996s Encore. Deuces High which BBR Records will released on 25th February 2013, marked the end of an era Delegation. Having released four albums between 1978s The Promise of Love and 1982s Deuces High, Delegation split up in 1984. Despite reforming in 1996, and releasing Encore, Delegation’s four albums, The Promise of Love, Delegation II, Eau De Vie and Deuces High feature one of the great hopes of British soul. Now, after an absence of seventeen years, these four albums, including Deuces High have been rereleased by BBR Records, allowing people to discover the soulful, funky delights of Delegation all over again. Standout Tracks: If You Were A Song, Tell Her, No Words To Say and Dance-Time U.S.A.