My Beauty, surfacing in 1999 and now reissued on Cherry Red, was Kevin Rowland’s first release since the Deodato-produced The Wanderer a decade before. Unanchored and drifting; this collection of covers was part of the recovery process though its charting of his quest for self-esteem was drowned in the babble surrounding its artwork.
From Searching For The Young Soul Rebels all the way to 2016’s Let The Record Show the transformative magic and ritual power of great song has entranced him; witness Too-Rye-Ay’s ‘Jackie Wilson Said’, and nods to ‘Lola’ and ‘I’ll Say Forever My Love’ on Don’t Stand Me Down. For My Beauty he revisited, predominantly, songs of his adolescence and mid-teens; performed with strings and backing singers they became epic conversations with himself, urgent cajolings towards positivity.
A majestic take on ‘Rag Doll’ stretches over eight minutes while the changes to ‘Thunder Road’ – here restored having belatedly received Springsteen’s clearance – turn it into a conversation between two facets of one character. Listening without prejudice to these selections from the best of songwriters – John Stewart, Bacharach and David, Mann and Weil – My Beauty reveals again Rowland’s standing as a fine, though under-appreciated song-stylist.